The top 10 best Brazilian soccer players of all time

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

January 12th, 2022

Globally recognized as the most successful national team of all time, and with numerous incredible squads throughout the decades, Brazil are no strangers to success on the football field. Away from the national team, plenty of Europe's biggest teams have had Brazilians at the heart of their squads, and there is no shortage of individual honors either.

Here are our votes for the top 10 Brazilian players of all time.

10. Zico

Dubbed the greatest Brazilian never to win the World Cup, Zico was part of some incredible national teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He was deadly accurate as a passer and finisher, and became renowned for his ability in dead ball situations. He has 517 career goals to his name, and 101 of those were from direct free-kicks.

Zico scored 48 times in 71 games for Brazil and is considered one of the country’s greatest playmakers.

9. Neymar

The most expensive player ever, Neymar only just sneaks into the top 10, such is the quality in Brazil.

The striker won two La Liga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies, and a Champions League with Barcelona before his record-smashing €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.

With PSG, he’s since won three French titles and three French Cups, and has continued to score goals at a frightening rate.

With Barcelona he scored 105 times in 186 games, and that ratio has improved at PSG, where he has 90 goals in just 130 games. With the national team, Neymar has 70 goals in just 116 games and needs just eight more to be the country’s highest goalscorer of all time.

8. Sócrates

Sócrates was a self-confessed anti-athlete who drank and smoked heavily, but such was his talent that he will always make lists like these.

He was the brains behind the Brazil team of the 1980s, which is widely considered the greatest team of all time — while players like Zico had all the flair, Sócrates was the center of intelligence, linking midfield to attack and orchestrating play.

7. Kaká

Brazil have been spoiled with their talent in the attacking midfield position, and Kaká is no exception. The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner was part of the Brazil squad that won the 2002 World Cup, but he only really came into his prime in the years after, with most of his success at club level.

With A.C. Milan, he won the league and cup double in 2003-04, before going on to lift the Champions League three years later.

Kaká remains just one of eight players to win the World Cup, the Champions League, and a Ballon d’Or.

6. Cafu

The most capped player by the Brazilian national team and one of the most respected defenders in the game, Cafu is a leader on the pitch and one of the greatest fullbacks ever.

He is the only player in history to appear in three World Cup finals in a row (1994, 1998, and 2002), and he captained the team when they won in 2002.

At club level, his most prominent spell came at A.C. Milan, where he won the Serie A title, the Italian Super Cup, and the Champions League, among other honors.

5. Romário

Romário was one of the most prolific strikers of his generation and known for his incredible goal-scoring ability.

During his time in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven, he scored 98 goals in just 110 league games, and after moving to Barcelona scored 34 goals in just 46 La Liga games.

Romario was the player of the tournament when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup and scored 56 times in just 70 games for the national team.

4. Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho’s huge smile and incredible street football skills made him an icon of the game in the early 2000s.

Along with Rivaldo and Ronaldo, he made up Brazil’s thrilling front three at the 2002 World Cup and went on to win the 2005 Ballon d’Or.

The most successful part of his club career came at Barcelona, where he won two league titles and the 2005-06 Champions League. After Maradona, he became the second Barcelona player of all time to receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans in the Santiago Bernabeu. That came after two incredible solo goals in El Clasico, and was only right for one of the greatest players of his generation.  

3. Rivaldo

Rivaldo was part of the World Cup winning team in 2002, in which he scored in five of Brazil’s seven games and is also the 1999 Ballon d’Or winner — but most spectacularly, he holds the honor of one of the greatest hat-tricks of all time.

A bending free-kick, a 25-yard rocket, and a last-minute bicycle kick from the edge of the box helped beat Valencia 3-2 and secure Champions League football for Barcelona.

Rivaldo won league titles in Brazil, Spain, Greece, and Uzbekistan, and lifted the Champions League with A.C. Milan in 2003.

2. Pele

According to FIFA, Pele is the greatest goalscorer of all time, with 1,281 goals in 1,363 games, and even if you only include competitive fixtures for club and country, it is still an incredible 775 goals in 840 games.

The majority of these came in his 18-year tenure with Brazilian club Santos, where he won 24 major trophies and quickly became a club legend.

At a national level, Pele holds the record for being the youngest ever scorer for Brazil (aged 16 years and nine months) and is their all-time leading goalscorer, with 77 goals in 92 games. He is a three-time World Cup winner and undoubtedly one of the greatest to ever grace the game.

1. Ronaldo

A two-time Ballon d’Or winner and three-time World Player of the Year, I couldn’t keep Ronaldo off top spot. Nicknamed "The Phenomenal One," he was the greatest player in the world in the late 90s, and his career would’ve been even better had it not been curtailed by recurring knee injuries.

At club level, he won silverware in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Brazil, but his most famous performances came in a national jersey.

He was the youngest member of the 1994 squad to win the World Cup, and then was named Player of the Tournament as he led Brazil to another final in 1998, only to miss the game through illness.

He returned in the 2002 World Cup to score two goals in the final and cement his legacy in Brazil. He scored 62 goals in 98 games for Brazil and is their third-highest goalscorer of all time.