Soccer icon Pele's condition improving after being hospitalized with urinary infection
Soccer great Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele [Pele official Facebook page]

The health of Brazil football legend Pele "improved" Thursday but he remained in a special care unit at the Sao Paulo hospital where he had been admitted three days ago suffering from a urinary infection.

"The clinical condition of Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele) has improved but he remains under intensive care," said a statement released by the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo.

It added that the 74-year-old, widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, was receiving renal treatment.

Earlier, after confirming that he had been taken in on Monday, the hospital said that Pele's medical tests showed the presence of a urinary infection.

His agent Jose Fornos said that the star was tired after receiving too many visits, and added: "Pele is receiving treatment that could go on for eight days. Thanks to God he is conscious and is talking."

Pele underwent surgery for kidney stones on November 13 and appeared in good humour when he was released two days later, opening his window to salute fans who had gathered around the hospital and joking to journalists: "I am ready to play tomorrow."

He had to cancel an appearance at his museum in Santos, on the coast near Sao Paulo, on November 12 as he began showing symptoms of the illness.

And he was also forced to miss a gathering of members of the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, who had come together to mark the 45th anniversary of Pele's 1000th career goal.

Edu, who played with Pele at Santos and in the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, told the website of Globoesporte: "What we all hope is that he recovers soon, as quickly as possible, so that he can return to our group.

- 'We need him' -

"It is not only us, his closest friends, who need him. Everyone does."

Two years ago, on Nov. 15, 2012, Pele underwent a hip operation in the same hospital.

Pele, nicknamed O Rei (The King), was born in a humble home in the city of Tres Coracoes, but is considered by many as the greatest footballer in history with his exploits for Brazil and a career which saw him score 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.

He scored 77 goals in 91 games for his country and won his first World Cup aged just 17, scoring twice in the 1958 final win over hosts Sweden.

In 1977, he inspired New York Cosmos to the US national title in his final season with the club which featured fellow greats Franz Beckenbauer, Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and former Brazil captain Carlos Alberto.

He also tried his hand at the movies, appearing in the 1981 film Escape to Victory about Allied prisoners of war during World War II along with the likes of Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone.

He also regularly appeared in public as an ambassador for numerous commercial brands

Pele was a guest at the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13 but his beloved national team weren't there -- Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by eventual champions Germany in the semi-finals.

Not that his enthusiasm for the game was diminished.

"We'll get the sixth title in Russia (in 2018)," predicted the man, the embodiment of the sport's iconic number '10' shirt.