The football world pays tribute to Pelé following the death of the three-time World Cup winner

The football world has paid tribute to Pele following the Brazilian great’s death at the age of 82.

The three-time World Cup winner died on Thursday after being hospitalized in Sao Paulo since late November.

Following the confirmation of his death, tributes have rained down for the player widely regarded as the best to ever grace the game.

Pelé was a prodigious goalscorer, and over the course of his career he was credited with 1,281 by the official FIFA website.

A tweet from the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) simply read “King Pele,” accompanied by three crown emojis.

Brazil striker Neymar – who matched Pelé’s record 77 international goals during the 2022 World Cup – posted his emotional tribute on Instagram.

“Before Pele, 10 was just a number. I read this sentence somewhere, at some point in my life. But this beautiful sentence is incomplete. I would say that before Pele, football was just a sport. Pele changed everything” Neymar said.

“He transformed football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to the blacks and above all: he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He is gone but his magic remains. Pele is FOREVER!!”

Federation president Ednaldo Rodrigues said in a statement: “The CBF will pay all possible tributes to the greatest athlete of all time. Pele is eternal and we will always work to preserve his story and continue his legacy.”

Former England forward Sir Geoff Hurst – who won the World Cup in 1966, scoring a hat-trick in the final – said on Twitter: ‘I have so many memories of Pelé, without a doubt the best footballer I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best footballer I’ve ever played with).

“For me Pelé remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you.”

Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo posted a message on Instagram alongside a photo of himself with the Brazilian great expressing his “deepest condolences”.

Ronaldo said: “A simple ‘goodbye’ to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that currently embraces the entire world of football.

“An inspiration to so many millions, a reference of yesterday, today, forever. The affection she has always shown for me has been reciprocal in every shared moment, even at a distance.

“He will never be forgotten and his memory will live on in all of us football lovers forever. Rest in peace King Pele.

France striker Kylian Mbappe – who joined Pelé as the only teenager to score in a World Cup final in 2018 – wrote on Instagram: “The king of football has passed away, but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP RE.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi simply wrote: “Rest in peace, @pelé.”

European football governing body UEFA said in a statement on Twitter: “Tonight, we join fans around the world in mourning Pelé, one of the greatest football players of all time.

“He was the game’s first global superstar and played a pioneering role in soccer’s rise to become the most popular sport in the world. Rest in peace, Pele.

The Football Association has announced that the Wembley arch will be lit up in the colors of Brazil in memory of Pele.

Wembley arch is lit up in the colors of Brazil in memory of Pele (Kieran Cleeves/PA).

There was also cheering ahead of Thursday night’s Football League matches across the country, which kicked off shortly after news of Pele’s death broke.

The Premier League said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pele, an extraordinarily gifted footballer who has transcended our sport and inspired millions throughout his remarkable career.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to Pele’s family and friends.”

Manchester City forward Erling Haaland – who became the fastest player to score 20 Premier League goals on Wednesday night with his brace against Leeds – paid tribute to the Brazilian great.

“Everything you see any player do, Pele did it first,” the 22-year-old said on Twitter.

Pele came out of retirement in 1975 to join the New York Cosmos, helping to increase the popularity of soccer in the United States.

Former Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer played alongside Pelé for the Cosmos and paid tribute to his former teammate.

“Football has lost the greatest man in its history today and I have lost a unique friend,” Beckenbauer said on the Bayern Munich website.

“Born in Tres Coracoes, Pelé had three hearts: for football, for his family and for all people. Someone who played with the stars and always kept his feet on the ground.

“I went to the United States in 1977 because I really wanted to play on a team with Pele at the New York Cosmos. This time alongside him was one of the greatest experiences of my career.

“We instantly became US champions together, and Pele just called me his brother. It was an unimaginable honor for me. Football will always be yours! you will always remain Thank you for your game, O Rei!”

Pele’s global stardom saw him take on a lead role in the 1981 film ‘Escape to Victory’ about Allied prisoners of war playing a soccer match against the Germans.

It also featured the likes of Hollywood Sylvester Stallone, Sir Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow as well as fellow players England captain Bobby Moore and Ossie Ardiles, the former Tottenham midfielder who won the World Cup with Argentina in 1978.

Ardiles posted a photo of himself next to Pele in the Allied team on Twitter. “The King of Kings is dead. Extraordinary player. One of a kind. 3 times World Cup winner, over a thousand goals,” he said.

“My idol when I was young. He made football a beautiful and truly international game. Time spent playing alongside him in Runaway to Victory was a dream come true. RIP Pele.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino paid personal tribute to Pelé’s unique talent who had “a magnetic presence and, when you were with him, the rest of the world just stopped”.

Infantino added on “His life goes beyond football. He changed perceptions for the better in Brazil, in South America and around the world. His legacy is impossible to put into words.

“To his family and friends, the CBF, Brazil and all the football fans who loved him so much, I offer my sincere condolences.

“Today we all mourn the loss of the physical presence of our dear Pele, but he achieved immortality long ago and therefore will be with us for eternity.”

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