Both players are considered the greatest of all time

The age-old debate as to who is the greatest footballer of all time is one which will never die down no matter how many moments of magic the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to produce. They weren’t direct rivals, but the perception of being the absolute best was something that meant a lot to the two South Americans. Pele‘s exploits for Brazil and Santos earned him the nickname O Rei, or ‘The King’, as he helped the Selecao light up the football world from the late 1950s into the early 1970s.

The South American pair did not play in the same era, as Ronaldo and Messi, with Maradona taking up the mantle in the 1980s into the 1990s, but that didn’t stop the comparisons. Their successful careers make us wonder who is the more extraordinary star. It will be difficult to answer this question precisely because the two are not competing simultaneously. We can rely on statistics to analyze to have a comprehensive perspective. Let’s look at what the stat’s says.

World Cup Goals

Pele – 12

Maradona – 8

Pele was part of three World Cup-winning teams (1958, 1962, 1970), while Maradona won the title just once (1986), though he lost in the final in 1990. Both players appeared at four World Cup tournaments, with Maradona making more appearances overall. Injury curtailed Pele’s involvement in the 1966 World Cup, which affected his tally. Nevertheless, despite playing fewer games, Pele scored more goals than Maradona in the World Cup, with 12 strikes in 14 games. Maradona scored eight goals in 21 World Cup games, including four in Argentina’s successful 1986 campaign, though never in the final.

International Stats

Pele – 77

Maradona – 34

Pele’s scoring record is much better than that of the Argentine star in the international arena. He scored many goals for the Brazilian team to contribute to their rise to fame. Pele played a total of 92 games for Brazil and scored 77 goals in his career whereas Maradona played a total of 91 games and scored a total of 34 goals.

Club Goals

Pele – 655

Maradona – 259

Pele’s goal figures are inaccurate because there are too many unverified sources. Even so, the Brazilian star still ultimately prevailed over his Argentine opponent. The Argentine also plied his trade in a greater variety of leagues, playing for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Napoli and Barcelona among others. Pele, on the other hand, spent the majority of his career in Brazil with Santos before a swansong in North America with New York Cosmos.

Ballon d’Or

Pele – 1

Maradona – 1

France Football conferred each player with an honorary Ballon d’Or, but Pele was retrospectively deemed the ‘alternative winner’ of seven Ballons d’Or in 2016, whereas Maradona was the ‘alternative winner’ twice.

World Cup Golden Ball

Pele – 1

Maradona – 1

There is very little between Pele and Maradona when it comes to individual awards. Both players won the World Cup Golden Ball, as they both were the best players from their, team.

League Titles

Pele – 7

Maradona- 3

Pele won six Brasileiro titles with Santos and the NASL Bowl with New York Cosmos. Maradona enjoyed a degree of success in Argentina, Spain and Italy, with his most successful period coming at Napoli, where he won two Serie A titles, while at Boca he won the Argentine Primera Division Metropolitano.

Copa Libertadores

Pele – 2

Maradona – 0

Pele won it with Santos whereas Maradona with Boca Juniors was not able to achieve the same feat as Pele because afterwards, Maradona spent most of his career in Europe.

Trophies

Pele – 15

Maradona – 11

Pele won more titles than Maradona during his playing career. Both players have been awarded a host of unofficial individual awards and magazine accolades over the years.

Pele summary:

Club goals655
World Cup goals 12
International starts 77
Ballon d’Or1
League titles 7
World Cup goldn ball1
Copa Libertadores3
Trophies 15

Diego Maradona summary:

Club goals259
World Cup goals12
International starts77
Ballon d’Or1
League titles3
World Cup goldn ball1
Copa Libertadores0
Trophies11

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