Why Brazil won’t recognise Neymar equalling Pele goal record

Jamie Spencer
Brazil have recorded a different history to FIFA
Brazil have recorded a different history to FIFA / STRINGER/GettyImages

Neymar will have to wait another four years to try win his first World Cup, and Brazil’s first since 2002. But he at least finished the 2022 tournament by scoring his 77th senior international goal to equal the Selecao’s all-time goal record long held by Pele.

The 30-year-old fired Brazil into the lead in extra-time of their quarter-final tie against Croatia, although a late equaliser and penalty shootout defeat saw Neymar and co. crash out.

Pele has been Brazil’s all-time record goalscorer since his final official international game in 1971. Others like Ronaldo and Romario have fallen short of matching his tally in the decades since.

But there may be something of a dispute. Pele’s goal figures have often been the subject of debate over the years, with major disagreements over how many he actually scored.

Overall, Pele himself claims to have scored 1,279 goals during his career. That number is even recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records. But the tally includes hundreds of goals scored in unofficial friendlies or exhibition games not recorded by world football governing body FIFA.

His official career goal tally therefore stands at 757, a mark which both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have both surpassed in recent times.

A similar discrepancy applies to Pele’s international goal tally. While FIFA records show that he scored 77 times in 92 games, Brazil’s football federation, the CBF, claims that he scored as many as 95 times in 113 appearances for his country.

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The reason for the difference is that the latter total includes non-official international games against club teams or select XIs – Brazil played friendlies against sides like Malmo, Inter, Sporting CP, PSV Eindhoven and many more throughout Pele’s international career. He even played for Brazil against a Rest of the World team two years after his final official game.

Given that Brazil therefore believe Pele to have scored 95 international goals, it is unlikely that if and when Neymar reaches 78 goals for the Selecao that his own country will actually recognise him as their all-time record goalscorer.