Top Brazilian Soccer Players – Who Are The Top 10 Brazil Football Players of All Time?

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16 minutes

Last Updated: November 23, 2023

Scott Kostov

Choosing the best Brazilian soccer players of all time is hard. When a massive nation like Brazil prides itself on ball wizardry, it naturally motivates a lot of young kids to pursue that goal. Some of the best US soccer players have enjoyed decent success, but different from the people that we are about to mention.

Soccer is one of the oldest and most popular sports on the entire globe. But contrary to common belief, there’s more to it than just being the fastest soccer player on the pitch. Ball control, vision, and shooting are some of the core concepts that these top Brazilian soccer players have mastered en route to becoming Brazilian football legends.

Who is The Top Brazilian Soccer Player Ever?

This title should undoubtedly go to Pele. Many generations of soccer fans have and will continue having debates about whether Pele or Maradona is the greatest soccer player ever. But nobody can deny that Pele is the greatest Brazilian soccer player of all time.

While it’s been quite some time since he last played, his legend carries on. And Pele achieved this immortal status by setting standards so high, no one has ever touched. According to FIFA, he’s the best goal scorer in the history of the sport.

Scoring 1281 goals throughout his career is hard to fathom and quantify in today’s era. But he did it in just 1363 games. Today’s players would be considered lucky if they got the chance to play in half of those games.

But that’s just one of the many records that Pele holds. Making his international debut at just 16 years old is one of them. Pele first dawned the Brazilian national jersey in the 1958 World Cup against the USSR, and the rest is history. Some might say that he got a head start, but he took Brazil to 4 World Cups and won 3 of them during his career.

Now that’s one hell of a way to become Brazil’s all-time leading scorer. 77 goals in 92 international appearances to be exact. Of those, 12 goals and 8 assists came in his 14 World Cup matches. Yeah, he wasn’t just a goal-scoring machine. He was the system.

For his efforts, Pele was selected by World Soccer, France Football, and FIFA as the Player of the Century. He was also chosen by Reuters and the International Olympic Committee as the Athlete of the Century. They don’t make them like this anymore, and we’ll probably never see anyone come close.

Brazil Player Pele

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It’s not like Pele became the greatest of all Brazilian soccer players overnight. He got to work right away. Becoming the youngest player to win a World Cup was just the start. Over the course of his illustrious career, he would also become the record-holder for the most hat tricks in football history.

Pele spent 18 years with his native club Santos, scoring more than 1000 goals. While you can discredit his accomplishments by saying he played in a farmers’ league, you can’t take away his accomplishments. 

Sure the Brazilian league wasn’t up to par with European competitions at the time, and it still isn’t. But winning 24 different trophies with Santos has to account for something. Besides, only 541 of his 1,281 goals were scored in that league. A record that is yet to be touched despite the countless Brazilian wonder kids going up their ranks.

On the international stage, Pele’s dominance was nothing short of spectacular. Pele played in four matches in the 1958 World Cup and scored six goals. He scored a hat-trick in the semi-final against France and scored two goals in the final against Sweden. 

Nobody can deny that the game has evolved over the years. The top Brazilian soccer players these days are usually in Europe before they turn 20. But when you’re the pride of such a large nation, a symbol of the game, and the face of the Brazilian soccer team, you deserve all the respect you get.

Top 10 Brazil Soccer Players of All Time

02. Brazilian Footballer Ronaldo

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Being nicknamed “The Phenomenon” is a pretty good indication you’re good at something. And while kids these days grew up watching CR7, the previous generation had the luxury of witnessing the greatness of the original Ronaldo.

Ronaldo made his debut on the international soccer scene in 1994, after winning the World Cup with Brazil. At just 17 years of age, he already had 2 years of experience and 44 goals in 47 for Cruzeiro.

PSV Eindhoven brought him to Europe the following year, where he would start wrecking defenses and earn his nickname. There, he would earn his first FIFA World Player of the Year award. 

