While Europe has been the beautiful game's tactical hotbed over the past century, South America often manages to steal the show with its eclectic blend of wizardry and charisma. With two World Cup triumphs and a staggering host of historic and legendary moments, Argentina has managed to create a unique footballing legacy over the years and has produced the greatest players in the history of the game.
The fact that Argentina has miserably failed to meet expectations since the turn of the century does not compromise its position as a traditional powerhouse of world football. The likes of Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, and Alfredo Di Stefano have fulfilled some of the most prominent roles in shaping modern football and have managed to give Argentina a shroud of immortality.
Argentina has given the football world some of its greatest magicians
While the exploits of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona have been well-documented and thoroughly exalted, there are a few other legendary names that have managed to slip under the radar over the years. Argentina treats football as a way of life and its sporting heroes are often treated like deities in the country.
Argentina's football is often characterised by its reliance on some of the most lethal attacking players the game has ever produced. The nation's teams have become heavily lop-sided as a result and while Argentina has often succumbed to extraordinary expectations, its players have stood out as some of the greatest the game has ever seen.
#10 Javier Mascherano
Javier Mascherano is a unique character in a football world that heavily relies on skill and flashy magic tricks. The Argentine destroyer earned the nickname 'El Jefecito' for a very specific reason. Mascherano's ability to marshall and inspire his troops on the pitch was one of his greatest contributions to both his country and the host of illustrious clubs he played for.
After a European debut with West Ham that was riddled with controversy, Javier Mascherano quickly made his presence felt and earned a transfer to a new-look Liverpool side under Rafael Benitez. The eccentric Spaniard turned Mascherano into a formidable force in the Reds midfield and Barcelona quickly took note of the Argentine's unique qualities.
Javier Mascherano transitioned into the role of a centre-back at Barcelona and after a few initial teething problems, the Argentine veteran became one of the leaders in the side. Mascherano was also one of the first names on the teamsheet for his national side for well over a decade and offered Argentina a unique and much-needed repertoire of skills.
#9 Ubaldo Fillol
Goalkeepers rarely get their due in the world of football and Ubaldo Fillol is one such name that often misses out on the accolades he so thoroughly deserves. Arguably the greatest shot-stopper in Argentina history, Ubaldo Fillol played a pivotal role in his country's first World Cup triumph.
Ubaldo Fillol is a River Plate legend and is one of the most iconic players in Argentina's domestic football leagues to this day. The goalkeeper won 7 league titles in Argentina and was voted his country's player of the year in 1977.
Ubaldo Fillol's legendary status in Argentina is cemented by the fact that the most coveted individual prize for shot-stoppers in the country carries his name. Argentina has not had the best of goalkeepers in the recent past and desperately needs an individual to step up to Ubaldo Fillol's lofty standards.
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#8 Javier Zanetti
Javier Zanetti is one of the few remaining symbols of longevity in a game that is becoming increasingly unpredictable today. The Argentina defender was a loyal servant of both club and country for nearly two decades.
Zanetti made as many as 143 appearances for Argentina and his versatility and intelligence usually guaranteed him a place in his country's national team. The Inter Milan legend was perfectly capable of playing on both flanks and could also ply his trade in a defensive midfield position.
Javier Zanetti was one of the most reliable defenders of his time and his exclusions from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups may well go down in history as two of the most significant blunders in Argentina football history.
#7 Gabriel Batistuta
Fondly known as 'Batigol', the sheer power that Gabriel Batistuta's shots generated made him one of the most fearsome strikers the game has ever seen. The legendary Argentine forward became a Serie A behemoth with an incredible Italian career that continues to be cherished in Florence to this day.
Gabriel Batistuta scored 45 league goals in three seasons as an embattled Fiorentina outfit strived to stay in Italy's top division. The arrival of Portuguese maestro Rui Costa in 1995 managed to bring the best out of the imposing Argentine and the duo's exploits inspired Fiorentina to a famous Coppa Italia victory against one of the best AC Milan sides in history.
Gabriel Batistuta was also a record goalscorer for Argentina for a significant period of time and has scored 54 goals in only 77 games. The Fiorentina legend also became the first player in history to score hat-tricks in two different World Cups after bagging trebles in 1994 and 1998.
#6 Omar Sivori
Widely regarded as one of the most mystifying dribblers of his time, Omar Sivori made significant contributions to the football heritage of both Argentina and Italy during as time as a player and as a manager.
