For more than 40 years, Brazilian soccer legend Pele held on to two different impressive goal-scoring marks: most goals scored during a career (757) and most goals scored with a single club (643). In the span of just a couple of months, however, both of those totals have been surpassed.
The good news is that two of the greatest to play the modern game would be the ones to do it. Lionel Messi scored his 644th goal with Barcelona in December, and Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 757th and 758th career goals on Sunday. One would think that such an accomplishment would yield a hearty congratulations from the man who used to hold those records — that was kind of the case with Messi with a heartfelt message delivered on Instagram.
But sometime later, it seems that Pele, with the help of his former club, Santos, has kind of backtracked on that mindset. The Brazilian club released a statement saying that Pele’s goal total at Santos was actually a four-figure total at 1,091 goals.
“The argument of some analysts is that so many of these 448 goals scored in friendly matches were faced with weak opponents, such as small or regional teams.
“Still, the matches were played in official uniforms, with the official rules of the game and with a score sheet,” the statement read.
Pele basically cosigned this statement with an update to his Instagram bio that listed his all-time goal scoring record as 1,283, to include the ones he scored for Santos, Brazil and the New York Cosmos. In other words, per his former club’s statement and his updated social media info, he doesn’t actually recognize Messi and Ronaldo as having passed his totals. It also means he doesn’t recognize the total of Czechoslovakian star Josef Bican, previously understood to be the all-time leading goal scorer in history at 805 goals.
Retired greats often fall into two separate camps once their playing days are behind them. Either they grow to respect and love the new generation that plays after them, or they hold off on the reverence and place themselves on a pedestal above anyone who comes after them. With some help from the club where he made his name, the Brazilian seems to be leaning toward the latter.