The best Dominican Republic footballers of all time
The Caribbean is always a surprising source of football talent with each island boasting major stars. Despite sports such as baseball and basketball having a higher profile in the Dominican Republic, the Latin nation has started producing some major stars. The Dominican Republic national side have never reached a major competition yet the emergence of some potential stars could change all that. With some players having embraced their roots and others emerging from childhoods spent overseas, the tide is turning in favour of Los Quisqueyanos. So just who are some of the greatest Dominican Republic footballers of all time?
Junior Firpo is a player that has straddled two identities for much of his playing career. Born in the Dominican Republic but raised in Spain, the speedy left-back has caught the eyes of many thanks to his rapid acceleration and ability to whip in deadly crosses. It’s these skillsets that has seen Firpo enjoy a career in high-profile leagues both in Spain and England. After coming through the ranks with Real Betis, Firpo moved to Barcelona in 2019. Whilst at the Nou Camp, he was part of the side that won the 2021 Copa del Rey. After struggling for game time, Firpo switched to English side Leeds becoming the first Dominican-born player to feature in the Premier League. He has remained a constant presence at Elland Road since joining in 2021. Having represented both the Spanish U-21 side and also in a friendly for the Dominican Republic, Firpo is a star that his homeland is ready to embrace with open arms.
Despite the Dominican Republic having never featured at the World Cup, it doesn’t mean that footballers from the nation have yet to reach the biggest stage in football. That’s proven by the success of striker Victor Nunez. A powerful striker who can strike from any angle, Nunez found success after spending his entire career in Costa Rica. Coming through the ranks of Costa Rican powerhouses Deportivo Saprissa, Nunez would eventually win Costa Rican citizenship early on in his career playing for a wealth of sides including Alajuelense and Herediano. This qualified him to play for Los Cafeteros where he was a part of the 2006 World Cup squad. Despite making a cameo for his adopted homeland, Nunez is the only player born in the Dominican Republic to play at the World Cup. A rare feat that he can enjoy.
Heinz Barmettler is a player that certainly embraced his family heritage. Despite being born and raised in Switzerland, Barmettler switched allegiance to the Dominican Republic due to ties in his family. Primarily deployed as a centre-back, Barmettler became a regular for FC Zurich in the Swiss Super League for much of the late 2000s. he showed a strong physical presence that saw him impress enough scouts to earn a move to Real Valladolid in Spain in 2013. In a wretched season for Valladolid, they were relegated at the end of the 2013/14 La Liga season with Barmettler making several cameo appearances. This made him the first Dominican Republic international to feature in the Spanish top flight and set the precedence for others to follow in his footsteps.
When it comes to emerging from the football scene in the Dominican Republic, few players have been as successful as Jonathan Fana. Fana’s pace and skill made him a star in his homeland. It didn’t take long for Fana to move overseas after scoring 16 goals in 20 games for local side Moca. This brought about moves to leagues across North America including in Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico and El Salvador. Throughout his 15-year career, Fana won league titles in 3 different countries as well as 5 CFU Club Championship trophies for 3 different teams. During his success in regional competitions, Fana was the top scorer in the competition on two occasions – 2009 and 2011. Fana also translated this goalscoring form into international football too scoring 24 goals in just 45 caps. This impressive form makes Fana the record goal scorer for his country and further underlines his accolades as a top scorer in the region.
When it comes to prominent Dominican footballers, none have a profile quite like Mariano Diaz. Skillful and stylish, Diaz has wowed fans across Europe with amazing skills and a deadly goalscoring record. The Spanish-born striker came up through the ranks at Real Madrid but struggled for game time. Diaz’s career was rejuvenated with a two-year loan spell in France with Lyon. During the 2017-18 Ligue 1 season, Diaz slammed home 18 goals in 34 games showcasing his potential as a top striker. Since then, Diaz has been an intermittent presence with Real Madrid where he has been part of a squad that has won 3 La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies. Having been capped for the Dominican Republic national side in 2013, Diaz is arguably the highest profile player to ever feature for the Caribbean nation and one of their most gifted stars to ever take to the pitch.