Pele's incredible numbers: hundreds of goals and 3 World Cups

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Pele, the man they called O Rei, the King, passed away on Thursday, aged 82, after a drawn-out battle with illness in Sao Paulo's Albert Einstein hospital. Synonymous with the term 'o jogo bonito', the beautiful game, he transcended the sport like none before or since.

Arguably the greatest footballer of all time, his legacy goes well beyond numbers. It is also a fact that so much of his career went unrecorded: For instance, he was known to be a great playmaker (sample that assist to Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup final) but there is almost no official assist data available.

What we do have is more than enough, though, to paint the picture of the man who will always remain the benchmark for all football:

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele: 1940-2022


Pele is the only man to win three FIFA World Cups. He won in 1958, 1962 and 1970


Pele scored a record 1281 goals in 1363 games (including 'non-official' games). It's important to consider these games because of the number of high-quality 'friendlies' Santos played around the world in that era. There are quite a few 'total-goal-tallies' floating around, but this one from the IFFHS is the most accepted.


If we take only official goals, though... he scored 643 official goals for Santos, the second most of all-time by a player with a single club (only behind Lionel Messi's 672 for Barcelona).

6, 2, 2

Pele won six Brazilian titles, two Copa Libertadores titles and two Intercontinental Cups with Santos (1962 & 1963)


He also won the 1977 NASL title with the New York Cosmos, scoring 64 goals in three seasons (aged 35-37).

Farewell to the King: Reacting to the death of Pele


Pele ended his World Cup career in 1970 as the player with the second most goals in Men's World Cup history (12, 1 behind France's Just Fontaine). He scored 6 in 1958, 1 in 1962, 1 in 1966 and 4 in 1970. He is now tied-6th highest with Kylian Mbappe. (Above them are Fontaine, Lionel Messi, Gerd Muller, Ronaldo Nazario and Miroslav Klose)


Pele is 1 of 5 players to score in 4 FIFA Men's World Cups, along with Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Messi, Klose, and Uwe Seeler.


Pele scored 77 goals for Brazil, in just 92 matches. He was Brazil's sole top-scorer for over 60 years (1962-2022) until he was tied by Neymar during the 2022 World Cup. Neymar did take 32 more appearances to hit that mark, though.


Of the 92 matches he played, Brazil won 67, drew 14 and lost just 11 games; that's a win percentage of 80.43%. It increased when he and Garrincha were on the field... Brazil never lost a match when they fielded the two geniuses.

The legendary life of Pele in photos


Pele's goals per game rate of 0.84 is the best in Brazil's national team history (min. 30 goals). For context, Neymar's 77 came at 0.62 and Ronaldo's 62 came at 0.63.


He made his Brazil debut aged... 16, and played his last match for them aged 31 (in 1971).


Pele was the youngest player at the World Cup to score a goal (17 years, 239 days), score a hat trick (17 years, 244 days), and score in a final (17 years 249 days). He truly lit up Sweden in 1958.


This is an incredible number. Of all players to have made more than 10 World Cup appearances, Pele has the best win percentage (14 games, 12 wins @ 86%).


In 2000, he was named FIFA Player of the Century (for the 20th Century), receiving nearly 3/4 of the vote from FIFA officials, journalists, and coaches (72.8%). Diego Maradona won the internet portion of the voting, and so the two were named Co-Players of the Century.

(Stats courtesy: ESPN Stats and Information Group)