Here are the 5 most known soccer players who started on the streets and have played their way to the top, and become some of the most successful footballers. Definitely, they couldn’t have achieved all of this without great amounts of effort, dedication, practice, and determination.
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Considered as the “best soccer player of all times” by many, Cristiano Ronaldo included, Pelé grew up in a poor neighborhood in Sao Paolo, Brazil. His family was so poor they couldn’t afford to buy a soccer ball, so he used to play with a sock filled up with newspaper and tied up with a string.
Pelé got his first soccer lessons from his father, and played for several amateur teams when he was young.
Blessed by his incredible talent and own style, Pelé got to be junior of the Bauru Athletic Club, trained by Waldermar de Brito. He led the team to 3 consecutive victories from 1954 to 1956. And he also won a variety of competitions and championships of indoor football.
Pelé signed with Santos when he was 15 years old. He scored 4 goals in his debut league, in a match against FC Corinthians on September 7th, 1956. When he was 17, Pelé turned into the youngest player to win a FIFA World Cup, in which he scored 2 times against Sweden on the final match.
Along his life, Pelé has scored 1,283 first-class goals, 77 of them for Brazil. He has won 3 FIFA World Cups, 2 World Club Championships and 9 Sao Paolo State Championships.
2. Alexis Sánchez
Alexis Sanchez, one of the best soccer players in the world, grew up un the small and poor mining town of Tocopilla, located in the north of Chile.
His single-mother worked as a domestic employee to support Alexis and his brothers. When he was little, Sanchez used to do acrobatics on the streets and wash cars outside of cemetery parks in order to make a little money and help his family.
Sanchez started out with his passion in the streets of Tocopilla. One could rapidly see the natural talent that Alexis had. Because his mother had no money to buy him a pair of shoes to play, she reached out to the local mayor and ask him for help to buy Alexis a pair of shoes to play, since he was such a good player. One day, the mayor showed up at the family’s door with a pair of football boots. Alexis couldn’t possibly have been any happier!
When he was 16, Sanchez moved 150 miles away from Tocopilla into the Mining town of Calama in order to join Cobreloa. In the field, Sanchez proved enough talent in trainings and junior matches to make his professional debut against Deportes Temuco in February 2005, when he was just 17 years old.
Sanchez is the greatest goal scorer in the history of Chile. His 39 goals in his 119 appearances have taken him to surpass his own idol, Marcelo Salas, and his teammate, Eduardo Vargas.
Between the other members of the golden generation of Chile, winners of America’s Cup 2015 and Centenary Copa America 2016, Sanchez is considered by many as be the “best Chilean player of all times”.
3. Ángel di María
Di Maria grew up as a poor kid in Argentina, and had to work in a coal yard to help at home. His family was so poor, they couldn’t afford to pay for a pair of shoes for him to wear in his matches when he was young.
His mother, Diana, was worried because the boy was hyperactive. So she took him to the doctor, and he recommended her to take the boy to play with the ball in El Torito, a small club near their house in El Charrusco, at the north of Rosario.
With 6 years old and 64 goals for El Torito, the Argentinian club “Rosario Central” set their eyes on little Di Maria and bought him in exchange for 26 soccer balls, that never actually arrived to Rosario. Di Maria used to divide himself between soccer and working at his dad’s coal business, putting together bags and distributing orders.
His second transference was for 6 million euros, when he went to Benfica de Portugal. It was Mr. Tulio Zof who gave Di Maria the chance to debut in first class when he was 17 years old, when he covered for Emiliano Vecchio in the last 17 minutes of the match against Independiente on the last day of Apertura 2005.
Di Maria’s third transference was for 25 million euros. Three titles in Benfica, World Champion with Argentina’s Sub20 in Canada, a gold medal in Pekin, and a great performance and many scored goals, took him to be part of Real Madrid, where he played 190 matches, 6 titles and 36 goals.
His fourth transference was for 75 million euros, when Di Maria signed to be part of Manchester United. This transference was a british record and the fifth most expensive transference in history.
His actual team is Paris Saint-Germain of Ligue 1 of France.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo was born in Madeira, Portugal. He is the youngest son of a cook and a municipal gardener and grew up with three older siblings (2 sisters and 1 brother). Cristiano’s family was poor, and he used to share a room with all of his siblings.
When he was 8 years old, he started playing for Andorinha, where his father what the equipment manager. At 15, Ronaldo was diagnosed with an accelerated heart condition, that could prevent him from ever playing again. He went into surgery and a few days later, he was back in the field practicing.
He played for the Clube Desportivo Nacional de Madeira and then transferred to the Sporting Clube de Portugal (also known as Sporting de Lisboa), where he played in several junior teams at a time before making his debut in Sporting’s first team in 2002.
After a successful season with Sporting, Ronaldo caught the attention of the greatest clubs of soccer in Europe and signed with Manchester United in 2003. He quickly became a sensation and one of the best forwards in the game. His best season was 2007-08, when he managed to score 42 goals in the League and Cup, and won his first Golden Boot as leading scorer of Europe with 31 goals. In 2008, he gained the title of FIFA World Player of the Year because of his great performance in the season 2007-08. He guided Manchester United to the Champions League final in 2009 but lost against Barcelona.
Soon after that, Ronaldo was transferred to Real Madrid of Spain for $131 million. In 2011-12, Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to win the League’s championship and scored 46 goals in the season. He made 66 goals in 56 matches with Madrid and the national Portuguese team in 2013, which made him win his title as FIFA World Player of the Year in 2010 (when they changed the Golden Boot for the Golden Ball). In 2014, he scored 52 goals in 43 matches and led Madrid to win the title of the Champions League, and won another Golden Ball.
Ronaldo has moved from his humble beginnings to being one of the best, most loved and most successful players in the history of sports.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimović
Son of a Bosnian and a Croatian, Ibrahimović grew up in a neighborhood in Malmö, Sweden. His family suffered from discrimination because they were immigrants, and Ibrahimović used to steal as a kid to help out his family.
When he was 6 years old, Ibrahimović used to alternate between the local junior teams Malmö BI and FBK Balkan.
At 15, Ibrahimović signed with Malmö FF and three years later, he made his professional debut when he helped out the second division to make it to first level on the next season. He played with Malmö until 2001, when he officially transferred to the Swedish club Ajax, for 8.7 million euros.
In 2001, Ibrahimović scored his first international goal in the match Sweden vs Azerbaijan. In 2004, his goal to NAC was voted as “Goal of the Year” by European spectators.
In 2004, Ibrahimović was transferred from Ajax to Juventus for 16 million euros. In 2007, he played his 100th match. In 2009, Ibrahimović signed a 5-year contract for 46 million euros and moved to Barcelona. Next year, he signed a 4-year deal with Milan. Four years later, in 2010, he signed as a free-agent for Manchester United in a one-year contract.
From 2001 to 2016, Ibrahimović played with the national Sweden team, where he scored 62 goals in 116 matches. He’s currently playing for LA Galaxy.
Ibrahimović has earned several trophies and cups, individually as well as in team. Among these awards are: 5 times Top Scorer, 5 times Player of the Year, 10 times Footballer of the Year, 3 times winner of French League Cup and 1-time winner of Europa League Cup.