Pele has been voted player of the 20th Century, finishing ahead of Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer in a poll by a group of football historians.

Pele, the former Brazilian forward, received 1705 points, while Dutchman Cruyff got 1303 in the poll by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, announced near Frankfurt. Beckenbauer, the former German captain, was third with 1228 points.

''I think the poll has the right winner,'' Cruyff said. ''Surely it was decisive that Pele won three World Cup titles.''

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Although Cruyff never won a World Cup title, he came ahead of Beckenbauer, whose team beat Holland in the 1974 final.

Cruyff said the technical level of the game today was not as good as before. ''We have to learn again to play on the streets. That's where you learn the decisive things,'' he said.

Alfredo di Stefano took fourth place in the poll, followed by Diego Maradona, Ferenc Puskas, Michel Platini, Garrincha, Eusebio, and Bobby Charlton.

Russian Lev Yashin was voted the top goalkeeper of the century, followed by Gordon Banks of England and Dino Zoff of Italy.

In other honours announced, Germany's Oliver Kahn beat the challenge of Peter Schmeichel to be proclaimed top world goalkeeper of last year.

According to the poll, the top national team coach of 1999 was Wanderley Luxemburgo of Brazil, the top club coach being Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson, while the leading referee was Pierluigi Collina of Italy.