The following World Cup in 1998, Brazil was 3-0ed in the final by France, with Ronaldo missing the most important match of his career so far due to undisclosed reasons. But he would more than make up for it in his next try in 2002. Ronaldo scored 8 goals in 7 matches, including 2 in the final to give Brazil their fifth World Cup win.

R9 was a transcendent player in every sense of the word. He was a classical 9 that played with pace. His shots felt like torpedoes, but he wasn’t just a threat as a finisher. This man had the ability to take the ball and make the opposition look like fools. Granted, having lethal finishing ability with both feet helps with that.

Two Ballon d’Or awards, 2 World Cups, second most goals in World Cup history, Brazil’s third-leading scorer all time, one infamous haircut, and the only man that could switch sides in 2 El Classico and still be beloved by fans.

If his knees held up, Ronaldo might have been numero uno on this list. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, and AC Milan fans certainly agree.

03. Brazilian Footballer Garrincha

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Garrincha is one of the greatest Brazilian soccer players, but he might have been overshadowed by Pele on the international stage. Despite sharing the spotlight with the greatest ever, Garrincha is beloved in his home country.

Coming from the slums, Garrincha was the ultimate underdog story. Garrincha represents the ultimate underdog story. The doctors said it was a miracle he could walk thanks to his crooked spine and uneven legs. 

Nicknamed “little bird” in Portuguese, Garrincha’s diminutive stature and his graceful, unpredictable movements on the field, left fans amazed. His dribbling ability and sheer speed just didn’t make sense given his medical history. 

While Garrincha struggled to get on the top Brazilian teams due to his anomalies, the then-captain of the Brazilian national team, left-back Nilton Santos, saw his potential. He took Garrincha to the office of his director at the club Botafago and begged him to sign the young talent so he wouldn’t have to face him on the wing.

Becoming one of the greatest wingers in the history of football with those conditions can only be explained as a freak of nature and a symbol of perseverance. After debuting in the 1958 World Cup against Russia, he and Pele never lost together in the lineup. 

The duo worked hand in hand to bring Brazil their first World Cup. But while everyone was praising Pele, Garrincha proved everyone wrong with his performance at the next World Cup. There he single-handedly dragged his country to a successful title defense despite the absence of the injured Pele.

Unfortunately, his troubled childhood took an emotional toll on Garrincha. He was a heavy drinker and was involved in multiple car accidents, before passing away in 1983 as a result of cirrhosis.

04. Brazilian Footballer Ronaldinho

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Ronaldinho is not only one of the top Brazilian soccer players to ever grace the pitch. He’s also the reason many players today first kicked a ball. The smiling magician was a natural entertainer who made so many people fall in love with the game.

Ronaldinho’s quickness and dazzling dribbling skills left defenders humiliated and in his dust. While his prime was short-lived, nobody can deny he was must-see TV from 2005 to 2008. 50 goals in two seasons with Barcelona as an attacking midfielder leading to 2 League titles, a Champions League title and a Ballon d’Or in 2005. Yeah, he was something special.

But his resume didn’t stop there. He’s the only player who has won the World Cup, Champions League, Copa Libertadores, Copa America, Confederations Cup, and Ballon d’Or. The brother was a cheat code and probably the most technically gifted player in the history of the game. Everything we wanted Neymar to be after his debut in Santos, Ronaldinho was doing it to everyone. It’s rare for a Barcelona player to receive a standing ovation at Santiago Bernabeu, but that’s the caliber of player we’re talking about.

Internationally, Ronaldinho played 97 matches for the Brazilian national soccer team and scored 33 goals. He won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil alongside legends Ronaldo and Rivaldo. This was the last Brazilian roster to win the World Cup, and more importantly, by playing their unique Samba football.

Many fans have mocked his international performances, but nobody can deny Ronaldinho accomplished all there was to do in the sport. He  is not only one of the best Brazilian football players of all time but also one of the greatest players in the history of football.

05. Brazilian Footballer Romario

If you’ve never heard of Romario, strap up. Not only was he one of the best Brazilian soccer players ever but he also dominated defenses in the 90’s to a fault. Netting 784 goals in 1002 official games makes him the ninth top scorer in football history.

At 19, Romário made his professional soccer debut for Vasco da Gama, a club from his hometown Rio de Janeiro. Soon enough, Romario became a star for the Brazilian national soccer team. As a lethal finisher with superb ball control, he was asked to join the top Brazilian soccer players of the time and make his international debut at the 1988 Olympics.

Dutch club PSV Eindhoven liked what they saw, so they brought him over to Europe. Romario would go on to stay 5 years with the team, leading the Dutch league in scoring 3 times. His 128 goals in 148 games, helped them earn three league titles and one national cup

In 1993, Romario made the jump to Catalonia, joining FC Barcelona where he played for the next two years. This period is considered his prime, as he led La Liga in scoring, bringing Barcelona the league title. 

The following season, he and Barcelona were Champions League runner-ups, while he also led this prestigious competition in goal scoring. But his most notable achievement came in the summer. Romario was the player of the tournament when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup.

His 55 strikes in 71 games for the Brazilian national soccer team are good for fourth all-time, only trailing Pele, Ronaldo, and Neymar.

That’s some elite company right there, and one of the main reasons why Romario is considered one of the top Brazilian soccer players of all time.

06. Brazilian Soccer Player Rivaldo

Like many players on this list, Rivaldo etched his name in the annals of soccer history with the team from Catalonia. Growing up in poor neighborhoods is nothing new for aspiring Brazilian soccer players. But Rivaldo had to walk 12 miles each time he wanted to practice since his family couldn’t afford a bus ticket. In the end, that hard work paid off.

At the age of 16, he was already dawning the colors of his hometown team Santa Cruz de Recife. By 1996, he was already in Europe with Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna. But his career really took off the following season when he joined FC Barcelona.

Although he didn’t have much ambidexterity to speak off, Rivaldo’s left foot was worth double. As a right winger that loved to cut into the middle and progress as a striker, it offered defenses something they hadn’t seen before. 

His 1999 season will go down as one of the highest peaks reached by Brazilian soccer players. Rivaldo led La Liga in scoring, bringing Barcelona the league title as well as the Copa Del Rey. They also made the Champions League semi finals that year. All of that helped Rivaldo win both the Ballon d’Or award and the FIFA Player of the Year. 

In his 5 years with Barcelona, spanning from 1997 to 2002, Rivaldo scored 130 goals and assisted on 44 more in his 235 matches.

He’s one of only nine players to have won the World Cup, the Ballon d’Or, and the Champions League, which he secured with Milan during the 2003 season. The year prior, Rivaldo helped Brazil capture their fifth World Cup win alongside Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. 

Oh yeah, he’s also responsible for the greatest hat-trick ever, that sent Barcelona to the Champions League the following season.

07. Brazilian Soccer Player Cafu

Now, we had to get at least one defensive player on this list. And yeah I loved watching Roberto Carlos fire torpedo free kicks from 40 meters while he was on the Real Madrid Galacticos. But we’ll give this nod to the man with the most appearances for the Brazilian national soccer team.

Throughout his 20 year career, Cafu not only became one of the greatest full-backs in football history but he also became one of the best and most accomplished Brazilian soccer players of all time.

Cafu started his career in 1989 with São Paulo FC in 1989, before moving to italy to play for AS Roma in 1997. By then he was a made man in Brazil, winning the South American soccer player of the year award in 1994.

He became the cornerstone of the Roma defense in the late 90’s, helping them capture the Serie A title in 2001 and reaching the Coppa Italia final in 2003. That offseason, he joined AC Milan and won another league title as well as making the Champions League finals.

With Nesta and Dida holding down the forth, Cafu moved to the right side and reinvented his playstyle. As one of the hardest working and most endurable defenders in the history of soccer, Cafu went from a tackling machine to an energetic right wing that loved to play up the field.

His international career is arguably even more impressive. With 142 appearances for the Brazilian national soccer team, he’s one of the greatest Brazilian soccer players to ever lace the cleats. He is the only player in history to appear in three World Cup finals in a row (1994, 1998, and 2002), and he won two of them,  captaining the team when they won in 2002.

08. Brazilian Soccer Player Neymar

Neymar is the first and only player on this list that is still active. That tells you all you need to know. People love to clown Neymar online, but that’s mostly nobodies that have never achieved anything of value.

Sure he didn’t live up to expectations, but calling him the Prince that was never crowned King is a cheap shot. Which is funny, considering he still holds the record for the most expensive transfer in soccer history at 222 million euros. 

And PSG owners knew what they were getting. The striker had won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies, and a Champions League with Barcelona in his 4 years there. Prior to Barcelona, he was setting the internet on fire in the early 2010’s with his montage clips playing for Brazilian Santos.

It was there where the Ronaldinho comparisons started flying, and Neymar is probably the only Brazilian soccer player worthy of that consideration. Neymar’s dribbling skills, tricks and playmaking ability have allowed him to dominate in any position up front.

His ambidexterity allows him to easily adjust playing on either wing, although his preferred positions are in the box as a finisher. His electric and explosive playstyle has tortured and humiliated defense for more than a decade, as he checks every box for a prolific striker. 

With Barcelona he scored 105 times in 186 games, and that ratio has improved at PSG, where he had 90 goals in just 130 games. Considering the caliber of players he shared the pitch with in those stints (Messi, Mbappe, Suarez), he probably would have scored more alone with more touches.

His 80 international goals in 128 appearances are the most in Brazilian national soccer team history, breaking the legendary Pele record.

09. Brazilian Footballer Zico

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Zico is probably one of the most underrated of all top Brazilian soccer players in history. Scoring more goals than striker as a midfielder is not something seen often. And he served as a generational bridge for the Brazilian national soccer team. Going from Pele and Garrincha to Romario, Rivaldo and Ronaldo, it was Zico who held it all together.

Apart from preventing Brazil from missing a World Cup, Zico also earned the nickname “White Pele”. Despite never winning the big one, Zico has won five titles throughout his club career and over 15 individual prizes, like World Soccer Player of the Year in 1983.

With 508 goals in 731 matches for Flamengo and 48 goals in 71 games for the Brazilian national soccer team, Zico has achieved legendary status in South America. Teaming up with Socrates, an honorable mention on our list, the duo won everything it could apart from a World Cup.

With the passing ability and vision of some of the greatest European soccer players, and the silky smooth dribbling and ball control abilities that characterized Brazilian soccer, Zico was a threat every time he crossed the middle of the field.

If he wasn’t setting up people, he was taking it all the way. And he is also a major threat in dead ball situations. One fifth of his goals, or 101 to be exact, came from free kicks. Yeah, that brother was on one.

10. Brazilian Soccer Player Kaka

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People calling Neymar the biggest “what if” story in the history of Brazilian soccer have probably never heard of Kaka. Much like Ronaldo, injuries prevented this immensely talented player from being higher up on this list.

Kaka made his professional debut at just 18 years old with Brazil’s Sao Paulo club. The following year, he was already on the Brazilian national soccer team that won the 2002 World Cup.

By sharing the field with many legends that found themselves on this list, Kaka significantly raised his level of play. The following year, he was already off to Europe to play for AC Milan. And boy did he blossom there. Playing with one of the greatest European teams ever, Kaka won the Italian league in his first season.

In his 7 seasons in Milano, Kaka won five titles, including the World Cup for teams and the UEFA Champions league. They made the Champions League 2 times, before winning it in 2007.

That year, Kaka reached his peak, winning the Ballon d’Or. Seeing Kaka run with the ball was a thing of beauty. It also scared the shit out of the defenders, who could neither keep pace nor tackle him due to his frame.

Combining so much power with finesse was a recipe for success, but unfortunately his knees couldn’t take the pressure of all those counter attacks. Kaka joined Real Madrid in 2009 as a part of the Galacticos with CR7, but after 4 injury riddled seasons, he was out the door.

Kaka played another season for AC Milano before moving to the MLS and going back to his home country. Injuries robbed us of seeing his spectacular prime being extended. But he’s still one of the greatest Brazilian soccer players to ever grace the pitch.

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