Santos retire club legend's shirt number until promoted back to Brazil's top flight

A match-issued Pele Santos jersey from 1956 on sale at an auction in June 2023.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Brazilian giants Santos were relegated for the first time in their 111-year history when they lost 2-1 at home to Fortaleza earlier this week thanks to a 50-yard Juan Lucero wonder goal.

It triggered a fierce backlash, with fans seen burning cars in the street post-match. Santos have won eight domestic titles and are thought to be the highest-scoring team in football, boasting stars such as Neymar, Robinho, Coutinho and Carlos Alberto.

But there is only one man who can be considered their greatest ever player: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé.

Pelé spent almost his entire career with Santos, scoring 643 official goals from 659 appearances as the league’s top scorer for nine consecutive seasons between 1957-1965.

Such is his significance to Santos that newly elected president Marcelo Teixeira confirmed no player from the club would wear his famous No.10 shirt while they competed in Série B.

Venezuelan Yeferson Soteldo is the current occupant.

"Until Santos is back in Série A, which is its standard, we will not play with the No.10 shirt," said Teixeira.

"This year's Brazilian league was named after King Pelé. We will continue in this mission. We will be back in the top division, but until then, we won't wear our most glorious shirt."

The Brazilian league paid tribute to Pelé in the 10th minute of every game last season. He is credited with giving the number its importance in football today, with it having little meaning until he rose to fame with Santos, winning six league titles.

Pelé passed away aged 82 on December 29th last year due to multiple organ failure. He was survived by his 100-year-old mother and six of his seven children.

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