Top Argentinian Footballers in History
The Argentinian legend who is as big as Pele and in fact his counterpart. It seems his name will forever top the list of the best Argentinian soccer players ever. If you ask people why, you may get different answers, but one thing is for sure: He led Argentina to glory. Maradona is the one who scored the Goal of the Century: 1986, FIFA World Cup, in a match against England, Maradona dribbled five England players, namely Beardsley, Reid, Butcher, Fenwick, and Butcher, and then the goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, to score the Goal of the Century.
Why the goal of the century? Because no other footballer has ever done that, dribbling five players in a row and then the goalkeeper to score a goal. Maradona is a legend because he could create such unforgettable moments, although his tricky behavior is also something to remember, especially when he scored a goal with his hand - all including referee thought he did it with his head! - that was later called the Hand of God Goal: When asked about that goal, Maradona said it was not his hand but the hand of God that scored the goal! Maradona is also named among the best footballer players in 20th century.
The six-time winner of Ballon d'Or and one of the best soccer players of all time, Lionel Messi is another Argentinian giant who many believe should top the list of the best Argentinian soccer players, too. If you just take a look at his individual honors, you may be persuaded that he’s indeed the best Argentinian footballer ever: First of all he’s the only player to have won Ballon d'Or Award six times, even more than Cristiano Ronaldo; he’s a record holder in this regard and then, ok let’s go to the next paragraph!
Messi is the winner of FIFA World Cup Golden Ball in 2014 and European Golden Shoe in six seasons. He was also named LaLiga best player in eight seasons and LaLiga best forward in seven seasons, not to mention that he also became Argentine Player of the Year for 11 years. And all this are just a few of his honors. Messi is the one who creates magic! He will become one of those football legends after his retirement.
Nicknamed Batigol or El Ángel Gabriel (meaning angel Gabriel in Spanish), Gabriel Batistuta is one of the best Argentine soccer players of all time. He was regarded as one of the best strikers of his own time and was named by Pele in FIFA list of the 100 world’s greatest living footballers. More than anyone else, it is Fiorentina fans who love him; they actually erected a statue of him in 1996 in honor of his performances for the club.
Batistuta joined Fiorentina in 1991, and did not leave the club when they were relegated to Serie B. His performances helped the club to promote to Serie A again, and maybe that’s why Fiorentina fans love him. Batistuta scored 167 goals in his 269 appearances for the Italian club during his spell with the club, namely from 1991 to 2000, which translates to more than 1.5 goals in every two matches. Batistuta also appeared for the Argentinian national team from 1991 to 2002, scoring 55 goals in his 77 appearances.
The captain of the Argentinian national team who won 1978 FIFA World Cup, Daniel Alberto Passarella, simply known as Daniel Passarella, is not only the one of the best Argentinian soccer players - contemporary to Maradona - but also one of the 125 greatest living footballers as chosen by FIFA. Although a defender, Passarella scored 182 goals in his total 556 appearances throughout his career, which means almost 1 goal in every 3 matches in which he appeared.
So, Passarella was indeed a goalscoring defender and the top scoring defender in the world until 1997 before his record was broken by Ronald Koeman in the same year. Known for his leadership capabilities, Passarella was nicknamed El Gran Capitán (The great captain) and El Caudillo (The chief) during his career. He was also named Argentina Footballer of the year in 1976.
The first Premier League Argentinian manager and the manager of Tottenham Hotsupr, Swindon Town, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion from 1989 to 1994, Osvaldo Ardiles is one of those Argentinian footballers to remember. He became more than popular in England during 1980s where he helped Tottenham Hotspur win FA Cup in 1981 and 1982 and also UEFA Cup in 1984.
Ardiles has managed more teams than he has played for namely teams from England, Mexico, Croatia, Japan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Paraguay, and Argentina. Ardiles runs his own football school in UK called the Ossie Ardiles Soccer School. He is best remembered for being contemporary to legends like Pele and Maradona.
