Top Facts about Daniel Passarella, the Best Argentine Defender

Tue 24 August 2021 | 6:00

Daniel Passarella became one of the greatest Argentinian defenders of his era after he joined River Plate, and started to be selected in the Argentinian national football team. In this article, we will have a look at top facts about Daniel Passarella.

Daniel Alberto Passarella, El Gran Capitán, was born in Chacabuco, Buenos Aires Province on 25 May 1953. He started his professional career at Sarmiento of Junin, Buenos Aires province.

One of the

top facts about Daniel Passarella

is that he was the first man to lift the FIFA World Cup. He personified the football of Argentina in the late 1970s and early 80s. A frightening leader in the style of Antonio Rattín, his goalscoring record of 134 goals in 451 matches as a defender is only bettered by Ronald Koeman at the highest level.

The Argentine central defender was an excellent penalty taker and called by Maradona as the best header of the ball he had ever seen. His well-ordered style brought triumph to club and country yet a win at all costs mentality did not essentially endear him to football supporters around the world.

Top Facts about Daniel Passarella, the Best Argentine Defender

Daniel Alberto Passarella played as a centre back, and former coach of the 




 national football teams. He was captain of Argentina national team that won the 1978 World Cup.

Daniel Passarella was president of the River Plate sports club for four years after winning the election in December 2009.

One of the 

top facts about Daniel Passarella

 is that he is regarded as one of the greatest South American defender of all time. He was also a skilful goalscorer; at one point he was football's top scoring defender, with 134 goals in 451 games, a record consequently broken by Dutch defender Ronald Koeman. Daniel Passarella has the particularity of being the only Argentine football player to date to win two World Cups, being captain in 1978 and part of the squad in 1986.

Furthermore, in 2004, Daniel Passarella was called one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA Awards Ceremony. In 2007, The Times placed him at number 36 in their list of the 50 toughest football players in history. 

In 2017 Daniel Passarella was included in the FourFourTwo list of the 100 all-time best players, at the 56th position.

Daniel Alberto Passarella at a glance

  • Name in home country:

    Daniel Alberto Passarella

  • Date of birth:

    May 25, 1953

  • Place of birth:

    Chacabuco, Argentina

  • Age:


  • Height:


  • Citizenship:


  • Position:

    Defender - Sweeper

  • Foot:


  • Current club:


  • Date of retirement:

    1 July, 1989

Daniel Passarella early professional career

Daniel Passarella was born in Chacabuco, in Buenos Aires province. He made his way in football with third division Club Atlético Sarmiento before he left to join River Plate.

He was Raised as a Boca Juniors supporter, Daniel Passarella never thought of wearing the shirt of River Plate. He told his grandmother that he would one day “thrash the Gallinas”. So, River Plate would become his home in 1974 and he had a 40-year association with the team.   

Despite Daniel Passarella’s size, the diminutive Daniel Passarella drew the attention of River coach Néstor Rossi. In spite of the fact that he played as a central defender, he netted nine goals in 36 matches for the Sarmiento.

The man recognized as ‘Pipo’ took Daniel Passarella to the capital and gave him his debut in the pre-season Centennial Cup against their enemies Boca. The 20-year-old Passarella made his league debut that season as they looked to forget a decade.

The return of Ángel Labruna, who was the all-time record scorer, as coach a year later saw a change in the fortunes of the club as they ended their title drought of 18 years.

Daniel Passarella, along with Roberto Perfumo, Reinaldo Merlo and legendary goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol, shaped the pillar of the team’s victory. The addition of striker Leopoldo Luque from Club Atlético Unión fired River Plate to their 17th Metropolitano title.

Daniel Passarella club career

After his respectable performances at the 1982 World Cup, in 1982 Daniel Passarella joined Fiorentina of Italy. He went Tuscany where he joined another South American player, namely Sócrates. They could win UEFA Cup qualification for


and Passarella contributed 15 goals, which was quite the success as the team only netted 29 all season.

A move to


followed where they finished runners-up, Daniel Passarella again scored eight goals from defence. His sophomore season with Inter ended in a non-descript fifth-place finish, 15 points behind their city rivals. 

One of the top facts about Daniel Passarella in Italy is that he netted the goal record for a defender in one season, 11 goals in 1986, in Serie A. His record endured until 2001, when he was beaten by Marco Materazzi.

After Daniel Passarella spent successful spell in the Italian Serie A, he returned to

River Plate

, where he played until his retirement.

Daniel Passarella was called "El Gran Capitán" (the Great Captain),"El Kaiser" (an allusion to Franz Beckenbauer) or "El Caudillo" (the Chief) due to his leadership capability, his desire, and his organisational ability on the field.

