Santos signs lifetime contract with Pele

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazilian football club Santos has signed a lifetime contract to use the image of former player Pele. The club said Thursday it will ''continue using Pele's image in its marketing, publicity and social media campaigns.'' ''The new agreement also includes a licensing deal which allows Santos FC and Pele to create and release products together,'' the club said in a statement, adding that it will be able to ''have the presence of the Athlete of the Century at its events.'' Pele has been Santos' ''global ambassador'' since 2013 and during negotiations to renew the deal the club decided to offer him the lifetime contract. ''Pele and Santos FC brands will always be related,'' club president Odilio Rodrigues said. ''We expect this agreement to last forever, just like Pele's legacy, and that is essential for our brand strategies. We have the greatest player of all time in our history, in our present and in our future.'' Pele played for Santos nearly his entire career. He scored 1,091 goals with the club before he moved to the New York Cosmos before retiring. ''Santos FC believed in me when I was young, and shaped me to become a successful player, teammate and man,'' Pele said. ''The club is in my blood, it is with me everywhere I go and I talk about it in every part of the world. I am looking forward to working with Santos FC on its strategies and programs to ensure it is recognized as the best football club in Brazil.'' Santos said it has become the ''first club in the world to sign a lifetime contract with a former athlete.'' ''With Pele as the world's most famous Brazilian person, and one of the most recognized personalities on the planet, the association between the two brands will strengthen the global presence of Santos FC, enabling greater reach and relevance for its sponsors, partners and other stakeholders,'' the eight-time Brazilian champion said. A three-time World Cup champion with Brazil, Pele has been hospitalized since Nov. 24 after being diagnosed with a urinary tract infection that stemmed from a Nov. 13 surgery to remove kidney stones. Doctors said Thursday that Pele remains in good condition and continues to improve steadily. He stayed several days in an intensive care unit to undergo hemodialysis to help support his only kidney. --- Follow Tales Azzoni on Twitter at