Who are the best Brazilian players of all time?
Given the amazing array of talent that the South American country has produced over the years, that’s not an easy question to answer.
But we did our best. The following ten players helped Brazil solidify its reputation as the spiritual home of the beautiful game by achieving great success in a big way.
Best Brazilian Players of All Time: 10. Kaka
The €8.5m AC Milan spent on Kaka in 2003 proved to be one of the bargains of the century as Brazilian magician lit up San Siro and won the Ballon d’Or in 2007 after leading the Italians to champions League title.
Kaka’s mix of physical and technical ability made him an almost unstoppable contender in his prime but it was a shame that knee injuries later caused problems, particularly during a disappointing spell at Real Madrid.
You have to be good to get a nickname like The Hurricane.
Jairzinho was one of the biggest stars of the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, a tournament in which he became the only player to win international football’s greatest prize by scoring in every game – a record that still stands today.
The stunningly quick and disciplined striker formed a deadly front line with Pele and Tostao, but England fans of a certain vintage might not remember him too fondly, thanks to his wonderful goal that knocked out the then world champions.
Captain of Brazil’s star-studded team in the 1980s, Socrates was a man who made the no-look heel to last its signature move.
The qualified doctor, with his distinctive beard and headband combination, was a sleek player and adept at football who also made a major impact off the field, co-founding the Corinthians Democracy movement against Brazil’s military government.
Dubbed the new Pele when he broke through in the early ’80s, Zico is often considered the greatest Brazilian to never win the World Cup.
He scored a staggering 333 goals at the Maracana alone, guiding Flamengo to four league titles, the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup, humiliating Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool in 1981 with a 3-0 win at the latter.
Rivaldo scored what is arguably the greatest hat-trick of all time (a treble against Valencia in 2001 that ended with an overhead kick from the edge of the box), while he also appeared alongside Ronaldinho and Ronaldo in what is perhaps the classiest top three of all time as Brazil won the 2002 World Cup .
He could do it all – curling free-kicks, long-range rams, quick changes of direction, and the forward won the 1999 Ballon d’Or after leading Barcelona to La Liga title and Brazil to Copa America glory.
A stone-cold finisher with superb ball control, Romario is behind only Pele, Ronaldo and Neymar in the all-time rankings with 55 goals in 70 caps in Brazil.
The pinnacle of his international career came at USA ’94, where he was named Player of the Tournament after scoring five goals while clinching league titles with Vasco da Gama, PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona.
The smiling wizard was one of the most natural entertainers to have ever played the game.
Ronaldinho’s quick wits and execution, not to mention the dazzling bag of tricks with which he was able to weave his way through opponents, made him a must-see attraction in his own right.
World champion in 2002, Ronaldinho scored a staggering 50 goals in two seasons from an attacking midfield role while at Barcelona helping the Catalan club win the Champions League and even a Ballon d’Or in 2005.
Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once claimed that “in the entire history of football, no one has made more people happy” than Garrincha.
The tall Brazilian was born with a crooked back and uneven legs, earning him the nickname ‘Bent-Legged Angel’, but it never showed on the pitch as he used to fool defenders with his mind-blowing dribbling skills for fun.
Garrincha played a leading role in the Selecao’s World Cup victory in 1958 before almost single-handedly leading his country to a successful title defense four years later in the absence of the injured Pele.
“O Fenomeno” didn’t take long to make his name known around the world. He won his first FIFA World Player of the Year title in 1996 at the age of 20, two years after being in the United States as an unused member of Brazil’s World Cup-winning team, winning two Ballon d’Ors and becoming a world champion Top scorer – until he was overtaken by Miroslav Klose in 2014.
The explosive forward scored 420 goals in his career, wowing crowds at Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid and winning two World Cup Golden Shoes. He narrowly lost to France in 1998 before triumphing four years later. Had it not been for the injury woes that plagued his career, his tally would have been even greater.
Aged just 17, Pelé scored six times at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
He became the youngest player ever to score in a final and scored a brace in Brazil’s victory over the hosts. He also won international football’s biggest prize twice more, in 1962 and 1970 – something that has never been achieved before or since.
At club level, Pele spearheaded a golden era for Santos, where they won back-to-back Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup titles in 1962 and 1963, and when he hung up his boots the forward had 1,279 goals to his tally.