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An XI of the best Argentinian footballers ever

There are very few countries which follow football as passionately as Argentina. The South American nation are a powerhouse in the world game, having created many of the biggest moments in the sport. Buoyed by a passionate fan base and a talent pool that is the envy of many, La Albicleeste have gone on to become one of the most successful nations in the game’s history. With 2 World Cup titles and 15 Copa America victories, Argentina is one of the most decorated nations anywhere in the globe. So just who are the greatest Argentinian footballers of all time? Here’s our XI.


An XI of the greatest Argentinian footballers ever


GK: Ubaldo Filol

Ubaldo Filol never played much outside of his home country but that didn’t stop him being a legendary goalkeeper. Filol was Argentina’s undisputed number one throughout much of the nation’s successful run in the 1970’s and 1980s. His reactions were excellent for a man of his size and he had great athleticism to help close down oncoming strikers.

He was also a larger than life character, particularly as he shunned wearing the traditional 1 on his kit preferring the number 5. It’s a testament to his stature as an all time great as he helped Argentina win the 1978 World Cup on home soil also claiming the South American Silver Ball award that year – the first of three wins in that category. It’s a career that was more than fitting for the River Plate and Flamengo legend.


RB: Javier Zanetti

There are very few full-backs who were loyal or committed as Javier Zanetti. The perennial right-back was a player who could run up and down the wing without ever losing steam. His pace outshone many of his contemporaries and he had passing and tackling skills that were some of the best anywhere in world football.

In a career that spanned over 1100 matches over 22 years, Zanetti won almost everything he could on the global stage with Inter Milan although success with the national side did somehow avoid him. Nevertheless, Zanetti is an all-time Argentina legend with his place in no less than 4 football hall of fames proving a testament to his legacy as one of the best Argentinian footballers ever.


LB: Roberto Ayala

As a defender, Roberto Ayala was one of the toughest players to beat anywhere on the pitch. His timing and anticipation were second to none and he was nigh on unbeatable in the air. Ayala’s presence on the pitch was always instantly recognizable and was a reason why he captained Argentina over 60 times for his country for almost an entire decade.

His presence was never as glamorous as some of his teammates but Ayala was an extremely reliable defender who was classed as the 2001 UEFA Defender of the Year and a key part of Argentina’s Gold Medal winning squad at both the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games.


CB: Oscar Ruggeri

Whilst his nickname “El Cabezon” humorously translates as The Big-Headed One, it doesn’t underline just how good a defender Oscar Ruggeri was in his prime. He was an extremely physical defender who was never scared to back out of a tackle forcing his opponents to back out of any challenges in a one-on-one situation and earns him a deserved place on our list of the great Argentinian footballers.

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It made him a leader on the pitch and a cornerstone of an Argentina side that was one of the strongest of its era. Ruggeri was part of the World Cup winning squad of 1986, as well as the side that made the 1990 World Cup final. He was a 2x Copa America winner and the overall Argentine Player of the Year in 1991. Having starred for several leading clubs such as Boca Juniors, River Plate and Real Madrid, Ruggeri was a star through and through.


CB: Daniel Passarella

There are very few star as passionate and dedicated to their craft quite like Daniel Passarella. During his time as a player, Pasarella was a rugged yet committed defender who could quickly shut down moves in a heartbeat. The centre-back often was the anchor of the backline playing as a sweeper and allowing for others around him to push up and support attacking lines.

His passion made him the ideal leader and inspired him to lead Argentina to win their first World Cup on home soil in 1978 as well as feature as part of the iconic 1986 World Cup lineup. It is a real cap in a career that also saw Passarella win the 1976 Argentine Player of the Year as well as 6 domestic titles with River Plate.


CM: Juan Sebastian Veron

Known for his steely demeanour, Juan Sebastian Veron was the ideal box-to-box midfielder. With excellent passing range, Veron could find short and long range passes with ease making it seem effortless with just a flick of the boot. He was also deadly from distance as Veron possessed one of the most powerful shots of his generation making him a nightmare to deal with from free-kicks and anywhere within the opponents half.

It led Veron to being named a 2x Argentine Player of the Year as well as win domestic titles in Argentina, Italy and England. A true legend who shone in many of the best leagues across world football and is certainly one of the best Argentinian footballers in history.


CM: Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano proved himself to be one of the most versatile players of his generation. Able to play anywhere in both defence and midfield, Mascherano was always active linking up attacking moves and protecting the backline.

His anticipation and eye for a pass were unstoppable making him the perfect candidate to sit in a holding midfielder role. It was a timely presence for Mascherano who shone in both England and Spain for Liverpool and Barcelona winning the Champions League twice and 5 La Liga titles. A true presence for one of football’s unsung heroes.


CM: Diego Maradona

Whilst Diego Maradona was a goalscoring machine, he was a player who could shine in midfield as well as a striker. With the ball at his feet, Maradona became a juggernaut weaving through opposition with real ease. His speed and control were nothing short of exquisite and was complimented brilliantly by his eye for goal.

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It meant that Maradona was considered the best of his era being the key figure of the 1986 World Cup in which he was named the Golden Ball winner. It was the epitome of a career where he was named by FIFA as the Player of the 20th Century as well as scoring the Goal of the Century. Nothing less than one of the all-time greats.


FW: Alfredo Di Stefano

For many years, Alfredo Di Stefano was the greatest of all time, let alone one of the best Argentinian footballers. His style was light years ahead of his opponents who couldn’t cope with his livewire performances. With a lethal cocktail of pace and power, very few could stop him once he was on the move. This blend mixed with excellent finishing abilities made him one of the few global superstars of the post-War football world.

He had a scary record for his clubs, scoring 216 goals in 282 games for Real Madrid as well as 90 goals in 100 games for Colombian side Millionarios. Whilst his appearances for the national side were fleeting, he finished with a staggering 6 goals in 6 games record for his country underlining the quality Di Stefano had wherever he played.


FW: Mario Kempes

During the 1970s and 1980s, there were very few strikers deadlier than Mario Kempes. He was a prolific scorer and was always able to find the net from anywhere within the penalty area. It was also the consistency that made Kempes such a deadly threat scoring 95 goals in just 142 games for Valencia during a 5 year spell.

He was performed vivaciously for the national side and was the star player during Argentina’s 1978 World Cup triumph. It was here where he also won the tournament’s Golden Boot (top scorer) and Golden Ball (best player) – a clean sweep that has only been achieved 3 times by players in the history of the tournament.


FW: Lionel Messi

With his small stature, Lionel Messi was out to prove people wrong and he has done just that. The diminutive winger transformed the modern game with his amazing ball control and dribbling abilities. His skills with his feet has made him considered by many as the greatest player of all time and he has won everything there is to win domestically with Barcelona.

There are very few records Messi has yet to break, holding the all-time records for both appearances and goals for the Argentina national team. Combine that with 6 Ballon D’Or awards, 7 European Golden Shoe trophies and 34 domestic club titles and you have a recipe for one of the greatest Argentinian footballers of all time.



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