Omar Sivori became a prominent name in Argentina after his exploits with River Plate earned him widespread fame and recognition. Sivori formed a lethal partnership with Antonio Angelillo and Humberto Maschio and the attacking trident was nicknamed the 'Trio of Death'.
With Omar Sivori at the forefront of Argentina's stylish football revolution, the country dominated the South American Championship in 1957 and managed a stunning 8-2 victory against Colombia and a 3-0 win over Brazil to clinch the gold medal in the tournament.
#5 Daniel Passarella
Daniel Passarella is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest defender in Argentina's rich footballing history. The centre-back is virtually worshipped in Argentina for leading his country to its first successful World Cup campaign in 1978. Passarella is widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time and had a massive impact on an Argentina team that was filled to the brim with talent.
Daniel Passarella's reputation as a hardman and a tough-tackler made his presence in the starting eleven a predetermined psychological victory for an Argentina team that relied heavily on magical interventions of talent in the final third.
In addition to being his team's best defender, Passarella was also a formidable goalscorer and managed an impressive tally of 134 goals in 451 matches. The Argentine defender also enjoyed successful stints with the likes of River Plate, Fiorentina, and Inter Milan.
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#4 Mario Kempes
Mario Kempes may not have had the glorious club career that some of the other players on this list enjoyed but will go down in history as the man who transformed the fortunes of the Argentina national team. El Matador was the leading goalscorer in Argentina's triumphant 1978 World Cup campaign and is arguably one of the most important figures in the competition's history.
Kempes scored six goals in the 1978 World Cup and was the hero of the famous final against a formidable Netherlands side. The Argentina forward's brace gave his side a 3-1 victory and resulted in Argentina's first-ever World Cup triumph.
Mario Kempes also enjoyed a fruitful tenure with Valencia in La Liga and won the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup with the Spanish side. Kempes also won two consecutive Pichichi awards in Spain and is widely regarded as a precursor to the likes of Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta.
#3 Alfredo Di Stefano
Real Madrid has endorsed some of the greatest names in the history of the game but there is arguably none better than the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano. In the late 1950s, the great Argentine dominated Europe and his extraordinary range of skills was no match for the defensive units of the time.
Di Stefano was Argentine by birth and while he may not have played as many games for Argentina, the Real Madrid forward ruthlessly took Spain and Europe by storm with a star-studded Los Blancos side. Alongside a prolific Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano established Real Madrid as the premier European powerhouse with 5 consecutive European Cup victories.
Di Stefano was known for his ability to shine on the biggest of stages and his performance against Pele's Santos side in 1959 earned Real Madrid an exhilarating 5-3 victory. The Argentine forward also won 2 Ballon d'Ors and is regarded as one of the best players in Real Madrid history.
#2 Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is sure to be in the top three of any list of the best players of all time. The Argentina legend's revolutionary swagger on the pitch perfectly complemented the rebellious nature of his personal life and created an aura that has been etched into football folklore.
Diego Maradona's footballing immortality stems from the sheer impact he created on the beautiful game. The eccentric Argentina international redefined the role of the modern attacker and was the creative fulcrum of an Argentina side that stunned the world with a successful 1986 World Cup campaign.
Maradona's magic has given the footballing world some of its most memorable moments. The Argentine talisman's crowning moment came in arguably the most famous match in football history as Maradona took on a strong English side in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup.
The Napoli legend scored the first goal of the game with his legendary "Hand of God" and went on to stun the English with arguably the most beautiful goal for Argentina in the history of the World Cup. Diego Maradona is, to this day, perceived as an extraterrestrial phenomenon that managed to entertain and dazzle fans and neutrals alike and make football a truly global sport.
#1 Lionel Messi
While Argentina legend Diego Maradona was capable of moments of magic that have never been seen before and may never be surpassed, the World Cup winner was never in sight of the astonishing levels of consistency that Lionel Messi has managed over the past 15 years at Barcelona.
The diminutive Argentine genius is arguably the best player in the history of the beautiful game and his statistics tell a definitive story. The Barcelona legend has scored 704 career goals in 869 games and his ability to make jaws drop on a near-weekly basis makes for a stunning highlight reel.
Lionel Messi has also won a record 6 Ballon d'Ors in his career and is one of the most decorated players in the history of the game. The magician from Argentina is only 33 years of age and may still be able to add a few more feathers to his star-studded cap over the next few years.
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