Over the years, we have seen a lot of famous and talented Latinx football players. Choosing only 10 seems an almost impossible task, but we will try. There have been so many, in fact, that even winning the cup was sometimes not enough to make it on our list. A lot of the names listed below are known and talked about even by the people who don’t hold any special interest in football. So, let’s talk about the 10 cream of the crop, legendary Latin American players that we know and admire.
Of the 10 people on this list, this is the only goalkeeper. He played for Paraguay in three America Cups and in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. Without a doubt, he was the heart and soul of his team. He would both organize the defense strategy and implement it flawlessly, saving his team many times over. And not just that – Chilavert was also a master of penalty shots and free kicks, as demonstrated by the 68 goals he scored throughout his career.
One of the biggest Peruvian football talents, in the 70s Teófilo Cubillas, brought back the spirit of the Tlachti Incan masters of the old and proved his mates to be the worthy opponents to the strongest teams of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and many others. Due to Cubillas’ unparalleled skill with the ball, especially his talent for free kicks, he brought his team to victory in the 1975th America Cup and reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 1970 and 1978.
To this day, Figueroa is considered in Chile the greatest football player in the country's history. Besides being a wonderful team player, he also won a number of personal titles (he was chosen twice as a best Brazillian league player, and the best American player 3 times). Not many players could boast his versatility on the field – going from the position of a defender to playing in the role of the attacker with equal finesse and agility. Despite the fact that forwards normally get all the fame, this central defender is deservedly remembered for his knack for anticipating the opponents’ moves and enacting brilliant counter-plays.
Most of the football fans are probably familiar with the iconic 1950s picture of a thin fair-haired man moved to happy tears at the World Cup finale. In that historic match, the Uruguayan team defeated Brazil at their home stadium Maracaná, thus getting ahead in the championship. The first goals were scored by Schiaffino, an extremely skilled ambidextrous player who was the mastermind behind the team’s strategy. Thanks to him, Uruguay would reach the semifinals in 1954. At some point in his career, he had found himself in the AC Milan and is still remembered there as perhaps the strongest foreign addition to the team due to his unparalleled assists and goals.
Of everyone on this list, Garrincha might be the most fascinating – despite his struggle with alcoholism, he was not only an unrivalled strategic genius, but also a master of dribbling a ball on the field. He played in the same team as Pelé’, and was at times an even bigger draw for the fans who came to see their games. The best example of that might be the 1962 match in Chile where Pelé took the fall and was forced to leave the field, so Garrincha took command and brought the team to the bi-championship. There has never been a similar player before or since – this star of football is revered to this day for his unique playstyle and the domination of any field he played on. Whenever he and Pelé were on the same team, they haven’t lost a single game.
The list of the accomplishments of this Argentinian is almost unbelievable. The mastermind behind half of the Real Madrid wins during his stay with them, he later was anointed their honorary president. At the height of his fame, his fans called Stefano ‘the Blond Arrow’. In 1956, a movie by the same name was produced about this legendary player, where he appeared as himself. Not only was his own technique impeccable, he seemingly brought out the best in his teammates as well. And let’s not forget the fantastic number of goals he scored – 216 overall in 282 games.
The titan of football, Ronaldo. His first name does not even need to be mentioned. Faster than any defender in the world, with or without the ball. Famously unstoppable, he lands on the fourth place in our top 10 – it could have been the first, if not for two instances when he was forced to step away due to injury. He won the World Cup twice, received three Ballon D’Or, and scored a fantastic number of goals in the championships he took part in. He was equally feared and revered by the strongest teams he played for and against, like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, and AC Milan. Ronaldo was able to masterfully outplay goalkeepers and defenders alike with his skillful dribbling technique. But that’s not all – his assists and precise passes made him a valued part of the team, and his surgical hits from the outside area would often ensure the subsequent goals by his teammates. Upon his return to the field after taking care of his health problems, he gained some weight, but still remained the best in 20-meter passes.
Still, at the peak of his career, Messi might someday surpass even the two at the top of this list and take first place as the best Latin American football player in the rankings. He wins the hearts of his fans with his moving life story, and their minds with his unparalleled expertise. During the years when Barcelona was at the top of the football world, he was the face of the team. His swift rise to fame happened over the six years – an unbelievably short amount of time to accomplish such a feat. He was considered the best player in the world for four years from 2009 to 2012. To many fans, he still is. If he adds a World cup to the significant collection of his trophies and awards, he might take the place of Maradona as the runner-up to the top of this list. To this day, Leo draws the interest and fascination of football fans around the world. We eagerly await to see what marvelous things he’s going to accomplish in the future.
It’s hard to overstate the godlike status of this player in the eyes of the millions of his fans, or the absolute ecstasy that filled the stands when he held the World Cup. No matter what your personal opinion about him might be, the devotion that Maradona inspires is a force to be reckoned with. A lot of people would undoubtedly argue that he deserves first place in this top 10.
No fouls or injuries could put this stocky (1,65 m) but an insanely energetic man down, or keep him from accomplishing the best goal in football history. Twice he managed to make Napoli the champion of the Calcio; more than that, he scored 115 goals for them, which makes him the team’s biggest scorer. Completely deservedly, he is celebrated there to this day. A person of a fiery temper in-game and in life, can be divisive, but one thing is clear – his name will forever stay in the annals of football history.
This list might be about the best Latin American players, but the first place here goes beyond that – Pelé was not only chosen as the Best Player of the Century by the Soccer History Federation but also the Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. Need we say any more? The winner of three World Cups, the scorer of 541 goals (maximum number as of yet in football history), Pelé is truly a living legend.
Loyal to his team, he never left Brazil for any other league. He scored 77 goals for them only, and in general, he played 1363 matches and scored 1281 times. In 1958 he outshone Tostao and Rivelino, and in 1970 played beside Didi, Vavá, and Garrincha – and still stayed the best. With so many incredibly talented players around, he was nonetheless the strongest one. Brazil’s national treasure since 1961, and a world treasure since 1970. An inspiration to athletes all over the globe.