Pele Vs. Maradona

Pele Vs Maradona: Who Was Really Better?

The Pele vs Maradona debate divides opinion. It is a debate that involves two players held in the highest esteem in Football. Like a superiority contest between two powerful individuals, only a thing line makes a difference. It is important also to note that both players are some of the best players by National Team.

We will look at their careers, what they achieved as individuals and part of a team, and their overall impact on football. In the end, we will give our final Pele Vs Maradona verdict.


Pele is regarded by many as one of the greatest ever footballers. This position is strengthened with his award as the FIFA Player of the century and the Athlete of the Century, which he received in 1999. Although he shares the former with Maradona, it doesn’t change how good he was during his playing days.

To some, Pele is the proper footballer. He scores with both feet and is a good header of the ball. He is athletic, strong, and technically gifted.

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Overview of Pele’s Career

In 1956, at the age of 15, he made his debut for the domestic club, Santos FC, when the Brazilian league was one of the best in the world. About a year later, he made his Brazilian national team debut. Eventually, he made his FIFA World Cup debut in 1958.

At the tournament, he became one of the youngest footballers to make his debut, score, and lift the trophy.

Thereafter, his stock rose so high that he was declared a “national treasure” to wade off the advances of clubs outside Brazil. He scored goals for fun and won top scorers’ awards during his successful career.

Importantly, he showed up at the biggest stages.

Pele played a pivotal role in Santos’ dominance of the Brazilian league in the 60s. Also, he helped the club claim international titles, including the Copa Libertadores. He scored a then-record 643 goals for the club: the most scored by a player for one club. However, that record is now held by Lionel Messi.

Interestingly, he won three of the four FIFA World Cup titles he competed with the national team between 1958 and 1970. Although he played only two matches in one of the tournaments, his title remains intact.

In the other two, he was almost unstoppable: displaying rare scoring abilities, athleticism, and dribbling skills.
Pele was decisive and scored crucial goals.

For instance, half of the goals scored by Brazil when they won the 1970 FIFA World Cup involved Pele. Also, he scored six goals in four matches in the 1958 triumph.

By the time Pele retired from football, he had cemented his place as one of the greatest players ever in football. Interestingly, New York Cosmos, the team he played for towards the end of his career, retired his number 10 jersey.

Now let’s take a look at Pele’s Achievements as a player. This is a major factor to consider in the Pele Vs Maradona debate.

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Pele’s Most Important Achievements

  • 3 FIFA World Cup titles {1958,1962, 1970}
  • 1958 FIFA World Cup Best Young Player
  • 1970 FIFA World Cup Best Player
  • FIFA Player of the Century {2000}
  • 6 Brasileiro Serie A titles {1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968}
  • 2 Copa Libertadores {1962, 1963}
  • 2 Intercontinental Cups {1962, 1963}
  • 11 Campeonato Paulista Top Scorers’ award {1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1973}
  • 2 Intercontinental Cup Top Scorers’ award {1962, 1963}
  • 3 Brasileiro Serie A Top Scorers’ award {1961, 1963, 1964}
  • Copa Libertadores Top Scorer {1965}

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Diego Armando Maradona

Like Pele, football fans hold Maradona in high esteem. The Argentine’s legacy transcends boundaries. It goes beyond the football pitch to cities and nations.

Maradona left foot is a magic wand. With it, he caused havoc to opponents. He had great vision, passing, ball control, and dribbling skills. Also, his leadership qualities had a great effect on his teammates. Opponents singled him out for ‘special treatment’ with some going overboard with it. It is no wonder he is nicknamed “The Golden Boy”.

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Overview of Maradona’s Career

Unlike Pele, Maradona represented several clubs across his 20+ years of professional football. He started his career with Argentino Juniors before his switch to Boca Juniors in Argentina. He spent five years at the former and scored 100+ goals.

Following his switch to the latter, Maradona won his only domestic title in Argentina. He helped Boca Junior claim the 1981 Argentine Primera Division trophy. Before then, he led the Argentina under-20 team to the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship title.

His performances earned him a move to Barcelona for a then world-record fee. However, his time at the club was not as successful as many envisaged. Several reasons can be attributed to this: injuries, illness, and controversial incidence on the pitch.

During the 1984 Copa del Rey Final, one such incidence took place, where he was involved in a fight that involved almost all the players.

