PanamericanWorld wants to share their bet about Top 10 Latin American soccer players of all times. It was not easy. How to synthesize so much glory and magic in just 10 people? It’s impossible. Many didn’t make the list, but winning the cup wasn’t the only prerequisite to be on the prestigious list. It was necessary to have left a mark, a mystique that makes people who didn’t even see them play still talk about them. So here they are, the latin Gods of soccer:
10- JOSÉ LUIS CHILAVERT
The only goalkeeper on the list. He led Paraguay in the 98 and 2002 World Cups and in three America Cups. It was the essence of those teams and its main engine. Besides of unforgettable saves and being a brilliant organizer of the defence, Chilavert was known for being a great penalty and free kicks shooter, scoring a total of 68 goals.
9- TEOFILO CUBILLAS
The best representative of peruvian soccer of all times, Teófilo Cubillas was the architect that took out the Inca from mediocrity and stopped it for being the weak team of the continent and put it at the same level of Brazil, Argentina, or Uruguay in the decade of the 70s. Based on a great control of the soccer ball and great free kicks, Cubillas was the leader of the best Peruvian teams of all times making it champion of the 1975 America Cup and taking the team to the quarter finals of the 70 and 78 World Cups.
8- ELÍAS RICARDO FIGUEROA
Used to always remembering players who play as forwards, this central defender from Chile placed himself among the best of Latin America by having a strong heart. The best defender of the 1974 World Cup, he is the one in his position with the most individual titles (3 times best player of America and twice of the Brazilian league) he was one of the few defenders that could go to the front and play with the elegance of an attacker. In Chile he is still considered the best player of all times, and his capacity of reading and anticipating each play gave him world fame.
7- JUAN ALBERTO SCHIAFFINO
He was the main character of the 1950 deed, he was immortalized in the image of a skinny blonde crying of happiness at the end of THE World Cup final. There hasn’t been something so epic in the history of soccer as that match in which a group of Uruguayan warriors took away the championship of Brazil in their home and their stadium, the mythical Maracaná, the match in which Schiaffiano, the brain of the team, scored the first of the goals. An infernal ambidextrous, in 1954 he also drove Uruguay to the semifinals. He went to the AC Milan where he shone for several seasons with exquisite goals and assists, to the point that today he is still considered the most important foreigner that has been on that team.
There is no point, he might have not invented dribbling but this forward, bow-legged alcoholic completely owned that soccer play. No one will ever match his changes of strategy or his capacity of stacking his rivals. He played in Pelé’s team, but it was him people wanted to watch when they payed for tickets to see that champion Brazil of 1958. The proof of his magic was in Chile in 1962, when Pelé got injured he took the lead of the green and yellow team to take it to the bi-championship. He was a player of unique quality, this animal of soccer left plays and got rid of marks in a way that is remembered until today, they are vainly limited, around the planet. One last jewel in his history of accomplishments: with him and Pelé on court, Brazil never lost.
5- ALFREDO DI STÉFANO
Where to start? By saying he was named an honorary president of the club that has the most European Cups? Or by mentioning he was the principal artifice of five of the ten he won with the Real Madrid? And what if we add to that the ones he won in arrow? None of that is enough to emulate the figure of the blonde native of Barracas, Argentina, he’s nickname was the blonde arrow. With an innovative and sagacious technique, this nine, played and made others play well, he also scored an immense quantity of goals (216 in 282 matches).
He is the only one. He doesn’t need a forename or being a catholic. This beast of the area was able to beat in speed, with or without the ball, any defender in the world. There wasn’t a kick that would stop him in his amazing race to take off the list some of the most important myths in the world. He is in the forth place only because he broke twice.
Three Ballon D’Or, two World Cups and a historic scorer of that championship, idol of teams that would face death against each other (Barcelona and Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter). No one like him in dribbling without the ball, in leaving on the floor both defenders and goalkeepers. But it doesn’t end there: he would hit the ball from outside the area and had an exquisite assistance level with surgical passes. He came back fatter from its recuperation and changed to be the best of the 20 meters. But always being the best.
3- LIONEL MESSI
He might be the chosen one to surpass the two we know go at the top of any ranking. With a touching life story, the plasticity of this restless “flea”, his short and different sprint is a known image of a Barcelona that was during several years the lord and master of the world. To those who have short term memory, “Leo” started playing as an undisputed member of the starring 11 only until 2006. In six years he accumulated all the glory that took others an entire lifetime and this kid, 26 years old, still has the thread on the spool.
To many, today he is the best in the world. To some official sources he was for four years in a row, in the period of 2009 to 2012. He surpassed all the legends in scores and awards for his ability, his assists and versatility. An Olympic Gold, Leo is only a World Cup away of taking the crown off his compatriot Diego.
2- DIEGO MARADONA
When a player is transformed in the religion of millions, when only with his game he takes revenge for many thousands of dead people and holds a World Cup. When his followers transform themselves in fanatics for life that don’t even accept an official anti doping control, then, we are talking about a myth. There will be many that say he should be on the number 1 spot.
This shorty of 1.65 meters that didn’t have legs but two turbines that pushed him forward despite all the criminal kicks and fouls of all sorts, he accomplished it all; included the best goal in the history of soccer. With the Napoli he managed the impossible: making champion of the Calcio a Southern team. He did it twice and he became the team’s maximum scorer with 115 goals. There he is also venerated until today. His rampant passion (inside and outside of the field) he didn’t give space to half measures: either you love him or you hate him, but he can’t be ignored.
Not everything is about cups and accomplishments. But who can fight against the fact that winning three World Cups (two of them in a row) and being the maximum scorer (541 goals) of leagues of all history of soccer, don’t make him a good prospect to be nominated as the best? Pelé, the King, has his crown on since many years ago and not even the Diego can take it off him.
Maximum scorer of the Brazilian team with 77 goals, Pelé also played a total of 1363 matches in which he scored 1281 times. Pichichí they said? It is a huge lie that his accomplishments are less important because he never left Brazil to play in other leagues. What else does someone that was the best in the Brazil of 58 with Tostao or Rivelino and that was the best again in the mythical Brazil of 1970 with Didi, Garrincha or Vavá, needs to prove?
It is easy to shine in a team without starts, but Pelé knew how to shine all the time. Voted as the Best Player of the Century by the Soccer History Federation and the Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. In 1961 he was declared a national treasure in Brazil. After 1970, Pelé was a world treasure, and he still is.
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