Pele: greatest soccer player, less-great businessman


(Alex Cruz/EPA)

As the World Cup in Brazil gets nearer, Pele has been popping up more often. Why? Because Pele, aka Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is possibly the greatest soccer player who’s ever existed, and he just so happens to be from Brazil.

Unfortunately, though, Pele’s soccer skills didn’t always translate into sound business decisions, either in his home country or abroad. In fact, perhaps his best-ever business decision was the deal he made with Puma to tie his shoes during the 1970 World Cup, a legend that the L.A. Times confirms. His post-soccer career, though? The decision-making especially wasn’t that great, as  the Wall Street Journal points out:

  • Pele’s construction company collapsed (metaphorically).
  • Pele’s tenure as Brazil’s sports minister was marred by allegations of corruption.
  • Cafe Pele, one of the world’s best-known coffee products, is a success but because of a bad deal Pele sees almost none of the profits.
  • A deal with cleat makers also didn’t work out for Pele, who sees very few profits and limited royalties.

Luckily Pele, now 73, has ditched his old handlers for new ones, who are actually helping to make things happen for the much-deserved star:

  • Pele has a new book, “Why Soccer Matters” — he even appeared on “The Daily Show” to promote it.
  • Pele signed on to represent Hublot, a luxury watch brand.
  • He is a spokesman for Santander bank.
  • He joined numerous other athletes to sell Subway sandwiches.
  • Pele scored an endorsement deal with Volkswagen.
  • He has a deal in the works with Puma. (This time for more than just tying his shoes.)
  • Pele is about to get his own museum in Santos, Brazil.

And the best, perhaps: Imagine Entertainment is hoping to release a film based on Pele’s early life. “It’s kind of a rags-to-riches story in that this kid came out of complete poverty. It’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in soccer,” Imagine Entertainment co-chairman Michael Rosenberg told WSJ.

Hey, if Lebron James can have a film, Pele can have a film.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.

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