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Diego Maradona vs. Pelé: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 20, 2024
Diego Maradona and Pelé are both legendary football players known for their incredible skill, but Maradona is famed for his 'Hand of God' goal, while Pelé is celebrated for winning three FIFA World Cups.

Key Differences

Diego Maradona and Pelé are two of the most iconic figures in football history, each leaving an indelible mark on the sport. Diego Maradona, an Argentine footballer, is best known for his extraordinary skill, particularly his dribbling ability and his controversial "Hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup. Pelé, on the other hand, hails from Brazil and is celebrated for his remarkable goal-scoring record, including over a thousand career goals, and for winning three FIFA World Cups.
Maradona's playing style was characterized by his incredible ball control, agility, and creative playmaking, making him one of the greatest dribblers the game has ever seen. His performance in the 1986 World Cup, leading Argentina to victory, is often cited as one of the greatest in the history of the tournament. Pelé's style, meanwhile, combined power, precision, and an uncanny ability to anticipate the play, making him an unparalleled striker and a master of both scoring and assisting goals.
Off the field, both men's lives took different paths. Diego Maradona's career was marred by controversies, including struggles with substance abuse and health issues. Despite these challenges, he remained a beloved figure in Argentina and around the world. Pelé's post-playing career has been relatively smoother, with roles as a global ambassador for football, extensive charity work, and a generally positive public image.
The legacy of Diego Maradona is often framed by his single-handed ability to influence matches, epitomized by his performance in the 1986 World Cup. His emotional connection with fans, particularly in his home country, showcases the deep impact of his playing style and personality on the sport. Pelé's legacy, conversely, is highlighted by his sportsmanship, his contributions to Brazil's World Cup successes in 1958, 1962, and 1970, and his role in popularizing football around the globe.
Both Diego Maradona and Pelé are celebrated for their contributions to football, they represent two distinct eras and styles within the sport. Maradona's flair, combined with his complex personality, made him a figure of endless fascination. Pelé's achievements, embodying excellence and grace on the field, have made him a symbol of the sport's joy and global reach. Both have left a legacy that transcends their on-field achievements, becoming cultural icons of the 20th century.

Comparison Chart



World Cup Wins

1958, 1962, 1970

Playing Style

Dribbler, playmaker
Striker, playmaker

Signature Achievements

"Hand of God" goal, 1986 World Cup victory
Three-time FIFA World Cup winner, 1000+ career goals


Emotional connection, controversial
Sportsmanship, global ambassador

Diego Maradona and Pelé Definitions

Diego Maradona

Infamous for his "Hand of God" goal.
The 'Hand of God' by Diego Maradona remains one of football's most debated moments.


A global ambassador for football and sportsmanship.
Pelé has played a crucial role in popularizing football across the world.

Diego Maradona

Struggled with off-field controversies.
Despite his challenges, Diego Maradona is revered in Argentina.


Renowned for his powerful playing style and scoring ability.
Pelé's combination of strength, skill, and foresight made him one of the game's greatest.

Diego Maradona

A symbol of football genius and human complexity.
Diego Maradona's legacy is a testament to his incredible talent and tumultuous life.


Brazilian football icon, three-time World Cup winner.
Pelé led Brazil to three World Cup victories, a feat unmatched by any other player.

Diego Maradona

1986 World Cup winner, elevating Argentina to glory.
Maradona captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup.


Known for scoring over a thousand goals in his career.
Pelé's goal-scoring record is one of the many highlights of his illustrious career.

Diego Maradona

Argentine football legend known for his dribbling.
Diego Maradona's goal against England in 1986 is unforgettable.


Symbolizes the joy and global reach of football.
Pelé's legacy extends beyond football, symbolizing the sport's power to unite people.


What controversies surrounded Diego Maradona?

Maradona faced controversies including substance abuse and health issues.

How did Diego Maradona and Pelé differ in playing style?

Maradona was known for his dribbling and playmaking, while Pelé was celebrated as a striker and playmaker.

What made Diego Maradona famous?

Maradona is famous for his exceptional skill, particularly his dribbling and the "Hand of God" goal.

What is the "Hand of God" goal?

The "Hand of God" goal was a controversial goal scored by Maradona with his hand in the 1986 World Cup.

Did Diego Maradona win the FIFA World Cup?

Yes, Maradona won the FIFA World Cup in 1986 with Argentina.

What is Diego Maradona's legacy?

Maradona's legacy is marked by his incredible talent on the field and his complex life off it.

What impact did Maradona have on Argentine football?

Maradona had a profound impact, leading Argentina to World Cup victory and becoming a national hero.

How many World Cups did Pelé win?

Pelé won three FIFA World Cups in 1958, 1962, and 1970.

How did Pelé contribute to football off the field?

Pelé has contributed through his role as an ambassador, promoting sportsmanship and football globally.

Which World Cup is Maradona most associated with?

Maradona is most associated with the 1986 World Cup, which Argentina won.

How is Pelé viewed in the context of football history?

Pelé is viewed as one of the greatest footballers ever, celebrated for his sportsmanship and achievements.

How did Pelé's playing style influence football?

Pelé's style influenced football with his powerful scoring ability and anticipation of the game.

What challenges did Maradona face after retiring?

Maradona faced health issues and controversies related to his lifestyle and substance abuse.

What roles has Pelé held after retiring from football?

Pelé has been a global ambassador for football and engaged in extensive charity work.

How many goals did Pelé score in his career?

Pelé scored over a thousand goals in his career.

What is the significance of Maradona's "Hand of God" goal?

The significance lies in its controversy and Maradona's ingenuity, marking a memorable World Cup moment.

How has Pelé's legacy influenced future generations?

Pelé's legacy has inspired future generations with his exemplary career and dedication to football.

What achievements define Pelé's career?

Pelé's career is defined by his World Cup victories, goal-scoring record, and lasting impact on football.

How did Maradona's personality affect his career?

His personality made him a beloved figure but also led to controversies that affected his career.

What makes Pelé's World Cup victories so remarkable?

His three World Cup victories are remarkable for their historical significance and his contribution to Brazil's dominance in football.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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