While Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Manchester United tried to sign Pele.

Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Manchester United might have changed the course of football history had they gone through with their attempts to sign Pele from Brazilian club Santos.

Pele was already a global superstar by the mid-1960s, winning the previous two World Cups with Brazil. In his mid-twenties, he was still young enough to have a long career in Europe if the terms of the proposed transfer were right and if he wanted to make it happen.

Pelé made his debut for Santos as early as 1956 when he was just 15 years old.

The 1958 World Cup, during which it was a coincidence he wore the number 10 shirt he would soon become synonymous with, set him on the path to becoming football’s first global megastar.

Santos soon dominated Brazilian club football in the early 1960s, winning back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles either side of Pele’s second World Cup win in 1962, a status and lasting legacy that only a few It has become stronger over the years. .

Enric Llaudet was the Barcelona president who tried to bring Pele to Catalonia in late 1965 and early 1966, months before he was due to play in his third World Cup.

Llaudet himself spoke about this in an interview with Marca in late 1966, revealing that ultimately the financial demands were too much to cope with.

“We negotiated with the man who had an exclusive option on Pele, the Italian Gerardo Sanella,” explained Laudette.

“On November 14, 1965, negotiations began and on February 23, 1966, our friend Sanela told us that signing Pele would cost $1m and $200,000 to move Santos. [Pele]. It was quite clear that Pele could not be bought and that Santos had simply put him on the market at a prohibitive price.

There was also a small case of a ban on signing foreign players in Spanish football from 1953 to 1973, allegedly in response to poor performances in the 1950 World Cup. However, there were some loopholes and the Fascist regime specifically restricted the number of Hungarian players who settled in Spain – including Ferenc Puskas. Whether or not Pele would have been granted fast-track Spanish citizenship to allow him to play given his height remains to be seen.

Barcelona later stuck with another Brazilian, Machado da Silva, after losing Pele in 1966 but could not use him. The ban was still in place and Llaudet had supposedly acted on reports that it might be lifted before it finally expired.

With Real Madrid dominating the fledgling European Cup in the latter half of the 1950s, they were a club in the market for Pele on more than one occasion.

The legend himself confirmed as much, once stating that he had numerous opportunities to pack his bags and move to Madrid but it never happened.

“There were times when I was very close to signing with Real Madrid. It’s not a pity. I was at Santos and they were a powerhouse at the time.

“I was very happy at Santos, I spent the best 20 years of my life there. I had a lot of other offers and not only from Real Madrid, but I was fine where I was.

By the 1980s non-British players were rarely seen in English football, while it was not until the Premier League era that an international and cosmopolitan make-up was adopted. Even Newcastle’s Chile international Jorge Robledo was raised in Yorkshire from the age of five.

But if any club had the will and foresight to land an international superstar, it was Manchester United. With three Ballon d’Or winners already in Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, they attempted exactly that in 1968, the same year they became the first English club to win the European Cup.

Speaking about this in a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Pele revealed, “I even had an offer from Manchester United. Yes…1968…their best team. I didn’t play every team. Said the one who asked me.

Paley was certainly well known to English audiences. On top of his previous World Cup achievements, he played in England at the 1966 tournament with the Liverpool-based Brazil team.

But United’s approach was kept quiet at the time, with even current players unaware of Sir Matt Busby’s ambitious intentions until Pele himself spoke about it decades later.

Finally, Pele remained a Santos player until 1974, by which time he was 34 years old. But, after spending several years turning down offers in Europe, he moved elsewhere before finally retiring – his international career ending in 1971.

Pelé spent his last three years as a professional footballer with the New York Cosmos in the glittering but ultimately poor and short-lived North American Soccer League, the same league that also produced Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best and others. attracted to

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