Tom Brady officially announced his retirement via a long social media post on Tuesday, confirming ESPN’s reports from Saturday that one of the NFL’s all-time greats was hanging up his cleats. Love him or hate him, he won seven Super Bowls, making him the most successful NFL player ever. It got us thinking at The18: Who is the Tom Brady of soccer?
Brady set just about every quarterback record in the NFL, was named Super Bowl MVP five times and did it all after being drafted 199th in the 2000 draft. To be mentioned in the same breadth of greatness as Tom Brady, you need someone who has won, a lot. You need someone who is an icon on and off the pitch, as recognizable in his or her uniform as in a commercial. You need someone whose winning spirit and drive to be the best defied all expectations.
Who Is The Tom Brady Of Soccer?
Immediately, we can eliminate all but a handful of professional footballers; only greats need apply. There are also GOATs who we can eliminate.
Diego Maradona was amazing, but he only won one World Cup and a small handful of club trophies. The same could be said of Lionel Messi: His record seven Ballon d’Or trophies to go with four Champions League titles are impressive, but he’s fallen short at the World Cup. Christine Sinclair is the all-time leading goal scorer in international soccer history, but her solo Olympic gold medal isn’t enough to put her in Tom Brady’s stratosphere.
What you’re left with is a handful of legends, icons of the game who defined the sport. Is Tom Brady like Pelé and his record three World Cup crowns? What about Michelle Akers or Mia Hamm, two players who dominated women’s soccer for decades?
Those are decent choices, but to me the player who best exemplifies the on-field Tom Brady of soccer is Carli Lloyd (or at least Carli Lloyd with the USWNT). Overall, however, you can’t choose better than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Carli Lloyd didn’t attend one of college soccer’s powerhouses, flying a bit under the radar out of high school in New Jersey. She played at Rutgers and started her college career with a bang(er) and soon found herself in the mix for the U.S. women’s national team. With the USWNT, Lloyd became legend. For more than 15 years she was a mainstay, racking up 316 caps, 134 goals and 64 assists, all among the top five in team history. Only Kristine Lilly played more international soccer games than Lloyd in the history of the sport.
With the U.S., Lloyd won every trophy imaginable: two Women’s World Cups, two Olympic gold medals, 2015 Women’s World Cup Golden Ball (equivalent to Brady’s Super Bowl MVPs), two-time FIFA world player of the year awards.
Off the pitch, Lloyd had endorsement deals with Nike, Heineken, Whole Foods, United Airlines and Beats By Dre, to name a few. After the 2015 Women’s World Cup, she was omnipresent on U.S. TVs. Both Brady and Lloyd have struggled with negative publicity for questionable social stances, Brady for supporting a bigot for presidency and Lloyd for making discriminatory posts on social media.
The only knock on Lloyd’s career was her play at the club level, where her only trophy over two decades came in the 2017 FA Women’s Cup with Manchester City. Then again, Tom Brady didn’t win a national title while playing at Michigan. (Technically he won one as a bench player.)
Most importantly, much like Brady, Lloyd could always be counted on to step up in the biggest moments. Just like the Patriots and later the Buccaneers knew they’d have a chance to win if they could just get the ball to Brady late in the game, the USWNT knew Lloyd could be counted on in the biggest games, like her hat trick against Japan in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.
Then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps the only person in the world who can combine the charisma on and off the field like Brady.
Ronaldo has won five Champions League titles, second most all time. He’s won league titles with every club he’s played for since joining Manchester United. He’s led Portugal to its first European championship.
And, of course, both Brady and Ronaldo have that “I’m prettier than you and we both know it” magnetism that makes it impossible to take your eyes off them (and their partners, who are both models). Both players are often hated simply for the fact it seems unfair to the rest of us for them to be so ridiculously talented and so ridiculously attractive.
If you could somehow combine Carli Lloyd’s will to win and success in the biggest moments with Ronaldo’s trophy list and off-field charisma, you’d basically have Tom Brady — and everyone would absolutely hate that motherfucker.
Of course, Tom Brady played a sport that is really only popular in one country. For Brady to be considered on the level of Lloyd or Ronaldo — or any of the other greats mentioned in this article — he’d need to win actual world titles in a sport the entire world plays.
As it is, Brady was the best player in a sport most of the world doesn’t care about. So really, the Tom Brady of soccer is Christian Pulisic, the LeBron James of soccer.