Notwithstanding, he won three trophies before he exited the club. Moreover, he is the first notable Barcelona player applauded by Real Madrid fans.

Eventually, he moved to Naples in Italy, where his life and the history of Napoli changed forever. His unveiling ceremony attracted over 75,000 fans. For many, a Messiah had come to redeem them from years of failure.

Truly, he redeemed the club and impacted the city. He gave the people a sense of belonging and identify with them in almost all their ways. At times, he derailed, but they loved him regardless.

For the first time in the club’s history, they emerged champions of the Italian Serie A in 1987. Two years later, Maradona led the club to the League and UEFA Cup titles.

Maradona’s World Cup Summary & More

He replicated his performances at Napoli with the Argentine national team too. Almost singlehandedly, he helped Argentina win the 1986 FIFA World Cup trophy. He participated in 10 0f the 14 goals scored by Argentina at the tournament.

Perhaps, the quarter-final match against England summarized Maradona’s football career in the quarter-final match against England, where he scored twice.

The first of those two goals was highly controversial. Chasing a long ball and with the England goalkeeper to beat, Maradona leapt and knocked the ball over the goalkeeper with his hands. That infamous goal is referred to as the “hand of God goal”.

Although the first goal drew the ire of the English players, the second was a beauty to behold. He took several players to the cleaners, including the goalkeeper, before he put the ball at the back of the net. Through FIFA, the goal was voted as the goal of the century in 2002.

He left the club and the city as a Legend referenced by most who saw him play, likewise in Argentina where he is a ‘religion’. Interestingly, Napoli retired his number 10 jersey in 2000. It is no brainer that following his death in November 2020, 3 day mourning period was announced by the President of Argentina.

Also, Napoli renamed their stadium, The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Now, it is time to check out Maradona’s achievements as a player. This is one of the most important reasons for the Pele Vs Maradona debate in the first place.

Pele or Maradona: Who was better?

Maradona Most Important Achievements

  • 1986 FIFA World Cup trophy
  • 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship
  • 2 Italian Serie A 1987, 1990.
  • UEFA Cup 1989
  • Coppa Italia 1987
  • Copa del Rey 1983
  • Argentine Primera Division 1981
  • Argentine Primera Division Top Scorer 1978, 1979, 1980
  • FIFA World Youth Championship Best Player 1979
  • FIFA World Cup Best Player 1986
  • Italian Football Hall of Fame 2014
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team 1986 & 1990
  • FIFA Player of the Century 2000

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Pele Vs Maradona: Who was REALLY Better?

The choice of who is better between Pele Vs Maradona is not a straightforward one. It probably will never be because of the legacies of both players.

Some fans think Pele is better than Maradona because he won more FIFA World Cup trophies. Others who place a premium on a player’s impact choose Maradona because of his impact at Napoli and at the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

Some criticize Pele’s decision to spend the major part of his career at Santos, while others think Maradona’s real success only happened in one of the several clubs he played for.

However, when we consider both players’ overall personal and team achievements, Pele edges out Maradona.

Whatever be your opinion, these players will forever be in the heart of football fans as two of the greatest ever.

But we’d like to hear from you: Who do you think is a better football legend? Pele or Maradona? Share your thought in the comment box.

Further Reading:

World Cup

World Cup Quiz Question

The Quiz tests your overall knowledge of the FIFA World Cup.

1 / 10

Which country has won the most World Cups?

World Cup Trophy

2 / 10

The record number of World Cup goals is 16, scored by who?

Football Goal

3 / 10

In which World Cup did Diego Maradona score his infamous ‘Hand of god’ goal?

Maradona hand of god

4 / 10

The 2026 World Cup will be hosted across three different countries. Can you name them?

World Cup Glory

5 / 10

Three people have won the World Cup as a player and as a coach. Mario Zagallo, Didier Deschamps, and… can you name the third?

World Cup Glory

6 / 10

There have been two World Cup trophies. What was the name of the first?

Old world cup trophy

7 / 10

Which country has appeared in three World Cup finals, but never won the competition?

World Cup Trophy

Both players won it in 1986 and 2018 respectively.

8 / 10

Two English players have won the World Cup Golden Boot. Who are they?

England National Team

9 / 10

Three countries have won the World Cup twice. Can you name them?

World Cup Glory

10 / 10

Which country won the first-ever World Cup in 1930?

World Cup Glory

Your score is

The average score is 73%


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