Just like our Brazilian dream lineup, this Top 11 of Argentinian players who have graced the Serie A with their presence feature some names that have made true history not only in the Italian top tier but in football itself.
Players from Argentina have been a long-standing presence in Serie A since the league re-opened its frontiers to foreign players in 1980. Even before Italy banned the signing of footballers from overseas in 1966, the Argentinian colony was among the most numerous in the world of calcio.
With so many names to choose from and a couple of spots filled de facto with no explanation needed (did anybody say Maradona?), we are sure our all-time Albiceleste selection in Italian sauce will spark some healthy debate among football aficionados.
So, let’s get it going!
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria)
A reliable goalkeeper that in his time spent at Sampdoria impressed the audience with his performances. He was under contract with La Samp for 4 years and spent one season on loan at French side Monaco. He is currently Argentina’s starter between the sticks and a solid choice for our first XI.
Right-Back: Javier Zanetti (Inter)
You saw it coming and it’s no wonder you did. Who else could have occupied this spot if not the Nerazzurri legend? Zanetti spent a staggering 19 years playing for Inter, a time in which he was coached by the same number of managers, a world record. He is Inter’s most capped ever player with 858 appearances in all competitions and one of the few players to have the honor of having their shirt number retired upon the end of their career. El Tractor was known for his infinite stamina that gave him the ability to tirelessly run up and down the pitch. He may well be the picture-book definition of professionalism, still going strong and starting every match even in his late 30’s. Also a gentleman, he managed to pick up just two red-cards during his entire 22-year career which for a defender is just insane. A true leader and magnificent player, he is our undisputable choice for the right-back.
Center-Back: Daniel Passarella (Fiorentina, Inter)
Passarella is the sole player to feature in both of Argentina’s World Cup winning campaigns and also managed to get into the all-time best Argentina players list. For a long time, he was the world’s top-scoring defender with 134 goals, a record that was subsequently broken by Ronald Koeman. El Gran Capitan spent 6 seasons in Italy playing for Fiorentina and Inter notching up 153 games in the top division but without winning any major trophy. Passarella was a true defensive wall, a very tough player who never shied away from a tackle, and despite his average height (1.73m), he was also very good in the air. His defensive prowess, fierce drive, and leadership abilities recommend him as a starter in the center of defense.
Center-Back: Walter Samuel (Roma, Inter)
A very tough choice indeed in finding Passarella’s pair in central defense but the sheer number of trophies and successes that Samuel had over his 13 years spent in Italy cannot be overlooked. Samuel joined Roma from Boca Juniors in 2000 and went on to win their third and last title up to date. His performances at the Stadio Olimpico earned him a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, where he spent the 2004-2005 season but failed to integrate. He would be later on sold to Inter, where he would enjoy the best years of his career. Samuel was part of the Nerazzurri ultra dominant side that won back-to-back titles for five consecutive seasons all starting upon his arrival. Just like Pasatrella, his partner in our team, Il Muro (“The Wall”) was tough as nails and also had an eye for goal. He usually threatened the opposition’s goal when it came to set pieces, showcasing impressive ability in the air. A great reader of the game and with excellent positioning sense, Samuel naturally fits the second spot in central defense.
Left-Back: Roberto Sensini (Udinese, Parma, Lazio)
One of the more controversial choices, not because of his talent but because Sensini was mainly a central defender. His tactical versatility, however, allowed him to cover several positions on the field often being deployed as a full-back. A member of Parma’s golden generation that won two UEFA Cups and two Coppa Italia, Sensini first got a taste of the Serie A at Udinese, joining them in 1989 from his boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys. He also played for Lazio in one of their best ever generations winning three trophies in the 1999-2000 season. Sensini was renowned for his ability to play across the defense in every role and also could do a very good job in the center of the midfield. An excellent tackler and ball-winner, he was also blessed with above-average ball-skills for a defensive player which helped him make runs up the field and contribute to the team’s attacking plays. The last piece in our four-man defense and a perfect match indeed.
