Pelé and Messi are the two most dominant and brilliant scorers in football/soccer history (note: called football from now on). Their numbers impress in a unique way, because they are not pure center forwards like Romário, Josef Bican, Gerd Müeller, Ronaldo, among others. The “King” was the “number 10”, used to play in the position known in Brazil at his time as “ponta de lança” or “meia-esquerda”- a type of mix between the attacking midfielder and second striker of today’s football. While Messi started as a right-winger, played for a lot of time as a “false 9” and today plays like a true “number 10”, “bow and arrow” (the player who create and also score lots of goals) like Pelé.
After each incredible feat of the genius Argentinian, the number of comparison rises and some even dare to say that he has surpassed the Brazilian king. Because of that, I have decided to research the data of the two athletes and put them against each other.
To make the comparison more precise, I will only count their goals for their clubs in official competitions. Despite recognizing that friendlies back in Pelé’s day were more important than they are now, eliminating those games will avoid injustice accusations, because of the small numbers of friendlies played by “La Pulga”. Therefore, for the brazilian, I will count goals in the “Campeonato Paulista” (São Paulo state league), “Torneio Rio-São Paulo” (competions among clubs of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), “Taça Brasil/Robertão” (name of the national competition back then), “Libertadores” and Intercontinental Cup. And for the Argentinian, La Liga, Spanish Super Cup, “Copa del Rey”, Champions League, European Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup.
Concerning the national teams, I will use FIFA’s criteria and count official tournaments and only friendlies against other national teams. Furthermore, since Messi will turn 28 in a couple of weeks, I will only count Pelé’s goal until the same age. a
Through the analysis of every game played by both footballers for their clubs and national teams, I will get important data about their career. I must highlight the number of games played, wins, draws, defeats; average points made (we shall adopt today’s criteria of 3 points per victory); total and average of goals; percentage of goals in regard to the number of goals scored by the teams and overall in games (which makes the comparison more fair, since more goals were scored in the “King’s” days); and the performances of Santos/Brazil and Barcelona/Argentina with and without Pelé and Messi. Of course, I will not forget their World Cup career.
Let’s head to the numbers!
Nascimento, Guilherme. Almanaque do Santos FC: 1912-2012. 1st edition. São Paulo: Magma Cultural e Editora, 2012.