Considered as one of the best strikers of his own time and one of the best players in the Premier League history, Sergio Agüero is an Argentine international who currently plays for the Premier League club, Manchester City. Agüero is also known as Kun which he wears on his shirt and is a nickname of his from childhood. If not known for his goalscoring ability, Agüero is surely known for his breaking Diego Maradona’s record of playing as the youngest player (at the age of 15) who has played in the Argentinian top-tier league: Argentine Primera División.
As Agüero once said, the players who have had an influence on his play are Brazilian Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Diego Maradona with Ronaldo having the most influence. Former Argentinian top footballer, Osvaldo Ardiles, has called Agüero sharp and clever and in Messi’s opinion, the Manchester City striker is a menace in the box with his dribbling ability and strength to keep the ball.
Named South American Footballer of the Year three times from 2003 to 2005, and Argentina Footballer of the Year twice, Carlos Tevez is among the best Argentinian soccer players in the world who is mostly known for his creativity and passing ability. He has also been named three times in the South American Team of the Year, and once the Argentine Sportsperson of the Year. Add to this Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2014-15, too.
Although a striker, Tevez could also play as winger and attacking midfielder. His sturdy body type allows him to win one-on-one clashes. Besides being strong, he’s also fast, and when the possession is lost could press the opposing team attackers to win back the ball. So, he’s also effective in defensive work. And like many Argentinian footballers, Tevez is a skilled dribbler that helps him to get the ball past the opponents with less effort.
LaLiga’s two-time top scorer and the winner of Golden Ball, Golden Boot and 1978 World Cup all in the same tournament, Mario Kempes is in fact one of the best footballers Argentina has ever seen and one of three footballers in history who have won all three above-mentioned awards in one tournament. He’s also among the top 125 living footballers chosen by FIFA and the winner of Ballon d'Or in 1978.
Like Ardiles, Kempes was also active in coaching business but did not manage more teams than he played for, this time unlike Ardiles! Kempes scored 300 goals in all his 555 appearances throughout his career which translated to almost one goal in every two matches. He also performed for the Argentinian national team from 1973 to 1982, scoring 20 goals in his 43 appearances, again almost one goal in every two matches.
A former Argentinian midfielder and defender with a handful of records: Zanetti is the seventh player in the history of football with most career appearances. He finished his career with 1,114 official games played and 31 goals scored. With 615 appearances only in Serie A, Zanetti is the record holder for the number of appearances in the professional Italian league. He has also appeared more than any other player for the Italian club, Inter Milan: 858 appearances plus 16 trophies won.
Zanetti was a two-footed player who could run back and forth several times during the play and take part both in defense and attack so that he was called El Tractor (The tractor) by his teammates for his great stamina. Football legend, Ryan Gigs, once described Zanetti as a complete player and one of the most difficult opponents he had ever faced. Zanetti also appeared 143 times for his country’s national team from 1994 to 2011, scoring four goals for them.
One of the best Argentinian footballers who not only played in his native land, Argentina, but also in Italy and Spain for the clubs such as Napoli, Milan, and Valencia. In terms of international appearances, Ayala is the fourth Argentinian footballer with the most number of appearances behind Lionel Messi, Javier Zanetti, and Javier Mascherano. He played for the Argentinian national team from 1994 to 2007 in 115 matches.
Regarded as one the best defenders of his own time, Ayala was mostly known for his leadership and aerial defense capabilities. He was nicknamed El Ratón which means “the mouse” in Spanish probably because he was a fast and agile player too. However, they say he has inherited the nickname from another Argentinian player named Rubén Ayala though they are not related to each other.
Having played for the Premier League club, Liverpool, and LaLiga giants, Barcelona, from 2007 to 2018, Javier Mascherano is one of the best Argentinian soccer players who, with 147 international appearances, has played more than any other Argentinian player for his country’s national team. In five of the eight seasons Mascherano played for Barcelona, namely from 2010 to 2018, the LaLiga giants became league champions.
