There’s just something special about South American soccer that stands out; it could be the passion, the color, or the incredible skills on show. Argentina is no exception, the national team has given us some amazing memories, and the players are passionate, skillful, and often temperamental.
A hotbed of talent, Argentinian soccer has produced some of the greatest players ever to play soccer, with many of these players becoming superstars of the game.
Today we’re going to take a good look at some of the most exceptional Argentinian soccer players of all time; most of them you’ll know, some of them you’ll love, and all of them have one thing in common, they’re all legends.
10. Hernan CrespoEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
Given Argentina’s history of producing great strikers, it’s fitting that we should start with one of the very best, Hernan Crespo. Born in Buenos Aires, Crespo began his rise to the top of world soccer at River Plate before quickly heading to Europe to make his mark.
Joining Parma in 1996, Crespo spent four years in Serie A with Parma before his goalscoring abilities caught the eye of Italian giants Lazio.
A world record sale at the time, Crespo immediately repaid his new team by being the league’s top scorer in his first season. A genuinely gifted striker, Crespo scored goals for fun and in a 19-year career, was never sent off, which is an incredible feat given the style of soccer played in Italy at the time.
A move to Inter Milan before a high-profile move to Chelsea in 2003, only increased the spotlight on Crespo, although he started less than 50 league games for Chelsea in five years before a return to Serie A in 2008.
Hernan Crespo scored over 300 goals in his career, including 197 league goals, and will go down in history as one of Argentina’s best center forwards.
9. Fernando RedondoEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Defensive Midfield
Fernando Redondo, a defensive midfielder that played soccer like a quarterback, would sit in front of the defense and control the ebb and flow of the game.
A solid tackler, Redondo could win the ball back, move forwards, find a defense-splitting pass, and not break a sweat doing it. If it weren’t for his numerous injuries, Redondo would probably be third on our list; he was that good.
Fernando Redondo will be best remembered for his time at Real Madrid, where he won La Liga twice and two Champions League medals.
It’s a testament to how beloved Redondo is at Real Madrid that he is a part of the club’s all-time XI; given the players Madrid has been blessed with, getting into the best 11 is an incredible feat, especially for a foreign import.
An astonishingly gifted player, in today’s transfer market, Redondo would be a $100 million player.
8. Javier Zanetti
- Position: Right-Back
To put into perspective just how great a player Javier Zanetti was for Inter Milan, the fact that upon retiring from soccer, his number 4 jersey was retired, and the club made him vice president.
615 league appearances and over 1,100 total career appearances make Zanetti one of the most prolific players ever to play in Serie A. The former player still holds the record for most Serie A appearances by a foreign player.
Zanetti was known for his incredible fitness, which allowed him to play professional soccer for 22 years running, and his nickname “El Tractor” tells us all we need to know about his work rate.
As captain of both club and country, Zanetti was a leader both onfield and off and is one of the most respected players ever to play soccer.
The complete player, Zanetti could do everything, pass, shoot, tackle, read the game, and could have played anywhere on the field and been a success.
Often deployed as a wing-back or wide midfielder, Zanetti ran the wings, covering defensively, and going forward to whip in crosses. One of the greatest players ever to pull on an Argentina jersey, Zanetti is the epitome of class.
7. Mario KempesEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
Despite playing for ten clubs in his long career, it’s probably his exploits for the Argentine national team that Kempes is best known for.
Kempes scored 20 goals in only 43 appearances for Argentina, and played in an incredible three World Cups, finishing top scorer in the 1978 World Cup on home soil.
In one game against Poland, Kempes deliberately stopped a goal by using his hand, and the resulting penalty was then missed by Poland.
While such behaviour is usually frowned upon, Kempes became a fan favorite, as, like Maradona years later, it’s not the hand ball that’s the problem, it’s not getting away with it that Argentinians don’t like.
6. Sergio Aguero
- Position: Centre-Forward
If it’s a predator your team needs, then look no further than Sergio Aguero, one of the deadliest strikers world soccer has ever seen. A remarkable career that brought 282 league goals in only
508 appearances, Aguero first caught the eye as a young striker at Atletico Madrid, where he quickly made a name for himself as a potential superstar.
A move to Manchester City in 2011 was the start of a ten-year love affair with the Premier League, where the Argentine striker became the highest-scoring import in the league’s history.
A City legend, Aguero scored the last-minute winner that won Manchester City its first Premier League in over four decades and is the club’s record goalscorer.
A lightning-fast player with the agility to turn quickly, Aguero was a stocky player that was hard to dispossess; many of his goals were similar in the way Aguero burst forwards with the ball over short distances before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
Aguero retired due to ill-health at the age of 33 after a move to Barcelona yielded just five games but will be remembered as a Premier League great.
5. Javier Mascherano
- Position: Defensive Midfield
No team is complete without a midfield general to maintain discipline, and Javier Mascherano is the perfect example of the defensive midfielder.
