SAO PAULO (AFP) - Pele arrived back in Brazil on Tuesday (April 9) after having surgery for a "severe urinary infection" during a six-day hospital stay in France that revived fears about the three-time World Cup winner's state of health.
The 78-year-old, who is widely considered to be the greatest footballer in history, was discharged late Monday from the private American hospital in the Paris suburbs where he had been taken after falling ill following an appearance at a promotional event with France striker Kylian Mbappe.
After arriving at the Sao Paulo-Guarulhos airport in Brazil, Pele was taken through a gaggle of reporters at the terminal in a wheelchair and was driven away in a van.
"Once again, thank God, everything went well. I'm alive. Long live Brazil," said Pele, a gold cross hanging around his neck, after he arrived in Brazil's biggest city.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Brazilians and all those who called the hospital, who called me, for my operation, to wish me a rapid recovery," he added.
He also thanked the hospital for his treatment, saying: "France not only has great footballers, it also has very good doctors."
In a statement on Monday on the Globoesporte.com site, Pele said he had required "medical assistance and surgery" for a "severe urinary infection."
Before he was discharged, current Brazil star Neymar, who plays alongside Mbappe for Paris Saint-Germain, paid him a visit at the hospital.
Neymar posted a photo on his Instagram account Monday of himself next to a smiling Pele in his hospital bed with the two holding hands.
Brazil's G1 reported that Pele had intended to come out of hospital on Saturday to return to his home country, but had been delayed because he had to undergo further tests.
The urinary tract infection was not serious and was under control, members of Pele's entourage had said.
Pele, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and perhaps most memorably in Mexico in 1970 when his swashbuckling team re-defined modern football, has had several health scares in recent years.
A similar urinary infection put him in intensive care in November 2014.
In 2016, Pele, who played 1,363 professional matches, scoring 1,281 goals, turned down the chance to light the flame at the Rio Olympics because he had undergone hip surgery earlier that year and was suffering from muscle pains.
In 2017, he appeared at the draw in Moscow for the World Cup in Russia but was in a wheelchair on that occasion too.
In January 2018, he cancelled a trip to London fearing a "stressful" and "tiring" journey.
At the event for a sponsor in Paris, Pele remained sitting throughout his meeting with Mbappe - the two men are the only teenagers to have scored in a World Cup final.