FIFA World Cup countdown: Top 10 Brazilian players of all time

As part of our 50-day countdown to the FIFA World Cup, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of host nation Brazil.

When it comes to international football, teams don't get any bigger or better than Brazil. England may have given the world the sport, but Brazil perfected it and are widely regarded as the greatest footballing nation on earth.

Their haul of five World Cup crowns is more than any other team has managed and they have provided countless legendary players, performances and moments in the process of winning those titles.

They are the host nation for this summer's tournament and expectations are high that they could add a sixth title to their honours list by lifting the trophy for the first time since 2002.

Here, to continue our countdown to the World Cup, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in Brazil's illustrious 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)

Jairzinho celebrates Brazil winning the World Cup with supporters on June 21, 1970.© Getty Images

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 his exploits in arguably the greatest team of all time as he scored 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, including the decisive one against holders and fellow favourites England, while he 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)

Socrates in action for Brazil on July 01, 1982.© Getty Images

While Socrates played through a barren spell by Brazil's standards, the tall and elegant midfielder was at the heart of a side considered to be one of the greatest in the country's history. He 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 easily recognisable beard and headband combination, Socrates is most closely associated with Corinthians, although he also made more than 250 appearances for Botafogo in the first four years of his career.

In addition to his role in the 1982 tournament, Socrates also featured in the 1986 World Cup, scoring two goals. He was named as the South American Footballer of the Year in 1983 - the year he helped Corinthians to the Sao Paulo league title.



7. Cafu (1990-2006, 142 caps, five goals)

Brazil full-back Cafu lifts the World Cup on June 30, 2002.© Getty Images

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 to give him a unique place in football history. Individually, he was named the South American Footballer of the Year in 1994.



6. Ronaldinho (1999-present, 97 caps, 33 goals)

Brazil's Ronaldinho keeps possession from England defenders Nicky Shorey and John Terry on June 01, 2002.© Getty Images

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.

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. He helped the Catalan giants to consecutive league titles and the 2005-06 Champions League and, more recently, won the 2013 Copa Libertadores with Atletico Mineiro and is the reigning South American Footballer of the Year.

Internationally, he was instrumental in guiding Brazil to World Cup success in 2002 and featured again four years later, albeit with less success. His revival in his native country has raised the possibility of him being named in the World Cup squad this summer.



5. Romario (1987-2005, 70 caps, 55 goals)

Romario celebrates scoring for Brazil against The Netherlands on July 09, 1994.© Getty Images

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. His claim to have surpassed 1,000 career goals has been belittled by some due to the inclusion of goals from youth and friendly matches, but there is no doubt that he was the most feared striker on the planet at his peak.

A journeyman at club level, Romario still managed to amass a host 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.

His performances in that tournament contributed to him being named FIFA World Player of the Year that season, having finished second in the voting the year before. He also collected a South American Footballer of the Year award in 2000 alongside a plethora of other individual titles.



4. Zico (1976-86, 71 caps, 48 goals)

Zico in action for Brazil on June 16, 1986.© Getty Images

Named the eighth-best player of the 20th century by IFFHS, Pele perhaps paid Zico an even bigger compliment by saying that the attacking midfielder was the one player who came closest to reaching his own level of ability.

Renowned for his impeccable passing and impossible free kicks, Zico 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 just 71 matches for Brazil, making him the country's fourth-highest goalscorer.

Zico never did win international honours with Brazil despite appearing in three World Cups, including the 1982 side widely regarded as one of the best in the country's history. There was no shortage of individual accolades, however, amongst them a record-equalling three South American Player of the Year awards.



3. Ronaldo (1994-2011, 98 caps, 62)

Ronaldo celebrates scoring in the World Cup final for Brazil against Germany on June 30, 2002.© Getty Images

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 goalscorer 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.

It was in 1962 that he made his greatest impact, being named Player of the Tournament having filled the void left by the injured Pele. 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)

Pele, when playing for Santos, smiles at the camera ahead of a friendly match on June 13, 1965© AFP

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 taking 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, bursting onto the scene as a prodigiously-gifted teenager in 1958 before bowing out as the King of Football in 1970.

He spearheaded arguably the greatest side of all time that year in Mexico, finishing the tournament with a piece of simplicity laced with perfection as his pass set up Carlos Alberto for the spectacular fourth goal in the final against Italy. 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.



Brazil will face Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in the group stages of this summer's World Cup, and you can follow every match live with Sports Mole.

Continuing our 50-day countdown to the tournament, we will be looking at the greatest players in the history of Cameroon tomorrow.

Who is the greatest Brazilian footballer of all time?

Pele
Garrincha
Ronaldo
Zico
Romario
Ronaldinho
Cafu
Socrates
Jairzinho
Roberto Rivelino
Other
Pele
36.4%
Garrincha
6.3%
Ronaldo
15.1%
Zico
2.2%
Romario
1.7%
Ronaldinho
11.6%
Cafu
0.6%
Socrates
0.7%
Jairzinho
0.6%
Roberto Rivelino
1.1%
Other
23.6%
Ronaldinho
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