10 Greatest Brazilian Soccer Players to Play the Game

Brazil is, without doubt, the most fertile land in terms of creating football players.

And not just players, but gods. It is no exaggeration to say that football is a separate faith in Brazil. A way of escapism. A relief from the problems of life.

So in a decorated history spanning several decades, Brazil has lit up the world stage with their exceptional products.

The thing with Brazilian football is that back in the day, you did not have to play for a Spanish or English club to prove your worth, you just had to turn out for a Brazilian national side!

So let us look at our picks for the Top 10 Best Brazilian Soccer Players of All Time.

10. Didi

didi
Didi invented the modern day ‘knuckle ball’ free-kick

Before Pele ruled the world stage, there was someone known as Didi who made his name winning games for Brazil.

Pele famously said that for Didi, playing football was like peeling an orange. Nice and easy!

The forgotten midfielder was a Brazilian legend who won two World Cups with his side in 1958 and 1962.

And as a 17-year-old Pele made his mark on the 1958 World Cup, the bonafide superstar of that team was Didi.

Great players are known to be innovators. And like any great player, Didi is known for inventing something special. The dried leaf free-kick, or knuckle-ball.

What does that mean? Well, it is exactly what Juninho used to devastating effect and Cristiano Ronaldo still uses to create havoc.

The moving ball creates significant confusion for the keeper who always stays helpless as the ball moves around.

Didi is also considered one of the earliest Brazilian talents to make the move to Spain and Real Madrid playing for one season in the Spanish capital.

In Brazil, he scored abundantly with Fluminense and Botafogo inspiring a whole generation of exceptional ballplayers in later years.

9. Carlos Alberto Torres

carlos alberto
Carlos Alberto Torres scored in the 1970 FIFA World Cup Final

If there is only one defender on the list of the ten best players a country has ever produced, that shows you exactly what they were good at.

But the one inclusion also shows how good that one defender was!

Carlos Alberto Torres was the captain of the legendary side in 1970 and was one of the most modern players of the time.

carlos alberto holding cup
Carlos Alberto holding the 1970 FIFA World Cup

The right-back would regularly bomb forward and participate in attacks while being quite the capable defender.

He was also an able leader who would represent his country proudly.

His goal in the 1970 World Cup Final vs Italy is considered by many as the best team goal ever scored in the World Cup.

8. Ronaldinho

ronaldinho
Ronaldinho arguably had the most flair of any footballer

A World Cup winner in 2002, the mentor to Lionel Messi and a bonafide superstar of the game.

Ronaldinho was an exceptional talent. And like many others on the list, people still feel he could have done more.

But what he did do on the pitch was still special.

Being a World Cup winner, a Champions League winner and the poster boy of Barcelona and World football is no mean feat.

ronaldinho free kick
Ronaldinho scoring a free kick vs England in 2002 FIFA World Cup

Who can forget the standing ovation he received from the Bernabeu after an exceptional performance against Real Madrid. The stuff of legend.

Like most Brazilian greats, Ronaldinho was a bad boy off the field. And of course, he could have been more consistent at the top level.

But the time he did have at the top was enough for him to give a sufficient account of his abilities.

7. Jairzinho

jairzinho
Jairzinho won a World Cup with Brazil in 1970

When Brazil won the World Cup in the Estadio Azteca in 1970, all the acclaim deservedly went to Pele who won his third World Cup crown.

But in Jairzinho, Brazil had a winger who had scored in the Quarter Final, Semi-Final, and the Final, a feat that no other player in that talented squad achieved.

Jairzinho was nicknamed The Hurricane for his destructive performances in front of goal.

jairzinho brazil
Jairzinho was a hero at club level aswell

In Brazilian club football, he is a legend of Botafogo as he turned out for them in more than 400 games and scored 186 goals in the process.

The great thing about Botafogo and Brazil at the time was that on the right-wing, they first had Garrincha and then Jairzinho, both legends who won World Cups for Brazil and feature on this list.

Like most Brazilian players of the time, he played the bulk of his career in Brazil before playing in France with Marseille and Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa.

6. Romario

romario
Romario was explosive both on and off the pitch

Romario was not the easiest player to manage off the field. But on the soccer pitch, he was an incredible talent.

Every single World Cup win of Brazil has a superstar behind it. And in USA 1994, it was Romario.

Baixinho, (Shorty) was the nickname Romario got from his teammates. And while this short stature led to him being rejected by a coach once, it also became a strength for him.

He was quick, had exceptional ball control and his finishing was sublime. His use of the chip was terrific and always had goalkeepers second-guessing.

romario world cup
Romario celebrating winning the FIFA World Cup in 1994

After a prolific spell with Vasco De Gama, Romario had an early move to Europe moving to PSV Eindhoven under Guus Hiddink.

