Best Brazilian Players in Football History: A country of football, Brazil is the birthplace of many of the greatest players in history. Five times world champion, the country holds the record for victories, ahead of Germany and Italy. Brazil is also the only country to have never missed a single World Cup.
From Pelé and Garrincha to Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, the country’s history is rich with footballing legends. Each more creative than the next, the Brazilian players are true magicians of the round ball.
The 10 Best Brazilian Players in Football History
Check out the top 10 Brazilian players of all time
10. Carlos Alberto
Captain of Brazil in the victory of the 1970 World Cup, Carlos Alberto is a legend in his country. He is considered by many to be one of the best full-backs in history. Carlos Alberto is a fast player, very offensive, but who also knows how to defend very well.
His club career is spent mainly in Brazil. Carlos Alberto started at Fluminense FC, with whom he won the Rio de Janeiro championship 3 times. He then joined Pelé at Santos FC, where he won the Sao Paulo championship 5 times, as well as a Recopa Sudamericana.
The Brazilian ended his career in the United States and won the NASL 3 times there with the New York Cosmos. Carlos Alberto is best known for his decisive role in the 1970 World Cup, which Brazil won.
He notably scored a goal in the final, which is considered one of the most beautiful collective goals in the history of football. Called up for selection until 1977, he did not take part in the 1974 World Cup because of a knee injury.
Gérson de Oliveira Nunes is also one of those Brazilian players of the golden generation of 1970. He is a playmaker with a very good passing game, but also capable of making the difference on his own. Gérson is a backward midfielder, yet very forward-looking.
Although he is little known in Europe, he is often cited in Brazil as one of the best Brazilian players of all time. Like many Brazilians at that time, Gérson spent his entire career in his native country.
He goes through 4 of the biggest Brazilian clubs: Flamengo, Botafogo, Sao Paulo FC, and Fluminense. In 15 seasons, he won the Rio championship 4 times and the Sao Paulo championship twice.
Called up in 1961, Gérson missed the 1962 World Cup because of an injury. Four years later, he only played one game in the tournament, and Brazil did not shine. It was during the 1970 World Cup that he was able to show all his talent.
He will be one of the key elements of the Brazilian victory, and notably, score a goal in the final which will restore the advantage to his team.
Romário is certainly one of the greatest Brazilian strikers of all time. Unpredictable on the field, he is a real surface fox, capable of scoring in any situation. A very technical player, he knows how to create space even in the densest defenses. His many goals made Romário one of the top scorers in football history.
He began his career at Vasco Da Gama, a club to which he would return 3 times during his career. But it was especially during his time in Europe that Romário stood out. He is 3 times champion of the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven and won La Liga in 1994 with Barcelona.
The same year, he reached the Champions League final, but Barca lost to AC Milan. The rest of his career will see him pass through a multitude of clubs, notably in Brazil, but also in Qatar, Australia, and the United States.
With the Seleçao, Romário participated in the 1990 World Cup, but Brazil was eliminated in the round of 16. It is 4 years later that he knows the consecration. Author of 5 goals during the competition, he allows his team to win the World Cup.
The Brazilian will even be voted the best player in the competition. Despite an injury that prevented him from participating in 1998, Romário is still considered one of the best Brazilian players in history.
Unpredictable attacker and fantastic dribbler, Ronaldinho is certainly one of the best Brazilian players of the 21st century. His inventiveness, his precision, and his speed allowed him to be both a very good passer, but also an extremely effective scorer. Ronaldinho began his career at Grêmio, where he was to impress from his first seasons.
Very quickly he flew to Europe, to PSG, to confirm his extraordinary talent. But it is with Barcelona that he will experience the highest peaks. He won La Liga twice and especially the Champions League in 2006. Ronaldinho became one of the best players in the history of Barça. In 2008, “Ronnie” joined AC Milan for 3 seasons and won a Serie A title there. He ended his career in Brazil and Mexico.
After winning the U17 World Cup, Ronaldinho won the Copa América in 1999, his first major international tournament. During the 2002 World Cup, he formed an impressive attacking trio with Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
This offensive power allows Brazil to win its fifth world title. Ronaldinho will mostly be remembered as the epitome of footballing joy. But also as one of the best Brazilian players of all time.
Nicknamed ‘the Doctor’, Sócrates was a talented attacking midfielder with excellent game vision and a very good passing game. Besides being a symbol of the fight against the Brazilian dictatorship, he is one of the best Brazilian players in history. An elegant player, he was often the centerpiece of his team thanks his reading of the game.
Sócrates made his debut at Botafogo FC, where he remained for 4 seasons. But it is above all with SC Corinthians that he will write history. In addition to winning the Sao Paula championship 3 times, he founded with the other members of the club what will be called the “Corinthian Democracy”.
The club is then self-managed by the players themselves and allows them to send messages in favor of democracy. In 1984, Sócrates left for Italy for a season with Fiorentina, before returning to finish his career in Brazil.
Between 1979 and 1986, Sócrates was part of a Brazilian team that played an attacking and quality game. Despite this, the team will not win any major trophies during this period. He will still reach the Copa América final in 1983, lost against Uruguay.