Daniel Passarella was a defender who used to join the forward, and help generate and finish attacking plays. He was the top scoring defender, with 134 goals in 451 games, a record which was broken by another defender Ronald Koeman.

Daniel Passarella’s aerial game was effective both in defence and in attack. He scored frequent headers in spite of his average height (1.73 m). He was also an excellent free kick and penalty shooter.

Daniel Passarella was also well-known for using his elbows against opponents while he tried to avoid the referee's look. One of the top facts about Daniel Passarella is that he and Chilean Elías Figueroa are seen as the best South America defenders.

Daniel Passarella international career

Regarding the international career, one of the top facts about Daniel Passarella is that in 1975 he was summoned by César Luis Menotti to join the youth team that was going to play the Toulon Hopes Tournament . That team was integrated among others by Américo Gallego , Jorge Valdano and Alberto Tarantini . The team won the tournament with the captaincy of Passarella, and from that moment on, El Kaiser became one of César Luis Menotti's favourites.

In 1976 he was summoned to the National Selection for a tour that would take place in Eastern Europe. On 20 March 1976 he made his debut against the Soviet Union and in 1977 he became its the captain of Argentina national team.

In 1978 the Argentine football team played the 1978 FIFA World Cup at home. Passarella was one of the key players of the team along with Ubaldo Fillol , Mario Alberto Kempes, who was an excellent player of that World Cup, Leopoldo Luque , Daniel Bertoni and Américo Gallego. They reached the final match and won the FIFA World Cup by beating the Netherlands 3-1 in the end. As a captain of the team, Daniel Passarella was in charge of lifting the first World Cup that Argentina won.

In November 1982, Carlos Salvador Bilardo was appointed as the manager of the Argentine National Team . With his arrival he declared that the only player who was assured of playing at the team was Diego Armando Maradona, something that annoyed Passarella.

Then Carlos Bilardo took the captaincy from the Kaiser to give it to Diego Maradona. This was seen as a punishment for Daniel Passarella for the close relationship he had with the former coach, César Luis Menotti. 

But the level of Passarella diminishes neither in the Fiorentina nor in the national team. It was the reason why he continued to be called up. In qualifying for the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, Passarella gave the pass goal to Ricardo Gareca for the decisive goal against Peru that gave Argentina the qualification. Although the goal was not scored by Daniel Passarella, everyone went to embrace the "Great Captain".

Days before the start of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, he suffered from an intestinal infection that left him out of the field. Passarella had a fractious relationship with captain 

Diego Maradona

 and coach Carlos Bilardo during the tournament. He later claimed Carlos Bilardo and Diego Maradona made sure that he was sidelined. He was replaced in the Argentina national team by defender José Luis Brown

Even so, by being a part of the squad, he became the only player to feature in both Argentina's World Cup-winning teams. Although he was part of the team that travelled to Mexico, for the above-mentioned reasons he did not play any World Cup game that Argentina would win by beating West Germany 3-2 in the final match.

Daniel Passarella coaching career

The resignation of Reinaldo Merlo in December 1989 saw River Plate supportes and management look to Daniel Passarella to transition to the touchline. In spite of the fact that he did not have experience, he was a usual leader and, and the club laid a foundation for a decade of dominance. 

One of the

top facts about Daniel Passarella

is that he took over with River Plate trailing Independiente in the middle of the 1989/90 Primera División, however, by the end of the season they had won the league by seven points.

It was a team constructed in the same shape as their coach. El Gráfico labelled them as “cold, accurate, clinical and no-nonsense”. Hard-pressing midfielders Leonardo Astrada and Gustavo Zapata characterized this approach as the Buenos Aires giants won the Torneo Apertura in the next two seasons.

A defeat to Romania national team in the first knockout stages of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States saw Argentina shortly exit proceedings. It also ended Diego Maradona’s international career. A failed drug test saw his Argentina career end in embarrassment.

Alfio Basile was also out as coach, with the Argentine Football Association keen on bringing back some pride to the national team. Daniel Passarella Passarella had left behind a reviving River Plate.

Perhaps Passarella was improved by the achievement at club level and the gravitas of being a World Cup-winning captain, he immediately attempted to put his stamp on the team.

Daniel Passarella refused to call up 

Gabriel Batistuta

 and Fernando Redondo despite their inspiring club form and absolute ability. Firm squad rules of no earrings were implemented as well as a prohibition on long hair. Daniel Passarella clearly overlooked the fact that without the hirsute Mario Kempes in 1978, he would never have won the FIFA World Cup. 

Gabriel Batistuta returned 10 months later with a moderate trim, but Fernando Redondo and Claudio Caniggia rejected to return and made themselves unreachable for as long as Daniel Passarella was the manager of Argentina.

