The Forgotten Story of … when Pelé and the Santos circus came to England

In the late 1950s Santos, with Pelé in their ranks, realised they had a method of printing money by sending the squad out on the road. And, for the next decade, they sent them to every corner of the globe

Probably the most frequent complaint about modern football is that it is concerned only with money, that it is less a game more a method of earning cash, ripped from its Corinthian roots and unrecognisable from what it once was. Of course that is true, but to suggest that football hasn’t always been full of those who can spot a quick buck is nonsense of the first water. What has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

In the mid-1950s Santos were a decent, if not especially big, side. They had one regional title to their name, won in 1935 in the days before the national Campeonato Brasileiro had been established, but a group of talented homegrown players helped them claim a pair of Paulista crowns in 1955 and 1956. So by the time Pelé made his first-team debut in 1957, they were already something of a force, but his genius helped push them further and further, to another ten state titles, six national championships and two Copa Libertadores, including the treble in 1961.

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