Despite his small body size, Mascherano is a hard tackler and tough marker who can not only play as a center-back, organizing the whole team, but also as a defensive midfielder or right back. British sports journalist, Jonathan Wilson, once called Mascherano “destroyer” referring to his aggressive style of play which naturally led to his several bookings. Mascherano along with the Argentinian water polo player Juan Nelson are the only Argentinian sportsman to have won two Olympics gold medals so far.
Former Argentinian winger and forward and Maradona’s teammate in the Argentine national team, Claudio Caniggia was not only a footballer but also took part in local athletics competitions. So no wonder that he was mostly known for his speed, although he was also a playmaker who could support other forwards. Unlike some of his Argentinian contemporaries, Caniggia did not continue his career as a manager; in fact he has managed no team but as a player he served more than 10 clubs throughout his career from 1985 to 2004.
Maybe one of the unforgettable moments Caniggia created was in 1990 FIFA World Cup in a match against Cameroon where the African team played so aggressively. Tackling and fouling had become their regular play! In a single run, Cannigia could get past two Cameroonian defenders who tackled him - better said attacked him - with only one thought in mind: stopping the Argentinian forward at any cost. Cannigia almost got past the third defender but that did not actually happen and the defender stopped him at the cost of a red card. Cannigia was also the one who scored the first goal Italy had ever conceded in the tournament in the semifinal.
Nicknamed El Burrito (meaning the Donkey in Spanish) - no one knows why!, Ariel Ortega is a former Argentinian midfielder mostly known for his creativity, pace and technical ability. Indeed at his own time, Ortega was considered as one of the best dribblers in the world. Ortega was a playmaker too, and in this regard, he was often compared to Maradona. Although among the best dribblers in the world, they say Ortega had a moody character and never actually realized his full potential.
Besides the Argentinian club, River Plate, Ortega served Italian clubs, Parma and Sampdoria, and also Turkish club, Fenerbahce, during his career which lasted 21 years, namely from 1991 to 2012. Ortega also served the Argentinian national team from 1993 to 2003, scoring 16 goals in his 87 appearances for the team.
An Argentinian defender capable of playing on both wings, Pablo Zabaleta has been in the business since 1995 when he was just 7 years old. He served Manchester city more than any other club during his career, namely for nine seasons from 2008 to 2017, when he reaped more than half of his footballing honors including the Premier League title in 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons, the FA Cup in 2011, Football League Cup in 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons, and FA Community Shield in 2012.
Zabaleta has been with West Ham United since 2017. He has also served the Argentinian national team since 2005 in three different tournaments, namely the Olympic Games, Copa America and FIFA World Cup. Zabaletta was also named in PFA Team of the Year in 2012-13 season, and became Manchester City Player of the Month for three months, namely in January 2009, December 2012, and January 2013.
Former Argentinian midfielder and the current manager of Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone has almost managed the same number of teams he has played for, namely teams from Argentina, Italy and Spain. Simone has served Atletico Madrid more than any other club both as a player and manager, namely for 14 years, and has had most of his career achievements with the Spanish club, too.
As a player, Simone was capable of playing both as an attacking and defensive midfielder, although he was mostly deployed as a central or defensive midfielder. He was also good in the air and was known for his strength, stamina, leadership and technique. Simone once described his own style of play as “holding a knife between his teeth.”
One of the top Argentinian goalscorers, Hernan Crespo scored more than 300 goals for top-tier clubs such as Lazio, Chelsea, Milan, Inter, Parma and Genoa in his 19-year career. In fact, except for two years for Chelsea and three years for River Plate, Crespo played all his career for Italian top clubs. As a player, the Argentinian striker ended his career in 2012 with Parma being the last club he played for, and from 2014 on, he has been in coaching, having served two Italian and two Argentinian clubs as a manager so far.
Crespo has also a world record: In 2000, he became the most expensive player in the world as he completed a move from Lazio to Parma for a transfer fee of €56 million. In the same year, he also became the top scorer of Serie A with 26 goals, and in 2004 he was named in the list of 100 world’s greatest living players by Pele.