Defensive Midfielder: Diego Simeone (Pisa, Inter, Lazio)
When you mention Diego Simeone today, you immediately associate him with Atletico Madrid. That was not the case two decades ago, however. El Cholo was an important figure in Italy’s top-flight as he spent eight seasons in the Peninsula – and he has the silverware to prove it. He was part of Lazio’s generation that conquered the club’s last league title and also won a UEFA Supercup with Inter. One of the best in the world in his position, Simeone is a no brainer in the holding midfield spot. One of the finest examples of box-to-box midfielders in history, he was capable of destroying the opposition’s attacks with his tenacious and hard-working style but could also easily orchestrate attacks making use of his South-American flair. A true leader, his sheer force of will seemed to carry the entire team across the line, he is the heartbeat of our first XI.
Central Midfielder: Esteban Cambiasso (Inter)
After spending the vast majority of his youth career at Real Madrid, Esteban Cambiasso went on a series of loans that were made to prepare him for the first-team action at the Spanish giants. He played two seasons at the first team where he regularly started but after running out his contract he chose to move to the Italian side Inter. It was during his 10 years playing at the San Siro that Cambiasso got the true taste of glory. Five Scudetto titles, four Coppa Italia, four Italian Supercoppa, and one UEFA Champions League make up the Argentinian’s impressive trophy cabinet. Although nothing seemed glamorous at first sight about him or his style of play, Cambiasso was not only a destroyer. He was mainly a hard-working defensive player who possessed the skills and tactical intelligence to play several roles across the midfield. He also blessed with a touch of South-American flair which helped him start attacks from the deep midfield role, spraying passes across the pitch or advancing with the ball at his feet going past his opponents.
Central Midfielder: Juan Sebastian Veron (Sampdoria, Parma, Lazio, Inter)
La Brujita completes our holding midfielders trio and you probably saw it coming. Another box-to-box maestro, Veron was one of Swedish coach Sven Goran Eriksson’s favorites. He first signed him at Sampdoria where he impressed in a two-year spell and then moved on to Parma being part of one of Serie A’s most beautiful teams. Veron spent just one year at the Emilian club, winning the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup before Eriksson came knocking at the door and made him one of Lazio’s top ever signings at the time. He was the driving force behind Lazio’s 1999-2000 treble-winning campaign scoring eight goals and inspiring his team with his force and vision from the middle of the park. Veron was a complete midfielder, he could do anything – shoot, pass, tackle, set-pieces. You name it, Veron had it. Extremely talented and versatile, he is the perfect orchestrator for our first XI.
Attacking Midfielder: Diego Armando Maradona (Napoli)
I don’t think there is anything to be said in order to motivate this decision. Regarded by most as the greatest football player of all time, Maradona was capable of carrying a whole team by himself. He did it at the national side, he did it at Napoli. The man is a legend. In his seven years spent in the south of Italy, Maradona helped Napoli win their only two titles in history. He was a god in both Naples and Argentina, but somehow he just couldn’t stay away from trouble. But apart from his personal problems, nobody can ever deny that Maradona was a true football genius in the purest sense of the word. It’s hard to explain with just words what this man could to with a football. If you are not old enough to have seen him live, or have been living under a rock and don’t know how he played, just check out his highlights.
Forward: Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina, Roma, Inter)
183 goals in 318 matches, not bad at all. You don’t get nicknamed “Bati-goal” if you don’t have an eye for, you know…goals! Batistuta is the top-scoring Argentinian in the history of the Serie A despite mostly playing for clubs that didn’t usually challenge for the title. He did manage to win one Scudetto whilst playing for Roma but most of his time spent in Italy was in Florence. La Viola fans still love him and he is still regarded as their best ever striker. He was a dynamic force of nature, a lethal finisher who was good with either foot, his head, from long or short-range. Simply unstoppable once he got going.
Forward: Omar Sivori (Juventus, Napoli)
A blast from the past, Sivori was a huge crowd favorite during the ’60s whilst playing for Juventus, where he won three Serie A titles. His outrageous dribbling skills coupled with his 135 goals in 8 seasons for the “Old Lady” are a statement to this man’s influence on the Italian first league. Although he was also known for his fondness of a good whiskey and a night out, he still is an iconic figure both in his home country as well as overseas. Similar to Maradona, Sivori was not only a prolific goal-scorer but also an excellent creator, with vision, pass accuracy, and tricks up his sleeve that could undermine any defense.
