Barack Obama, Sylvester Stallone and incoming Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were among those to pay tribute to footballing icon Pele after his death on Thursday.

The Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital in Sao Paulo confirmed multiple organ failure as the cause of death for the three-time World Cup winner, who is regarded by many as the greatest footballer in history.

Brazil great Pele had been battling colon cancer and was joined by family in hospital after being moved to palliative care when his body stopped responding to treatment earlier in December.

Lionel Messi, Ronaldo Nazario and Cristiano Ronaldo were among numerous high-profile sporting stars to pay tribute to the 82-year-old, while other global figures echoed similar sentiments.

"Pele was one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game," former United States president Obama wrote on Twitter.

"And as one of the most recognisable athletes in the world, he understood the power of sports to bring people together. Our thoughts are with his family and everyone who loved and admired him."

Brazil president Lula added on social media: "I had the privilege that younger Brazilians didn't have: I saw Pele play, live, at Pacaembu and Morumbi.

"Play? No. I saw Pele give a show. Because when he got the ball he always did something special, which often ended up in a goal."

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also paid tribute.

"We mark the passing of the legendary Pele, known to many as the king of the 'beautiful game'," NASA posted. "This image of a spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor shows the colours of Brazil."

Pele played an integral role as Brazil enjoyed World Cup success in 1958, 1962 and 1970, with no player in the tournament's history lifting the trophy more.

But the iconic forward will also be remembered for a performance on the silver screen, having featured in 1981 film 'Escape to Victory'.

He played Corporal Luis Fernandez in the feature about Allied prisoners of war at a German prison camp during the Second World War, in which those jailed play an exhibition football match against the Germans.

American movie star Stallone, who starred alongside Pele in the film, posted on Instagram: "PELE THE GREAT! Rest in peace! This was a good man."

England's 1966 World Cup winner Bobby Moore also appeared alongside Argentina great Ossie Ardiles, who wrote on Twitter: "The King of Kings has died. Extraordinary player. Unique.

"Three times World Cup winner, more than a thousand goals. My idol when young. He made football the beautiful game and truly international.

"My time playing alongside him in Escape to Victory was a dream come true. RIP Pele."

Lionel Messi is channelling the spirit of Diego Maradona to drive Argentina's bid for World Cup glory, according to former Albiceleste midfielder Ossie Ardiles.

Messi provided a goal and an assist as Argentina overcame the Netherlands on penalties in the last eight, and he will hope to lead his country to their sixth World Cup final when they meet Croatia in Tuesday's semi-final.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner showed a different side to his personality after that game, angrily confronting Oranje boss Louis van Gaal and pausing a post-match interview to shout at Dutch striker Wout Weghorst.

Ardiles, who played for Argentina between 1975 and 1982, believes Messi's displays of passion are akin to Albiceleste icon Maradona, which is firing up supporters. 

"I know in England some people were surprised at his aggressive reaction after the Netherlands game, the confrontation with Louis van Gaal and some Dutch players," he told the Daily Mail.

"Van Gaal had tried to get Messi to react before the game, inflaming the fire by talking about how Messi didn't defend well for the team. Then, during the penalties, the Dutch players were constantly trying to disrupt the Argentinian players, playing mind games by walking up to them and celebrating by them if they missed.

"This isn't to justify what happened but to understand it. There was a lot going on, unsavoury scenes from both sides.

"But in Argentina many people loved this new image of Messi. It wasn't normal for him. It was more of a Maradona reaction, which means the people love him even more.

"The old perception was that he was cold and not passionate. Now they feel his desire to win for Argentina. We are Latin people. We react and show our emotions. Sometimes maybe we overreact."

 

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has assumed a familiar talismanic role in Qatar, with his return of six goal contributions – four goals and two assists – only bettered by Kylian Mbappe, who has five goals and two assists.

Messi has both scored and assisted in two different games at this World Cup, and in three at the tournament overall. Since 1966, no player has done so on four occasions.

The 35-year-old needs one more goal to surpass Gabriel Batistuta's tally of 10 World Cup strikes for Argentina, and Ardiles believes he is playing with less pressure since leading his country to Copa America glory last year.

"You could see in his face that the pressure had been lifted and you could feel it among the people as well," he added.

"They could see the team was rallying to him. And the whole country, even the previous critics, embraced him. He had always been the focal point, but now he is much more of a leader. And it looks as though the players in Qatar are determined to win it for him.

"Maybe there have been World Cups where he has played better, as a younger player. But there has never been a World Cup where his influence has been as important as it is now.

"He leads this team off the pitch and on the pitch, all their creative play comes through him. He is not just Argentina's most important player, but he is the most important player at the World Cup."

Ossie Ardiles believes Lionel Messi will form a stronger bond with Mauricio Pochettino than he has with any other manager after the Argentina captain's sensational move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has signed a two-year deal with PSG after Barca were unable to keep the superstar forward for financial reasons.

Former Argentina midfielder Ardiles expects the six-time Ballon d'Or to revel in playing under his compatriot Pochettino.

Ardiles also feels the presence of fellow Argentinians Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi and Leandro Paredes can only be a positive for Messi.

"Messi is not just Argentinian, but a global player. Of course he is able to play with anyone and he is also able to play at any style of game. This is how enormous his game is," Ardiles told Stats Perform News.

"it helps to have that many Argentinians. Mauricio, for instance, is from the same city [as Messi], Rosario. Obviously, they speak same language.

"It will be very important for Lionel Messi to have Mauricio there. Messi got along well with almost every manager, but I think it will be even better with Mauricio.

"Being with Di Maria, Paredes and Icardi will help, but I also think these players don’t play the full Argentinian style. They are very global. Icardi has been in Italy and now at PSG. The same for Paredes or Di Maria, being also in English football. From that point of view, there won’t be any issue, for sure."

Messi scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, winning the Champions League four times and claiming 10 LaLiga titles.

The 34-year-old was reduced to tears during an emotional farewell press conference and Ardiles fears for Barca following the departure of the inspirational skipper - especially considering the desperate state of the club's finances.

 

Ardiles added: "Barca stays very, very hurt. Actually, the situation is absolutely critical. To lose the best player in the world is tough.

"He has spent 20 years in the club, he is the symbol, the captain… he is everything. I really think there are coming very tough times for Barcelona.

"We were used to seeing Barcelona leading the game and being the team to be beaten. If you wanted to lift the Champions League or LaLiga you had to beat Barcelona. That will all change with Messi's departure. Absolutely.

"On the other hand, Barcelona spent so much money. That's why it is in this situation now. Like people say, it has likely been [the fault of] the previous board, but the fact is Barcelona has spent much more than they could.

"So, nowadays, Barcelona cannot go to the market and buy the best player in the world, not even keep him in his own squad. And it can't either go to the market to buy the current stars, as they don't have money to do it.

"However, Barcelona is a very big club, an extraordinary club and of course it will be back. But I think it will take a long time."

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