Jairzinho is another of those legendary Brazilians unknown in Europe, despite a short stint in Marseille. A versatile striker, he could play in any attacking position but was often positioned on the right-wing. Endowed with phenomenal speed, excellent dribbling skills, and a powerful strike, he is a perfect striker.
After good performances with Botafogo Juniors, Jairzinho joined the club’s first team in 1962. He spent 12 years in the club and won the Rio de Janeiro championship twice. In 1974, he joined France and Marseille for a short year, mixed between genius matches and controversies.
The following season, he returned to Brazil at Cruzeiro EC and won the Copa Libertadores. Jairzinho finished his career in various Brazilian, Colombian and Bolivian clubs. During his international career, Jarzinho participated in 3 World Cups, including that of 1970.
With a team made up of legendary players, he won the competition having scored in all matches (7 goals). In 1974, Brazil is no longer the same team and does not manage to do better than 4th place. Despite this, Jarzinho remains one of the best Brazilian players of all time.
A very creative player, Zico is an attacking midfielder who marked the history of the Flamengo club and the Brazilian selection. At the start of his team’s actions, he is the one who organizes the offensive game thanks to his vision of the game. Excellent on set pieces, he is also part of our Top 10 of the best free-kick takers in history. Zico is also known for his incredible passing game and efficiency in front of goals.
The Brazilian started at Flamengo and spent almost his entire career there. Author of 474 goals in 634 games, he has become a club legend. In addition to being 4 times champion of Brazil and 7 times champion of Rio, he won the Copa Libertadores in 1981.
The same year, Zico’s Flamengo beat Liverpool 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup. Aside from his favorite club, he also spent 2 seasons at Udinese in Italy and ended his career in Japan. Zico took part in 3 World Cups with Brazil between 1978 and 1986 but never won the trophy.
Despite very good performances, including 52 goals in 72 games, he did not manage to take his team higher than 3rd place in 1978. For having raised the level of the Seleçao for more than a decade, Zico is still considered one of the best Brazilian players of all time.
A legendary striker who has marked an entire generation, Ronaldo is clearly one of the best Brazilian players in history. Very fast and skillful with both feet, R9 was a very good dribbler, able to evolve in the smallest spaces. In addition to his ability to break through defenses, he was also an outstanding finisher.
Ronaldo started in the Brazilian club Cruzeiro, where he was quickly noticed. Transferred to PSV Eindhoven in 1994, he won the National Cup there and scored almost one goal per game for 2 seasons. After just one season at Barca and winning the Copa del Rey, he joined Inter in Italy.
Ronaldo stayed there for 4 seasons and allowed his team to win the UEFA Cup in 1998. The Brazilian then returned to Spain, but to Real this time, and won La Liga among other things. He will end his career at AC Milan and SC Corinthians in Brazil.
With the Seleçao, its history is even more magical. World champion in 1994 without having played a single match, he distinguished himself 4 years later, but Brazil lost in the final against Zidane’s France.
In 2002, he managed to take Brazil to its 5th world title, while being the competition’s top scorer with 8 goals. Ronaldo would even be the top scorer in World Cup history for a few years before his record was broken by Miroslav Klose.
Considered by many to be the greatest dribbler of all time, Garrincha is a true legend in Brazil. Known for his dazzling acceleration, his precise crosses, above all his feints, he is considered one of the best wingers in history.
His agility on the ball allowed him to deceive any defender. In addition to being a very good passer, Garrincha was also able to score from afar thanks to his powerful ball-striking.
Loyal to Botafogo for many years, Garrincha spent almost his entire career with the Brazilian club. In particular, he won the Rio championship 3 times and the Rio-Sao Paulo Tournament twice.
He manages to take his team to the Copa Libertadores semi-finals but loses to Santos FC de Pelé. After scoring 232 goals in 581 games, Garrincha leaves Botafogo, but will only play a few games in different Brazilian clubs.
Called up in 1955 in the selection, Garrincha took part in the 1958 World Cup. Excellent throughout the competition, he delivered several decisive passes and enabled Brazil to win its first World Cup.
Somewhat eclipsed by Pelé during the competition, he distinguished himself 4 years later, while his teammate was injured. Top scorer at the 1962 World Cup, he demonstrated his talent to the world and won his second consecutive title. When Garrincha and Pelé were on the pitch, Brazil never lost a single match.
A true legend in the history of football, Pelé is often seen as the best player of all time. An exceptional player both physically and technically, he has remained at the highest level for more than 15 years. Holder still today of several records, he is notably one of the best scorers of all time. The imprint he left on football is unrivaled, marking football fans over several generations.
Pelé’s professional career in the club is mainly spent in the Brazilian club Santos FC. In 18 seasons, he achieved incredible performances and won numerous trophies, including 11 Sao Paulo championships and 2 Copa Libertadores.
Pelé also won the Intercontinental Cup twice in the 1960s, against AC Milan and Benfica. During these long years, he kept an incredible ratio of almost 1 goal per game. Pelé will end his career in the United States at the New York Cosmos, where he also won the championship in 1977.
But Pelé is even better known for his exploits with the Brazilian selection. The youngest player to have won a World Cup in 1958, he was also world champion in 1962 and 1970. This makes him the only player in history to win the World Cup 3 times.
His numerous goals and great technical gestures during these competitions have contributed to building his legend. Pelé deserves his place at the top of the ranking of the best Brazilian players in history.