Goalkeeper: Albano Bizzarri (Catania, Lazio, Genoa, Pescara, Chievo, Udinese, Foggia, Perugia)
Argentina was never known for outstanding goalkeepers but they always managed to find reliable men between the sticks. Such is our choice for Romero’s back-up, Albano Bizzarri. A true journeyman, Bizzarri played for six teams in the Italian first league and is still part of Perugia’s squad at the time. He managed to make over 100 appearances in the Serie A which makes him sufficiently qualified for a spot in our team.
Center-Back: Roberto Ayala (Napoli, Milan)
Ayala is one of the best defenders in Argentina’s history and it’s been a very tough decision to leave him on the bench. However, despite playing for an important number of years in the Serie A, his best years were spent in Spain. Nevertheless, he couldn’t miss out on the squad and could always fill in for any of the starters. El Raton was one of the most complete defenders of his generation, having in strength, determination, and tenacity his main qualities. Also great in the air, Ayala was always one of the leaders in the locker-room as he captained both his national and club sides on various occasions.
Right-Back: Nicolas Burdisso (Inter, Roma, Genoa, Torino)
14 years in the Serie A and 4 league titles earn Burdisso a well-deserved spot in our squad. He started his adventure in Italy for Inter where he also had the most successful part of his career, and then went on to represent Roma, Genoa, and Torino before retiring in 2018.
Central Midfielder: Matias Almeyda (Lazio, Parma, Inter, Brescia)
With over 100 appearances in the Seria A for some of the best teams of his generation, Almeyda is the perfect substitute for our defensive midfield roles. Another tireless diminutive player, he was just a thorn in the opposition’s attack and midfield, always up for a hard tackle, and never giving up, like a pit bull in the center of the field.
Attacking Midfielder: Paulo Dybala (Palermo, Juventus)
Only 26 years old, it seems like Dybala has been around forever. Starting his first-team career at 18 while playing for Palermo it was not long until top dogs Juventus snatched up La Joya for a hefty fee of 40M Euros. But considering how money is thrown around these football days, this may seem like a bargain. Dybala is one of the world’s most talented and skillful players with pace, trickery, and an eye for goal. His versatility allows him to cover all the forward positions, being it central striker, winger, inverted winger, or behind the forward. Massimiliano Allegri even played him in a deeper playmaking role when needed, and described him as a tuttocampista (an “all-fielder”). Also a great freekick taker and a great team player, Dybala is the best substitute for the great Diego Maradona.
Forward: Hernan Crespo (Parma, Lazio, Inter, Milan, Genoa)
Argentina’s second all-time goalscorer in Serie A, Hernan Crespo won trophies at every team he played for in Italy except Genoa. He broke the world transfer record in 2000 when Lazio paid a staggering 56M Euros for his services, but Crespo delivered and was Serie A’s top goalscorer that season. He failed to adapt to the Premier League after transferring to Chelsea and ended up being loaned back to his second home Italy where, he shined again for Milan and Inter, the latter making his loan permanent. Crespo was a player of incredible elegance and potency, a penalty-box predator who relied on cunning and clinical one-touch finishing. Great in the air, as most of the players in our team, Crespo displayed great composure when in front of the goal. Top that off with the fact that he never received a red card in his 19-year career – a true gentleman.
Forward: Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli, Juventus, Milan)
El Pipita is still going strong for Juventus after being reunited with his mentor Maurizio Sarri. He may not be at the heights reached during his time at Napoli, where he broke the goal scoring record with a tally of 36 goals back in the 2015-16 season. Often underrated and used to play amongst superstars like his time spent at Real Madrid, Higuain has always been a more than reliable striker and a plus to every squad he played for. A well-rounded striker, lethal in the final third, and also a good link-up player, Higuain is our last substitute for our team.
Honorable mentions are midfielder Ariel Ortega (Sampdoria, Parma), forward Claudio Caniggia (Verona, Atalanta, Roma), and forward Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
Feature Photo Graphics by Andreea Stefanescu