Brazil great Pele has died at the age of 82.

The three-time World Cup winner had been in hospital in Sao Paulo since late November.

Pele's daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram: "We are thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace."

Nascimento, who had posted before Christmas that members of Pele's family would spend the holiday period in the hospital with him, added three heartbroken emojis.

A message on Pele’s official social media accounts read: "Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today.

"Love, love and love, forever."

Pele burst on to the global scene as a 17-year-old at the 1958 World Cup, helping Brazil to the first of their record five successes in the competition.

Injury affected his contribution to the finals in 1962, when Brazil retained their title, and 1966, but he returned to lead his country to glory for a third time in Mexico in 1970, as part of what is widely regarded as the greatest line-up of all time.

He has endured a number of health issues in recent years, and in September 2021 underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his colon.

This year, he was admitted to the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo on 29 November with a respiratory infection and remained there until his death.

The hospital said in a statement that Pele died at 3.27pm local time (6.27pm Irish time) on Thursday "due to the failure of multiple organs as a result of the progression of colon cancer".

As tributes poured in from across the world, a tweet from the Brazilian Football Federation read simply "King Pele", accompanied by three crown emojis.

The president of the federation, Ednaldo Rodrigues, said in a statement: "The CBF will pay all possible tributes to the greatest athlete of all time. Pele is eternal and we will always work to preserve his history and continue his legacy."

Pele was a prodigious scorer of goals, and is credited with 1,281 of them across the length of his career by the official FIFA website.

There was so much more to his game though, and his outrageous talent and willingness to try – and often pull off – the seemingly impossible have prompted many observers to describe him as the greatest player of all time.

Others can also justifiably stake a claim for that title – not least Diego Maradona and his fellow Argentinian Lionel Messi – but it is inconceivable not to mention Pele in any shortlist.

He was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. His father, Dondinho, was a professional footballer.

Pele got his hands on the Jules Rimet Trophy for the first time in 1958

He first had trials at Santos in June 1956, and his scoring exploits for the club in the Sao Paulo state championship propelled him into the Brazil squad for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Alongside other stars like Garrincha, Mario Zagallo and Didi, Brazil laid to rest the disappointment of losing the 1950 World Cup final on home soil to Uruguay, and became the first team to win the tournament outside their home continent.

He quickly became a superstar in his home country and became hugely marketable.

Injury curtailed his involvement in the 1962 World Cup as Brazil retained the trophy in Chile, and the player was criticised for not speaking out against the military coup in Brazil two years later.

Brazil lost their grip on the World Cup in England in 1966. Pele was exposed to some brutal challenges from defenders, in particular those of Portugal, as the South Americans failed to get out of their group.

Pele receives treatment at Goodison Park during a painful loss to Portugal at the 1966 World Cup

Incredibly there was debate in Brazil leading into the 1970 finals about whether Pele, still only 29, should even be in the squad. He answered his critics in spectacular style as Brazil regained the trophy in Mexico.

He headed Brazil in front in the final against Italy and his languid pass into the path of Carlos Alberto completed a sublime team move for the final goal in a 4-1 win.

His debt to Brazil paid with the 1970 triumph, Pele looked to fix his own financial situation which had fallen into a parlous state due to a series of poor investments and his perceived entrapment by Santos.

In an era long preceding the Bosman ruling, Pele was an early campaigner for footballers' rights.

He stalled over a multi-million dollar offer from New York Cosmos for several years, finally accepting the challenge in 1975 following advice from US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a football fan.

Two years and 64 goals later he had helped double the North American Soccer League’s average attendance, laying the foundations for Major League Soccer, which continues to grow in popularity today.

Pele playing with the New York Cosmos

After football he moved into politics, leading campaigns against corruption, a sore subject which would later force him out of administrating the game, although no allegations were ever proven.

In his personal life, Pele married his first wife Rosemeri dos Reis Cholbi in 1966, with whom he had three children. He has a further two children from his marriage to his second wife, Assiria Lemos Seixas, a gospel singer, which began in 1994.

He is said to have first met his current partner – Marcia Aoki – at a party in New York in the 1980s, but they only began to date after meeting again by chance in a Sao Paulo lift in 2010, two years after his second marriage had been dissolved. He and Marcia married in 2016.

Pele’s health battles began back in 1977 when he reportedly had his right kidney removed.

He underwent a successful hip replacement operation in 2017, but was in a wheelchair at the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow.

The still-loved star had kidney stones removed in 2019, before having a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021.

His openness to endorsements – he advertised Pepsi, Hublot, Subway and even erectile-dysfunction medicine – was met with criticism at home, but his ambassadorial work with the United Nations helped ease concerns.

History will decide whether he is remembered as the greatest footballer of all time, but the quest for greatness only exists because Pele set the bar so high.