A 3-0 defeat to the United States in the 1995 Copa América gave Argentina a simple reality check having won their first two matches. Daniel Passarella rested players and the chaotic show resulted in a second-place finish in the group stage and a meeting with Brazil in the quarter-finals.

A debated handball in the build-up to a goal from Túlio saw the match go to penalties where the 10-man Seleção won the game in the penalty shootouts. Defeat in the knockout stages at the hands of Peru national team two years later caused further Copa América defeat for Argentina national team. 

One of the top facts about Daniel Passarella is about his real assessment coming in 1998 with the FIFA World Cup in France. Argentina tore through the naturally difficult CONMEBOL qualifying group, Daniel Passarella using 46 players in the games.

The firm, well-organized style that he experienced in Italy paid off with Argentina fearless to win in an ugly way. Daniel Passarella created a siege mentality within the members of the team and limited access to journalists, one television channel resorting to paying a gas station to rent its rooftop to get a better sight of their L’Étrat training camp. Any questions raised over the manager alternative players with links to River Plate and choosing the likes of Ariel Ortega were forgotten with three wins in the group stage, all with clean sheets.

After Argentina defeated England in the next round and Argentina advanced, they would be the architects of their own defeat in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands. As they were unable to take advantage of the Netherlands national team being reduced to 10 men after Arthur Numan was sent off, Ariel Ortega was also red carded for a head-butt on the Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar before a minute of magical goal from Dennis Bergkamp in the 89th minute ended La Albiceleste’s mission for their third World Cup.

The satire of Argentina collapsing under their strict taskmaster was not lost on the man known as El Kaiser, and he resigned shortly after the World Cup. Daniel Passarella ruled through fear with his method most operative when working with younger players, something he favoured during his managerial profession.

Passarella spent short spells with Uruguay national team and Parma before he won a Mexican league title in 2003 with Monterrey. A final spell with River Plate in 2006 brought an end to his coaching career as Daniel Passarella eyed the presidency at El Monumental.

As River Plate suffered both economic and on-field difficulties, Passarella swept to success in the 2009 election where he replaced José María Aguilar as president of River Plate. Nevertheless, they finished bottom of the 2008 Torneo Apertura and their poor form continued during the next three seasons. Consequently, the Buenos Aires giants stood at the bottom of the league and an unthinkable relegation was inevitable.

AFA president Julio Grondona planned to stop this by trying to combine the top two divisions, an idea that was stopped by the other teams. This was after another safety regulator for the top sides was applied by the AFA. It was relegation based on an average point total over three seasons.

Despite this the unbelievable thing happened and River Plate were relegated for the first time in their 110-year history which was full of glory. Belgrano defeated Los Millonarios 2-0 at home before a 1-1 draw at El Monumental in a match tarnished by revolting supporters.

Manager Juan José López immediately resigned as ‘RiBer’ graffiti were seen around Buenos Aires to refer to their place in the Primera B Nacional. Leonardo Ponzio returned to his former team in their time of need and, alongside David Trezeguet, secured promotion back to the top flight at in no time.

The drama was not over for Daniel Passarella, however, in 2013 an investigation revealed serious financial misconduct on his part.

He was accused of multiple accounts of deceitful administration which dated back to the previous year. A complex system of ticket resales and suspected illegal payments to the barra bravas were on the list of charges. With an annual 12m pesos shortage and debts of over 387m pesos, Passarella’s position was indefensible. He preferred not to run for office that year and left the club in shame.

One of the top facts about Daniel Passarella is that the gloomy end to his career with River Plate as the president perhaps casts a shadow over the way in which Passarella is held in the hearts and minds of Argentine football supporters in comparison with the other World Cup-winning captains. The question is that is Passarella’s severe, inflexible captaincy tied to the Videla regime, while Maradona represents the freedom and democracy of the new Argentina?

Maybe it is a less political and more spiritual issue as the he has always had a difficult role to master, while the passion of Maradona lives constantly, easily noticeable in clips of his mastermind long after his retirement. Anyway, despite Daniel Passarella’s faults, the untucked shirt and rolled down socks of Maradona are the opposite of the neat side-parted look which mirrored the essence and discipline of Argentina’s greatest defender.

Daniel Passarella trophies

Primera División

  • 1975:


  • 1975:


  • 1977:


  • 1979:


  • 1979:


  • 1980:


  • 1981:



  • FIFA World Cup: 


  • FIFA World Cup:



  • Footballer of the Year of Argentina in 1976

  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team in 1978

  • FIFA 100: 2004

  • Golden Foot Legends Award in 2015

  • AFA Team of All Time (published in 2015)

  • World Soccer: The 100 Greatest Footballers of All Time

  • Fiorentina All-time XI

As a Manager

Primera División

: 1989–90, Apertura 1991, Apertura 1993

Mexican Primera División:

Clausura 2003


  • South American Coach of the Year:



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