The number of goals scored by Brazilian football legend Pele has remained a source of debate among lovers of the game.
Most statisticians agree that the legend’s tally is between 1,281 and 1,283, while the football governing body FIFA puts his overall total at more than 1,200.
He is said to have scored over 1,000 of those goals for his first club, Santos, and most of the others came for the New York Cosmos and the Brazil national team.
However, most of Pele’s goals were not counted, with questions being raised about the status of many of them.
Almost half of the Brazil legend’s goals came in friendly matches. And these friendly matches were those he played as an army conscript.
For this reason, many argue that such goals do not carry the same weight as goals scored in competitive matches, especially when placed side by side with goals scored by modern-day players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Pele never had issues with this. For instance, when Messi scored his 644th goal for Barcelona in December 2020, he surpassed Pele’s 643 official goals for Santos.
And two months later, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 768th goal, three more than Pele’s total (official for club and country) and the legendary Brazilian congratulated them both.
Pele’s supporters still feel the Brazilian’s goal haul is superior because in Pele’s day, friendly matches were much more competitive than they are today.
He scored against AC Milan, Juventus, and Napoli; Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico; Anderlecht, Feyenoord, and Red Star Belgrade during Santos’ tour of Europe in the 1960s.
The former striker netted eight goals in seven games against Italian giants Inter Milan. He scored six in five games against AS Roma and 10 in seven matches against Benfica.