Football is widely regarded as ‘the beautiful game,’ with Brazil becoming the flagbearers of ‘Jogo Bonito’ over the decades due to their style. The Selecao’s samba style of football is renowned for its grace and flair, providing us with numerous moments of pure joy on the field.
To say that Brazil lives and breathes football is an apt way to express their devotion to the game. One of the major reasons for the beauty in football has been the Latin American side.
Brazil has a rich history, having won the FIFA World Cup five times in a row. They’ve also won the FIFA Confederations Cup four times and the Copa America nine times.
Throughout its history, Brazil has produced some of the greatest footballers to ever grace the game. From Pele to Neymar, a slew of Brazilian legends have emerged and dominated the game in unprecedented ways.
The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious award given to the year’s best footballer. Unfortunately, many Brazilian greats were not eligible due to the Ballon d’Or selection criteria, which only honored European players until 1995. Since a rule change in 1995, some Brazilians have won the coveted prize.
Number 4: Ricardo Kaka
Kaka, one of the modern greats, won the Ballon d’Or in 2007, before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo took over. Kaka was known for his technical abilities, but he also had a distinct elegance and style with the ball. The Brazilian’s fearsome forward runs and vision rendered him nearly unstoppable for the defenders.
Kaka was at his best during his time at AC Milan. He had his best season in 2007 when he led Milan to the Champions League title while also being the tournament’s top goalscorer (10). In 2007, the midfielder was awarded the Ballon d’Or for his achievements.
Number 3: Rivaldo
Even before Ronaldinho and Kaka dominated world football, Rivaldo made an indelible mark on his homeland. The ‘bandy-legged genius’ was a key member of Brazil’s World Cup-winning team in 1998. They won the Copa America in 1999 and the World Cup in 2002.
Rivaldo, in addition to being Brazil’s talisman, had a successful spell with Barcelona in the early 2000s. The Brazilian forward scored 130 goals for Barcelona and helped the club win four titles in five seasons.
Rivaldo won the Ballon d’Or in 1999 after helping the Catalan giants win La Liga. He was also the standout performer in Brazil’s Copa America victory.
Number 2: Ronaldinho
Ronaldinho, one of Brazil’s greatest players, was the personification of Samba style and flair in the modern era. With his caliber on the field and his persona off the field, he endorsed the joy of ‘Jogo Bonito.’ The legendary Brazilian gave us countless unforgettable moments and helped many people fall in love with this beautiful game.
Ronaldinho had the ability to do anything with the ball at his disposal. His extravagant stepovers, astute dribbling, and outrageous passing propelled him to the top of his generation. While the Brazilian midfielder was instrumental in his country’s fifth World Cup victory, he also heralded the start of a new era at Barcelona.
With Barcelona in disarray in the early 2000s, Ronaldinho was the ideal player to rekindle hope at the Nou Camp. In over 200 appearances for the Catalan giants, he racked up 94 goals and 71 assists, helping them win numerous titles. Before Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho was the team’s undisputed creative fulcrum. Messi benefited greatly from his mentorship, which helped shape his career.
On his way to Brazil’s 2002 World Cup victory, Ronaldinho formed a dangerous trident with Ronaldo and Rivaldo. Numerous trophies and honors followed the Brazilian, most notably the Ballon d’Or in 2005. After leading Barcelona to La Liga and the Champions League titles, he was named the best player in the world.
Number 1: Ronaldo Nazario
Ronaldo Nazario would have undoubtedly been a resounding name in the debate for the greatest of all time if it hadn’t been for injuries. The Brazilian forward was an unstoppable force, catalyzing his country’s and clubs’ phenomenal success. He is still regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time.
Ronaldo was a key figure in Brazil’s two World Cup victories and a runner-up finish in the 1998 World Cup. Despite failing to win the cup in 1998, the Brazilian legend was widely regarded as the tournament’s best player. He also had 15 goals in three World Cup appearances. He held the record for most World Cup goals until Miroslav Klose broke it in 2014.
Ronaldo finished his career with 62 goals in 98 matches for Brazil, making him one of the most prolific scorers in the country’s illustrious history. He has also had a successful club career, having played for Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and AC Milan.
Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or for his achievements in 1997, when he was only 21 years old, and again in 2002.