He was exceptional for PSV scoring 98 times in 110 games for the club. The move to Barcelona was inevitable and so it came.

But after winning the La Liga title, a feud with Cruyff cut his Barca career short. He played for Flamengo, Fluminense and had two more spells with Vasco De Gama before calling it a day.

5. Socrates

socrates
Socrates had a medical degree and earnt the nickname ‘the doctor’

A lot has been said about Socrates‘ influence, the flag bearer of democracy in Brazil did a lot off the pitch for his country.

But on the pitch, he was quite outstanding too. His 6”4’ frame looked unnatural to the eye but with his long legs, he was as precise as an Andres Iniesta or Luka Modric with their short stature.

If you ask any footballing neutral about the best teams never to win the World Cup, Brazil 82 has to be one of the frequently mentioned names.

And Socrates was, along with Falcao and Zico, one of the central characters in that team.

Socrates playing
Socrates played in 2 World Cups with Brazil

He scored two goals in the tournament including one against Italy to level the scoring but unfortunately, that game proved to be the undoing of the legendary side.

He turned out for Brazil again in 1986, scored two goals but was again denied the prestigious trophy going out to France on penalties.

On the club level, he made his name through Botafogo and later Corinthians where he famously instilled player power.

Italy also saw Socrates for one year with Fiorentina before he returned to Brazil with Flamengo.

4. Zico

Zico
Zico is heralded by some as the best Brazilian midfielder ever

On a list of the best players never to win the World Cup, Zico has to be right up there with Cruyff, Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.

The number ten was a maestro who deserved the biggest title in world football.

After starting at Flamengo, Zico had caught the eye of European suitors who wanted to sign him for several years.

But his heart was with Flamengo, a team for which he scored 123 goals in 212 appearances.

zico celebrating
Zico celebrating for Brazil

The national stage though was where he truly showed his brilliance to the world.

While he was too young and inexperienced in a squad full of superstars in 1978, his peak came in 1982, the year when Brazil were denied by the brilliance of Paulo Rossi and their own tactical ineptness.

In 1986, the ship had already sailed as Zico was plagued by an injury and could only make little cameos for the Selecao.

At club level, Zico moved to Europe slightly late after turning 30. But his spell with Udinese saw him go toe to toe with greats like Platini and Maradona.

3. Ronaldo Nazario

ronaldo nazario
Ronaldo Nazario lifted the World Cup for Brazil in 1994 & 2002

If someone says that Ronaldo Nazario was the most naturally talented player in the history of the game, there is enough evidence to consider that true.

His period with Brazil was fruitful as he lifted the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and 2002.

Just look back at his hat trick at Old Trafford vs Manchester United and the standing ovation that followed, or the brace in the World Cup final of 2002.

The two Ballon d’Or wins in 1997 and 2002 shows his calibre.

R9
Ronaldo Nazario a.k.a R9 had his injury problems

The tragic thing for Ronaldo were the injuries he faced. Famously getting his knee cap injured again in just five minutes after having been out of the game for five months before that.

There were also problems with his weight due to hormonal problems. But despite all that, Ronaldo played for the best teams in the world and shined on the biggest stage.

2. Garrincha

garrincha
Garrincha, the skillful winger, won the World Cup in 1962

Jogo Bonito has always been the motto of Brazilian football. And if there is one embodiment of that motto, it has to be Garrincha.

The winger was a delight to watch on the right-wing. Twisting in and out with poise and purpose never letting the defenders sniff the ball.

After Pele was injured in the second game of 1962, it was Garrincha who proved to be the linchpin of the Brazilian side scoring a joint-highest four goals helping them retain the World Cup in style.

At club level, he was a Botafogo legend playing more than 600 times for them and scoring 245 goals.

1. Pele

pele
Pele was the most complete player to play for Brazil

When will a 17-year-old score a hat trick in a World Cup Semi-Final again? Or a brace in the Final to finish with six in his first-ever tournament?

The fact is that some of the records Pele has are tough to see getting broken.

And that is the greatness of the man. The three-time world cup winner is the greatest Brazil has ever delivered as well as being the best player football has ever seen.

While the sheer number of goals he scored may be seen by suspicion by some, his international exploits were there for everyone to see.

What was so exceptional about his game was how well rounded it was.

He could play a pass, get past defenders without a problem and finish with his eyes closed.

Bottom Line

While we have done our best to include the best soccer players Brazil have produced but it still seems unfair to legends like Falcao, Gerson, Rivellino and Nilton Santos to miss out.

It shows the quality of the Brazilian greats that Neymar Jr. does not even come into the conversation at this stage.

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