With an excellent work-rate, and a positional sense that allowed him to always be in the right place at the right time, Mascherano made a career out of stopping other teams playing soccer.
Mascherano first pinged on the soccer radar after moving to West Ham in 2006, after three successful years in Argentina and Brazil, and was a part of the dual-ownership scandal that also involved Carlos Tevez.
Due to contract complications, Mascherano was quickly sold to Liverpool, where he became an integral and highly successful midfielder.
The Argentine is probably best known for his years at Barcelona, where from 2010 to 2018 he was part of one of the most successful teams of all time. His role in the team may not have been sexy, but his contribution was massive.
His ability to marshal the defense, allowing his more attacking colleagues to go forward, meant that Mascherano was one of the most important players on the team.
Not a prolific goalscorer, Mascherano only managed two league goals in over 436 appearances, but will be remembered as one of the most accomplished midfielders of his generation. And with an eye-watering 147 caps for Argentina, he is one of the best Argentine players of all time.
4. Gabriel BatistutaEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
No list of the greatest Argentinian soccer players would be complete without Gabriel Batistuta, another export from South America that played his club soccer in Serie A.
Batigol, as the striker was known, was one of the most prolific and exciting forwards of the era, scoring 197 league goals in 332 appearances for Fiorentina and Roma.
Batistuta could score from anywhere, he was impossible to knock over due to his strength on the ball, and could score a free kick as well as anyone around. His heading was also superb, making him the complete center forward, Batigol could score any type of goal, with no time to adjust.
You know you’ve made it as a striker when the great Diego Maradona claims you’re the best striker he’s ever seen, and Batistuta was universally loved; he looked like he loved playing for the sheer enjoyment of it, and was known for his fair play and honesty while on the pitch.
Easily one of the best strikers the Serie A has ever seen, they don’t make them like Batistuta anymore.
3. Angel LabrunaEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Forward
The only player on our list to remain in South America for his entire career, Angel Labruna was consistently one of the best strikers around, for two decades the Argentine legend played for River Plate, scoring 294 goals in 515 league games.
In all competitions, Labruna scored 564 goals, making him one of the most lethal strikers Argentina has ever produced.
The River Plate team of the 1940s and 1950s became part of Argentine soccer legend, held in the same esteem as teams such as the Busby Babes, as the team dominated domestically.
Angel Labruna won nine league championships with River over his twenty years with the club, and his record in the derby with Boca Juniors is obscene, with 16 goals against their rivals.
Most soccer fans won’t know his name; the lack of footage from the era doesn’t help, but for those who love their soccer history, it’s hard not to be impressed with his achievements.
Labruna’s international career was solid too, with 17 goals in 37 appearances, and overall the loyalty shown to one club has to put the Argentine right up there on the list of greatest players.
2. Diego Maradona
- Position: Attacking Midfield
Diehard fans of the legend Diego Maradona will be outraged to find he only makes it into second place on our list of the greatest Argentine soccer players of all time, but give us a chance to explain ourselves.
Sure, Maradona is the most iconic soccer player of all time (although Messi and CR7 would argue this point); he just didn’t win as much as Lionel Messi has.
Maradona was the best player of his generation, of most generations, to be fair, but when stacked up against the trophies and success of Lionel Messi, we have to acknowledge that the king has been dethroned; long live the new king.
We want to ignore some of the off-field problems Maradona suffered and focus on his soccer career, which was undeniably incredible.
A superstar everywhere he went, Maradona made a name for himself in Argentina with Argentinos Juniors before a brief stay with Boca Juniors caught the eye of Barcelona.
In Spain, Maradona suffered badly; a broken ankle, hepatitis, and on-field fights meant Barcelona only managed 36 league appearances from Maradona.
The situation became untenable for both parties, and he was sold to Napoli in 1984, where his unveiling attracted over 75,000 fans to the Stadio San Paolo. Maradona transformed the team’s fortunes, almost single-handedly dragging it to its first Serie A title in 1987 before winning it again in 1990.
Worshipped as an almost godlike figure in Naples, Maradona is understandably loved the world over, especially in Naples and back in Argentina, where fans saw Maradona life the 1986 World Cup. A supremely gifted yet flawed character, there’s no one else quite like Diego Maradona.
1. Lionel Messi
- Position: Right Winger
Our choice to place Lionel Messi above the great Diego Maradona will invariably divide, and that’s fine. We understand just how exceptional a player Maradona was for Argentinians.
Messi just edges it for us, though, as he’s won more trophies, had a more successful career, and has played in a more competitive era.
If Messi had won the World Cup with Argentina, the debate wouldn’t even be a debate; Messi would win hands down. The problem is that he hasn’t, and while that might not matter to non-Argentines, those who follow the Argentina national soccer team know that until he does, the debate will continue.
However you feel about the top spot, there’s no denying that Lionel Messi has been consistently incredible for over a decade now. Possibly the most skillful player of any generation, Messi can do things on a soccer field that you can’t even replicate on FIFA.