It is a conundrum to challenge even the best of hosts. What do you give as a gift to a global football icon who has everything?
When your guest is Brazilian legend Pele, the only player ever to have won three World Cup winning medals, then some creative thinking is needed.
As a result the star, full name Edson Arantes do Nascimento, has been the recipient of an amazing cornucopia of strange and exotic items from around the world, first in his playing days, and then as a roving sporting and humanitarian ambassador.
They include everything from elaborate crowns and ceremonial daggers, model ships and jet fighters, to more prosaic clocks, dishes, and freedom-of-the-city keys from various municipalities.
Now the 75-year-old Fifa Player of the Century is to auction off all of the sporting and cultural memorabilia he has accumulated in a lifetime in football.
The sale will take place over three days in London in June, and covers the six decades from Pele’s signing for Santos as a 15-year-old in 1956.
The sale includes unique football items, including his three World Cup winner’s medals, and a one-off Jules Rimet trophy made for him after Brazil’s famous triumph in Mexico in 1970.
That World Cup replica is the most expensive item being auctioned, with an estimated price tag of £281,000 to £420,000. The medals are expected to fetch up to £141,000, and the ball he scored his 1,000th goal with is estimated to sell for £28,000 to £42,000.
Beverley Hills-based Julien’s Auctions has been chosen to handle the sale, which also includes personal items such as old passports and driving licences.
Over the past 12 months Pele has been in hospital for back, hip and prostate surgery. So is it for health or business reasons that he is now selling?
“There are many reasons, there are clearly some personal ones that he alone knows about,” Dan Nelles, sports specialist at Julien’s Auctions, tells me.
Pele himself says: “It was a difficult decision to make but it takes a lot to properly care for these artefacts, and I felt I could do much more good by sharing these items with the world, as well as helping my causes that are important to me.”
Mr Nelles adds: “He had a lot of the property in storage, and it wasn’t seeing the light of day, which this auction now allows. Also, he wasn’t sure what of it his family wanted to keep, and he didn’t want it [the collection] to fall by the wayside.
“And the Pequeno Principe paediatric hospital in Brazil, which he supports, will receive a proportion.”
Mr Nelles says the auction house’s “conservative estimate” is that the sale will make £2.5m to £3.5m, but that “the bidding would determine the final price”.
“There are so many wildcards in the auction, the Jules Rimet trophy, his World Cup medals, soccer boots, which means that ideally we are looking at three times that conservative estimate, and maybe as much as 10 times.
“There are also a great number of game-worn items from his career.”
Mr Nelles expects a broad spectrum of bidders from football fans and collectors, to sporting museums and business corporations.
“Although the auction is in London, we will not just be selling to UK customers, as the auction will be streamed live on our website for overseas bidders to take part,” he adds.
He says that as well as interest from the obvious football hotbeds of Europe and South America, there will also be interest from China, Japan and South Korea, Dubai and other Gulf states, and the US, Canada and Mexico.
Escape to Victory 1981 movie football boots
A pair of black football boots worn by Pele in the film Escape to Victory are being auctioned.
In the film he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine, as well as England World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore. They portrayed Nazi prisoners playing a propaganda football match during World War Two.
Pele is seen near the end of the film wearing these boots as he scored with a dramatic bicycle kick to equalise for the Allied team.
“I understand the film has a bit of a cult following in the UK, and these boots are certainly out of the norm,” says Mr Nelles. “I think there will be great interest in this highlight from his film career.”
They are in the auction catalogue with an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000 (£4,000 to £5,500).
Pele holds the record as the youngest player ever to play in, and score in, a World Cup final. He also holds the Guinness World Record for goals scored in a career with 1,283.
He played for Brazil’s World Cup winning teams of 1958 and 1970, scoring in both finals, and was in the squad which won in 1962.
With club side Santos he twice won the Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup. Later in his career he went on to become the face of “soccer” in the US, as the NASL looked for a sporting breakthrough in the mid-1970s.
Pele auction highlights
- His personal Jules Rimet World Cup replica trophy – Estimate: $400,000-$600,000
- 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cup medals – Estimates: $100,000-$200,000 each
- 1,000th goal ball – Estimate: $40,000-$60,000
- 1977 NY Cosmos NASL Championship ring – Estimate: $30,000-$40,000
- L’Equipe Athlete of the Century award – Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
- 1958 Brazil World Champion sash – Estimate: $10,000-$20,000
- Santos FC game-worn jersey – Estimate: $8,000-$10,000
- Santos World Club Champions sash – Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
- Game-worn New York Cosmos jersey – Estimate: $8,000-$10,000
Pele is many people’s choice as the best player of all time. He remains probably the world’s most recognisable player, with a Hollywood biopic Birth of A Legend recently premiering in New York.
Now the enduring proof of that legendary status has been laid out over more than 1,500 lots, with the auctioneers saying there should be “something for everyone”.