Many of soccer’s biggest names, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have paid tribute to Pelé following his death on Thursday.
The Brazilian superstar, regarded by many as the greatest to ever play the game, passed away aged 82 after a long battle with colon cancer. He is, to date, the only player to win the World Cup three times, lifting the trophy in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
Messi, whose recent World Cup win with Argentina has resulted in fans arguing he may have surpassed Pelé’s status, posted a picture of the soccer icon on Instagram and simply wrote, “Rest in peace, @pele.”
The Argentine’s longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s own tribute read: “A mere goodbye to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that is enveloping the whole of the football world right now. The care he always showed for me was reciprocated in every moment we shared, even when we were apart. His memory will endure forever in every one of us who love football.”
Brazilian stars were especially affected by the loss – with two players once dubbed the ‘New Pelé’, Neymar and Ronaldo, also offering gushing tributes.
Neymar wrote on Instagram: “Before Pele, football was only a sport. Pele changed everything. He turned football into art, into entertainment. He gave a voice to the poor, to black people. Mainly: he gave visibility to Brazil. Football and Brazil raised their status thanks to the King! He is gone, but his magic will remain.”
Two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo added: “Unique. Genius. Technical. Creative. Perfect. Unequalled. Where Pele has gone, he has stayed. Never having left the top, he leaves us today. The king of football – one and only. The greatest of all time.”
Meanwhile, Neymar’s teammate Kylian Mbappé described Pelé as “the king of football”, adding “his legacy will never be forgotten”.
Retired England stars also paid tribute to Pelé, with World Cup hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst saying he was “without doubt the best football I ever played against”. Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, and Wayne Rooney also praised the departing sporting icon.
Outside of soccer, tributes also came flooding in, with U.S. President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Naomi Campbell, and Will Smith expressing their sadness at Pelé’s death.
– Cover Media