'Greatest of all time': Pelé as described by his peers

Superlatives from some of soccer’s greats and others about Pelé, who died Thursday in Brazil at age 82:

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“To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.” -- Nelson Mandela.

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“I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong.” -- Italy's Tarcisio Burgnich, after playing against Pele in the 1970 World Cup Final.

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“Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.” -- Andy Warhol.

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“I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player.” -- Sir Bobby Charlton, retired England great who won 1966 World Cup and Ballon d’Or in same year.

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“Pelé was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.” -- Johan Cruyff, the late Dutch star and standout manager who won the Ballon d’Or three times.

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“He is the most complete player I ever saw.” -- Retired German great Franz Beckenbauer.

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“If you take the qualities of Cristiano Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi, put them together, then you’d have a player to compare to Pelé!” -- Retired Brazil forward Tostao.

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“The best player ever? Pelé. (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both great players with specific qualities, but Pelé was better.” -- Alfredo Di Stefano, the late Argentine star for Real Madrid.

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“His great secret was improvisation. Those things he did were in one moment. He had an extraordinary perception of the game.” -- Brazil defender Carlos Alberto Torres.

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“This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There’s only one possible answer: Pelé. He’s the greatest player of all time, and by some distance, I might add.” -- Retired Brazil star Zico.

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“The greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a player. He was above that.” -- Hungary star Ferenc Puskas.

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“We went up together to head a ball. I was taller, had a better impulse. When I came back down, I looked up in astonishment. Pelé was still there, in the air, heading that ball. It was like he could stay suspended for as long as he wanted to.” -- Italy defender Giacinto Facchetti.

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“When I saw Pelé play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots.” -- Just Fontaine, the Morocco-born French star who scored 13 goals in six games in the 1958 World Cup.

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“The moment the ball arrived at Pelé’s feet, football transformed into poetry.” -- Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini.

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“The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pelé – it’s to score one goal like Pelé.” -- Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet.

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“Pelé was the most complete player I’ve ever seen. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only 5-feet-8 inches tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision.” -- Bobby Moore, captain of the 1966 World Cup champion team from England.

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“I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us.” -- Benfica goalkeeper Costa Pereira after 5-2 loss to Santos.

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“There’s Pelé the man, and then Pelé the player. And to play like Pelé is to play like God.” -- Retired France star and three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini.

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“Pelé is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pelé in the world.” -- Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal star forward.

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Sources: Goal.com, FIFA.com, AP research.

The Associated Press