Why did Pele never play for a European club? | Football


Pele came out of semi-retirement to play for New York Cosmos in 1975 (Photo: Bettmann Archive)

Brazilian football icon Pele has died at the age of 82, it has been confirmed.

The legend of the game had been in hospital in Sao Paulo since November 29 following complications with colon cancer, which was diagnosed in September 2021.

The forward is considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all-time, though notably he never played club football in Europe.

In fact, the three-time World Cup winner only played for two clubs throughout his incredible career: Santos in his native Brazil and American side New York Cosmos.

For many, playing at the pinnacle of European football and winning trophies like the Champions League and the Ballon d’Or is the ultimate goal, so how come Pele never moved to the other side of the Atlantic?

There have been many stories about clubs who tried and failed to sign Pele, most notably in the immediate aftermath of the 1958 and 1962 World Cups.

This includes the likes of Manchester United and Valencia, but the one name that crops up the most is Real Madrid.

Pele is lifted up by his Santos team mates after scoring the 1,000th goal of his career during a game against Vasco da Gama at the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 19th November 1969. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Pele scored 643 goals in 656 games for Santos (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

In his own words: ‘There were many times when I was very close to signing with Real Madrid, and then once more with Napoli in Italy.

‘It’s not a regret. I was at Santos, and at the time they were a powerhouse.

‘I didn’t play outside of Brazil because I was very, very happy at Santos, I had the best 15-20 years of my life there. I had plenty of other proposals and not just from Real Madrid either, but I was ok where I was.’

Pele is the only player to have won three World Cups (Credits: Imago/PA Images)

As well as Napoli, Pele also came close to joining two other Italian giants: Juventus and Inter Milan.

The legendary forward revealed his connection to the former in an Instagram post back in 2018, when he congratulated Cristiano Ronaldo on his move from Real to Turin.

He wrote: ‘Good luck, Cristiano, for your first game with Juve. Had things worked out differently, I may have played for the Old Lady too.

‘Over dinner one evening in 1961, the owner of Fiat offered the President of Santos FC a million dollars to sign me! I only played in Santos’ stripes though.’

As for Inter, in 1958 they succeeded in agreeing a contract with Pele that would have seen him move to the San Siro, but when news of this spread Santos’ fans began to revolt.

Former Inter president Massimo Moratti, whose father Angelo was president at the time, said: ‘On the other end of the phone, there was a man deeply concerned for his life.

‘The contract was all in order, it had been signed and it just had to be registered. But as soon as word of it reached Brazil, the people there started to attack their directors.

‘What can you do? When you find somebody who is actually willing to physically attack the president of Santos. It was no longer a football deal but more an act of conscience on the part of my father, who tore the contract apart.’

MORE : Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe lead tributes for Pele as football world mourns loss of Brazil legend

MORE : How many goals did Pele score in his career?

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