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Top 10 best Brazilian soccer players of all time

Obviously, every true soccer obsessive has their personalized own top ten list: their absolute favorite players, the ten athletes who mean the most to them, and, invariably, the players that mean the most to the game at large. 

If you really want to get nerdy about it, one could conceivably cobble together (separate) top ten lists for different regions, at least where soccer is a popular pastime! And that’s exactly what we’ve done with this list, where we talk about the ten best Brazilian soccer players to ever master the game for Brazil. Read on, and let us know if you think we missed anyone:

10. Cafu

Marcos de Morais, better known to soccer fans as “Cafu,” is a Brazilian powerhouse who absolutely merits inclusion on this list. Cafu was a force to be reckoned with from the 90’s into the 2000’s, having been an essential presence in multiple World Cups. The relentless intensity and team spirit with which he played is enough to qualify him as one of the all-time best fullbacks in the annals of the game.

9. Gérson de Oliveira Nunes

Possessor of one of the most fearsome left foot kicks in soccer history; Gérson de Oliveira Nunes was a living embodiment of precision, commitment, and consistent athletic brilliance. He played for some of the most popular F.C.’s in Brazil, and was nothing if not a team player; many rightfully argue he was crucial to Brazil’s victory in the 1970 FIFA World Cup. One of the best Brazilian soccer players ever? You know it.

8. Ronaldinho Gaúcho

Come on, we couldn’t make this list and not include our World Cup-winning boy Ronaldinho! Ronaldinho, simply put, was one of the flashiest and most flamboyant to ever play the game: a consummate showman who gave the spectators everything they wanted and more. Ronaldinho treated the soccer ball like Picasso treated a paintbrush – in other words, he was more artist than athlete, and his legacy will live on forever.

7. Sócrates

No, we’re not talking about the touted Greek philosopher – we’re talking about the hulking midfielder who moved with the nimble agility of a ballerina, even when he possessed the intimidating physical frame of a giant. Sócrates’ back heel pass was a thing of true beauty: an unforgettable athletic flourish that Brazil football fans came to love him for. He was also, true to his namesake, a deep thinker who possessed more refined thoughts than those we typically tend to associate with professional athletes.

6. Jairzinho

Jairzinho, known to some by his birth name of Jair Ventura Filho, was a critical player on Brazil’s victorious squad during the 1970 World Cup. Nicknamed “The Hurricane” for the velocity and power with which he moved, Jairzinho was a tactile and versatile athletic innovator who played all over the globe, and established himself as a dominant force on and off the field.

5. Romário

When it comes to pure statistics – in other words, putting numbers on the proverbial board – few can match the great Romário de Souza Faria for sheer consistency. Romário is a fan favorite and veritable legend in Brazil, where he claims to have scored over a thousand goals (a boast that some soccer fanatics have disputed) and has since staked out an influential cultural role as the Senator of Rio de Janeiro.

4. Garrincha

If you appreciate skillful dribbling in a soccer match, you have Brazilian right winger Mané Garrincha to thank, among others. Widely regarded as one of the most talented dribblers of all time, if not THE most talented, Garrincha overcame a considerable physical handicap as a child to help Brazil take the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. He has also won both the Golden Boot AND the Golden Ball – and at the same game, no less!

3. Zico

Arthur Antunes Coimbra, better known as “Zico,” is someone who understands the game of soccer on an intrinsic, bone-deep level. He’s a coach, a player who was somewhat miniscule in his physical stature, a former FIFA all-star, one of the game’s great passers, and someone who has devoted the better part of their life to the pursuit of excellence. Talk to any true soccer scholar and they will tell you that you can’t talk about the game in the 70’s and 80’s and not talk about Zico.

2. Ronaldo

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima has been retired for some time now, but there’s no way we could put together a list like this and not include him somewhere high up in the top five. Ronaldo scored a whopping EIGHT GOALS in Brazil’s World Cup performance in 2002, and at his peak, he managed to combine all the traits that make a great player – speed, dexterity, strength, and team spirit – into one unstoppable package. We’re sorry if you wanted to see Ronaldo in the number one spot – but when you see who made the cut.

1. Pele

Be honest – did you really think any other player was going to end up with the number one spot? Let’s be real, there is no other player who deserves this particular honor as much as Pelé, the athletic phenom who, at only seventeen years of age, was the youngest player to feature in a World Cup win. Pelé’s World Cup count is mind-boggling, as is his goal record, and resiliency from the injuries his sustained. Everyone can argue about who is, in fact, the greatest of all time, but it’s hard to deny numbers and raw, unprocessed talent, and when it comes to those two aforementioned qualities, no one really did it better than Pelé.

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