Top 10 Brazilian players of all time
Brazil’s haul of five World Cup titles is the highest by any team at the FIFA World Cup. As host nation for this summer’s tournament, expectations of a sixth title are high. Below is a review of the Samba Boys’ top 10 players in Brazil’s illustrious World Cup history
10. Roberto Rivelino (1965-78, 92 caps, 26 goals)
Beating off a host of other footballing luminaries into 10th place is Roberto Rivelino, a man famed for pinpoint passes, exquisite skills and thunderous free kicks.
Having spent most of his club career with Corinthians, Rivelino moved to Fluminense in 1973 and spent five successful years in Rio de Janeiro, winning back-to-back league titles in a team that is widely regarded as one of the greatest in the club’s history.
His achievements on the world stage were even more impressive as he played a key role in the 1970 Brazil side that many believe to be the greatest football team of all time. He was named in the team of the tournament for his performances in Mexico as Brazil lifted the trophy, while he also featured for his country in the 1974 and 1978 World Cups.
9. Jairzinho (1964-82, 81 caps, 33 goals)
Another hero of the 1970 team, Jairzinho arrived in the Brazil set-up with the nigh-on impossible task of acting as Garrincha’s successor. However, he filled the void admirably for both club and country, also taking over from his idol at Botafogo, for whom he made more than 400 appearances.
The winger will forever be remembered for scoring in every single one of Brazil’s matches in the 1970 tournament to help his side to victory, becoming just the second player in history to do so and the only one when the tournament encompassed more than four games.
He scored seven goals in Mexico and added two more to his World Cup tally four years later as Brazil reached the semi-finals.
8. Socrates (1979-86, 60 caps, 22 goals)
While Socrates played through a barren spell by Brazil’s standards, the tall and elegant midfielder formed a formidable midfield alongside the likes of Zico, Falcao and Eder in 1982, captaining a team that many regard to be the best never to win the World Cup.
Renowned for his extraordinary vision as well as his beard and headband, Socrates in addition to his role in the 1982 tournament, also featured in the 1986 World Cup, scoring two goals. He was named the 1983 South American Footballer of the Year.
7. Cafu (1990-2006, 142 caps, five goals)
It takes a special player to have made the most appearances in a Brazil shirt, and Cafu’s mammoth tally of 142 caps on the international stage by no means flatters his ability. A tireless right-back, Cafu is the only player in history to have appeared in three separate World Cup finals, doing so consecutively in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
He ended on the winning side in 1994 and 2002, adding to his international haul of two Copa America titles and the Confederations Cup. At club level he won numerous domestic titles in Brazil and Italy as well as two Copa Libertadores, a Champions League and a Cup Winners’ Cup, making him one of the most decorated players in history.
Cafu appeared in 21 World Cup matches during his 16-year international career, winning a record 16 of them. He was named the South American Footballer of the Year in 1994.
6. Ronaldinho (1999-present, 97 caps, 33 goals)
At his peak, very few players in the history of football can claim to have matched Ronaldinho’s prodigious ability. His tricks and flicks delighted spectators and he was more than capable of adding the finishing touch to his fancy footwork.
He was instrumental in guiding Brazil to World Cup success in 2002 and featured again four years later, albeit with less success.
During his time at Barcelona he was the undisputed best player in the world, winning back-to-back FIFA World Player of the Year awards and a Ballon d’Or. Most recently, he won the 2013 Copa Libertadores and is the reigning South American Footballer of the Year.
5. Romario (1987-2005, 70 caps, 55 goals)
Once described as a “genius of the goal area” by the great Johan Cruyff, Romario is among the most prolific and clinical strikers in football history.
A journeyman at club level, Romario still managed to amass a host of honours in his illustrious career, most notably a La Liga crown with Barcelona and three Eredivisie titles with PSV Eindhoven. Internationally, he won two Copa Americas and was instrumental in firing Brazil to success in the 1994 World Cup.
Individually, he was named the 1994 FIFA World Player of the Year. He also collected a South American Footballer of the Year award in 2000.
4. Zico (1976-86, 71 caps, 48 goals)
Named the eighth-best player of the 20th century by IFFHS, Zico was renowned for his impeccable passing and free kicks. He was also a deadly finisher and ended his career with almost 500 club goals in less than 700 games. He also netted 48 times in 71 matches for Brazil, making him the country’s fourth-highest goalscorer.
Zico didn’t win international honours with Brazil despite appearing in three World Cups, including the 1982 side, but there was no shortage of individual accolades for him, amongst them a record-equalling three South American Player of the Year awards.
3. Ronaldo (1994-2011, 98 caps, 62)
There are those who believe that a fully fit Ronaldo was the greatest player to have ever played the game of football, and it is hard to argue. Indeed, had he enjoyed an injury-free career, then he could well be sitting atop this list having still managed to win three FIFA World Player of the Year awards despite his troubles.
‘The Phenomenon’ burst onto the scene with electric performances at club level that earned him a spot in Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning squad, although it was four years later that his importance to the team was truly felt. He was instrumental during the 1998 tournament but suffered a fit on the night before the final and was short of his best as France took their first crown.
He was the top scorer as Brazil won the competition in 2002, however, while in his fourth tournament he became the World Cup’s highest ever goals scorer by netting his 15th to overtake Gerd Muller. He ended his international career as the country’s second highest scorer of all time with 62 goals.
2. Garrincha (1955-66, 50 caps, 12 goals)
Considered by some in Brazil to be greater than Pele himself, Garrincha is arguably the most exciting and intriguing player in football history. Born with a number of defects, ‘The Joy of the People’ succeeded against all of the odds to become one of the greatest players of all time.
His off-field problems did not detract from his success on the field, where he became an idol for both Botafogo and Brazil. Widely regarded as the greatest dribbler in the history of the game, he won a host of titles at club level as well as two World Cup crowns.
He was named as the seventh-best player of the 20th century and only lost one of his 50 appearances for Brazil, with that defeat coming in his final game for his country.
1. Pele (1957-71, 92 caps, 77 goals)
The man widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, Pele boasts an array of accolades and records too long to list here having taken the sport to a new level during his illustrious career.
His tally of 1,281 career goals is the highest officially recognised by FIFA, while he is the only player in history to have three World Cup winner’s medals. He played significant roles in two of those successes, as a prodigiously-gifted teenager in 1958 before bowing out as the King of Football in 1970.
At club level he won no less than 40 honours, most of which came as part of a Santos side that became the most glamorous team in the world due to his presence.
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