For the Brazilian, I will count games since Pelé debut for the National Team in official games (07/07/1957 against Argentina – He was 17 years old) until Brazil last official game before Pele turned 28 (11/08/1968 against Argentina). For the Argentinian, I will count games since his debut for the National Team in official games (08/16/2006 against Hungary – He was 18 years old) until Argentina last official game (31/03/2015 against Ecuador).
Brazil with Pelé:
On Pelé’s era, Brazil became synonym with football all over the world. Great footballers wore their colors. We must give special nod to Garrincha, one of the best players of all time; Brazil while playing with Pelé and him has never lost a single game – total of 40 matches with 36 wins and 4 draws (Pelé scored 44 and Garrincha, 11 goals).
With the “King” on the field, Brazil played 60 official games until 07/28/1968 with 44 wins (73.33%), 8 draws (13.33%) and 8 defeats (13.33%), in a 2.33 points per game average. The “Seleção” scored 156 (2.6 per game) and suffered 56 goals (0.93 per game).
In those games, Pelé scored impressive 59 goals in a 0.98 per game average. He was responsible for 37.82% of Brazil’s goals and for 27.83 of the total goals scored.
Brazil without Pelé.
It is well known the quality of Brazilian footballers in those golden years. Play had the luxury of playing in different moments alongside great players like Garrincha, Didi, Gérson, Carlos Alberto, Rivellino, among others. Brazil even managed to win the 1962 World Cup after Pelé suffered an injury in their second game. However, did Brazil really keep the same performance without the “King”?
Brazil in that time played 67 games with 41 wins (61.19%), 12 draws (17.91%) and 14 defeats (20.89%) in a 2.01 points per game average. The “Seleção” scored 145 (2.16 per game) and suffered 87 goals (1.29 per game).
Conclusion on Pelé’s effect on Brazil:
As you can see, without Pelé, Brazil remains an imposing team, but gets worse in every category. With him, they increased their points by 15.92%; won more (73.33 against 61.19%), tied and lost fewer games (respectively 13.33 against 17.91% and 13.33 against 20.89%). Furthermore, the “Seleção” also improved their number of goals scored (2.6 against 2.16 per game) and suffered (0.93 against 1.23 per game).
Pelé in World Cups.
I will use each four of Pelés’s participations in World Cups, because Messi will be in his last “Mundial” older than Pelé was in 1970.
The “King” has won 3 World Cups (despite having played in only 2 of the 6 games in 1962). Brazil played 14 games with 9 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat. Besides the historic moments, Pelé had impressive numbers in those tournaments. In 14 games played, he scored 12 times (0.85 per game, 32.4% of his team’s goals and 23.52 of total goals scored in all matches) and gave 8 assists (0.57 per game), actively participating (goals plus assists) in 54.05% of his team’s goals.
Pelé was also a great scorer in World Cup knockout games: he scored 1 goal in the last 8 (against Wales in 1958), 3 goals in semifinals (3 against France in 1958) and 3 goals in finals (2 against Sweden in 58 and 1 against Italy in 1970).
Argentina with Messi:
Argentina with Messi won an Olympic Gold Medal (under 23 tournament), but has yet to win a senior title (They were runners up in the 2014 World Cup and in the 2007 Copa America). Lionel had great teammates during that time (although clearly not on the level of Brazilians from the 60’s) like Zanneti, Tevez, Véron, Aguero, Riquelme and Di Maria.
With “La Pulga” on the field, Argentina has played 97 official games until 11/18/2014 with 58 wins (59.79%), 19 draws (19.58%) and 20 defeats (20.61%). The “albiceleste” has scored 175 (1.80 per game) and suffered 86 goals (0.88 per game).
In those games, Messi has scored 45 goals in 0.46 per game average. He was responsible for 25.71% of Argentina’s goals and for 17.24% of the total goals scored in all matches.
Argentina without Messi
Many, in defense of “La Pulga’s” failures in the “albiceleste”, attack the quality of his teammates and claim a “Messi dependence” of Argentina. Does the national team really suffer without him?
Argentina without Messi in that time has played 33 games with 20 wins (60.60%), 7 draws (21.21%) and 6 defeats (18.18%) in a 2.03 points per game average. The national team has scored 66 (2 per game) and suffered 35 goals (1.06 per game).
Conclusion on Messi’s effect on Argentina:
As you can see, surprisingly, Argentina gets a little worse with Messi: they reduce their points by 2.52%; lose more (20.61 against 18.18%); tie less (19.58% against 21.21%); and win fewer games (59.79% against 60.60%).
Furthermore, with Lionel, they also reduce their number of goals scored (1.8 against 2 per game). But they decrease the numbers of goal suffered (0.88 against 1.06 per game). It is essential to say that I am not defending that Argentina should take Messi from the team. Only a crazy person would write such thing!
Messi in World Cups.
The Argentinian has played 3 World Cups. His best result was the 2nd place in the 2014 World Cup.
In 15 games, Argentina had 11 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats; scored 26 and suffered 11 goals. Messi had 5 goals (0.33 per game -19.23% of his team’s goals and 13.51% of total goals scored in all matches) and 4 assists (0.26 per game), actively participating (goals plus assists) in 34.61% of goals scored by Argentina.
Em 15 jogos disputados, a seleção argentina teve 11 vitórias, 2 empates e 2 derrotas, fez 26 e sofreu 11 gols. Messi teve 5 tentos (0.33 por jogo, 19.23% dos gols do time e 13.51% do jogo) e 4 assistências (0.26 por jogo), ou seja, participação direta (gols mais assistências) em 34.61% dos gols da Argentina.
Lastly, Messi has yet to score in World Cup knockout games.
Messi x Pelé in National Football level – conclusion
The Brazilian wins by a wide margin. He has greater individual numbers in all categories; besides being able to score in decisive World Cup games. In addition to better scoring numbers,
Pelé also showed he could be a positive influence on the defensive end. The Brazilian kept relatively similar numbers to this club career, while Messi clearly gets much worse.
Even with better teammates at Pelé’s side, the difference here is so big that it does not allow a convincing argument for Messi.
See below the comparative chart for both players at national team level: