Skip to Content

15 Best Brazilian Soccer Players of All Time

There are a few countries that can match the history of Brazilian soccer. This is a country that has had a ton of success in the World Cup, and its players are some of the most recognizable in the world.

They have not been able to have the recent success that they are always hoping for, but that can change every four years as they always enter as one of the favorites to win the World Cup.

Making a list of the 15 best Brazilian soccer players of all time is not exactly the easiest thing in the world. While most people agree with the names that make the list, the order can always be up for debate. This is currently how things sit.

1. Pele

All these years later, Pele is still considered by many to be the best soccer player of all time. That is pretty remarkable, considering how much the game is changed, but his impact is hard to overlook.

For starters, he was able to find the back of the net at any level he played. Whether he was playing for Santos at the club level or for the Brazilian national team, he was a star every time he stepped on the pitch. Official goal totals are hard to come by, but the Guinness World Record shows him with 1279 goals in 1363 matches.

2. Ronaldo (R9)

Ronaldo has turned into one of the more overlooked players in recent soccer history for one reason or another. For starters, the man simply known as Ronaldo during his playing days happens to share a name with a new modern superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, when people mention simply Ronaldo, many fans think of the Portuguese star.

Another problem that Ronaldo runs into is that some argue Neymar has passed him at this point. While that could be the case at some point, Ronaldo still has a slight edge right now. Not only was he able to help Brazil win the World Cup, but he put together an impressive, complete career at all levels.

3. Neymar

The story is still being written for Neymar, but he has already made his way up to three on the list for what he has accomplished. Known as one of the best players in the world right now, he has done just about anything a soccer player could ask for.

That is, of course, besides winning the World Cup for Brazil. This is pretty much a necessity for every great Brazilian player, so it will be interesting to see if he breaks through with possibly just one more realistic shot at it.

Most of the players on this list have found a way to win at least one, but Neymar is still searching. He will likely need a memorable run to have any chance of moving higher on this list. Whether that is fair or not, Brazilian soccer players are judged by World Cup wins. Neymar has already done just about everything at the club level.

4. Ronaldinho

Behind all the flash that Ronaldinho brought to the pitch was a very accomplished offensive weapon. He was able to find success not only for the Brazilian national team, but when suiting up for his club teams as well.

His lasting legacy might be some of his flashy moves, but he was a winner at multiple levels. People seem to already forget that no one was more electrifying or skilled like him during his short prime.

5. Socrates

Embed from Getty Images

Socrates was a strong, powerful soccer player in an era where few players could match up one-on-one against him. An attacking midfielder, he was able to overpower many opponents and win the best position a lot of times.

It also helped that he was a very technical playmaker, making the right play and being smart with the ball at all times.

If Socrates could win a World Cup championship, he might move even higher up this list. As it stands, he still had a very productive career, as he was the heart and soul of the national team during his prime.

6. Rivaldo

When Barcelona signed Rivaldo as a backup to Ronaldo, they hoped that he would replace the star player reasonably well. What ended up happening is that they never missed a beat, and Rivaldo showed that he was right up there with the best of them in the entire world.

As a leading scorer in the top Spanish league in 1987 in 1998, he became a household name in the soccer world.

On the World Cup stage, he was able to get a title with a 2002 team. In 1998, he was more of a star for the team, but they came up short in the final against France.

7. Romario

The 1994 World Cup was a dominant display from Romario. He was the golden ball winner as the best player of the tournament, and his ability to finish with the best of them made him one of the best players of his generation.

He decided to stay home at the beginning of his career in Brazil, but later made his way to Europe to play for several different clubs. It is hard to crack the very top of the list as far as strikers are concerned from Brazil, but Romario is right there below the very best.

8. Garrincha

The legend of Garrincha goes well beyond just playing the game of soccer. He is one of the first Afro-Brazilians to really make a name for himself at the national stage, leading to plenty of other players getting the opportunity later on.

Garrincha started as a senior in the 1950s, and his career lasted all the way through the end of the 1960s.

During his era, he was the best dribbler in the world. He became a prevalent figure in Brazil, and his legend only grew as time went on. Pele gets a lot of attention around the same time, but before there was Pele, Garrincha stole the show.

9. Roberto Carlos

Known as one of the strongest free kickers the game has ever seen, Robert Carlos won at virtually every level. Not only was he on one World Cup championship team for Brazil, but he won three Champions League titles as well.

Teams had no answer to his free kicks at times, and he was a threat to score in situations where other players would have no chance.

10. Kaka

As solid as he was during his prime, Kaka might be one of those players who gets overlooked a bit. At one point in time, he was considered the best player in the world, but that was soon followed by the dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the biggest stage.

The 2007 season was certainly one to remember for the Brazilian star. Not only did he win the Ballon d’Or, but his team won the Champions League, Supercup, and Club World Cup. It was a strong era for AC Milan, and later in his career, Kaka would help generate a lot of buzz in the United States playing for Orlando City.

11. Zico

One of the highest praises for any Brazilian player is to get a compliment from Pele himself. In the eyes of the Brazilian legend, Zico is the only guy to match his playing style and production.

He was a mainstay on the World Cup teams in 1978, 1982, and 1986. As one of the better-attacking players of his generation, he was also a solid free-kick specialist who found the back of the net in many instances.

12. Cafu

It is hard for defenders to make a list like this, but the Brazilian was a star for the national team during his prime. He is the all-time leader in appearances with 142, and that included three consecutive World Cup finals between 1994 and 2002.

At the club level, Cafu was also a very solid player for his teams. He was a very technical right back who used intelligence to put himself in the right positions. He was a very steady player capable of getting anywhere he wanted on the pitch.

13. Jairzinho

Embed from Getty Images

One of the more skilled right-wingers in the history of soccer was known as Jairzinho on the pitch. In the 1970 World Cup, he was the top scorer for the Brazilian team that came home with the trophy.

His versatility allowed him to play in many different positions in different clubs, showing that he could stay around for a long time and have success.

At the club level, he was a true star for Botafogo, playing for 15 years. He finished his club career with 267 goals in 530 matches, and that is combined with 33 goals for the Brazilian national team.

14. Falcao

During the 1980s, many argue that Falcao was one of the best in the game. He was the highest-paid footballer at the time, and found a lot of success at home for Internacional, and in Europe for Roma.

It was a bit of a disappointment to be on the 1982 World Cup team that failed to win the World Cup, and he only made a total of 34 appearances for the national team. Still, his career is very successful in its entirety, and he is often cited as one of the more popular players in the country’s history.

15. Gerson

Embed from Getty Images

Gerson was another top player on that outstanding 1970 World Cup championship team for Brazil. Most people considered him the brain of the team at that time. As a midfielder, he was able to keep control of the ball and keep things moving to put Brazil in the right situation.

He spent his entire professional career at the club level in Brazil, and played a standout role for every team. He might not get the same type of recognition that he deserves now, but everyone knew what he brought to the table during its time.