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Latin American football

From Pelé all the way to Messi, South America has famously brought us many of the most successful footballing icons in the history of the beautiful game. Group Tours Travel Consultant and devoted Sheffield Wednesday supporter Sean Rhodes takes a look at the South American players who have been most influential in shaping the fortunes of British clubs over the years… and explains how Diego Maradona was nearly among them.

1. Carlos Tévez (WEST HAM UNITED, MAN UNITED, MANCHESTER CITY)

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Tévez is certainly the most controversial, but also arguably the most successful Latin American footballer to play in the English top flight. Tevez has won the Premier League with both Manchester teams as well as the Champions League and FA Cup with United. Individually he also won the Golden Boot in 2011, scoring 20 goals.

Did you know? In his spare time, Tévez moonlights as a pop star with Piola Vago, a cumbia villera group from the shanty town of Fuerte Apache on the outskirts of the Argentine capital where he was born.

2. DAVID LUIZ (CHELSEA)

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After a mixed start to his Chelsea career, Brazilian Luiz has gone on to win the FA Cup and Champions League with the west London Club. Luiz has also captained his national team, against South Africa in September 2012.

Did you know? The Sideshow Bob lookalike was once memorably ridiculed by Gary Neville, who claimed he looked as though he was “being controlled by a ten-year-old in the crowd on a PlayStation.”

3. OSSIE ARDILES (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR)

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Osvaldo ‘Ossie’ Ardiles, a native of Argentina, helped Tottenham win the FA Cup in his third season there (1980-81) and was a major force in the Spurs team that reached the final the following year. He also had a less successful spell managing the club in the mid-90s.

Did you know? Interestingly, Ossie collaborated with pop duo Chas and Dave on the song ‘Ossie’s Dream’.

4. Faustino Asprilla (Newcastle United)

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Asprilla had a mixed period with Newcastle which ended in 1998, and the tone of his stay was summed up when he arrived dressed in a flamboyant fur coat during a snowstorm in 1996. The Colombian famously scored a hat trick against Barcelona in the Champions League and achieved a similar feat against Nottingham Forest to secure Newcastle’s place in the tournament the following season.

Did you know?
Asprilla’s nickname ‘El Pulpo’ (the Octopus) comes from his habit of putting everything that is placed in his hands in his mouth.

5. RICKY VILLA (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR)

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Another FA Cup winner with Tottenham and the third Argentinean in our list, Villa is today perhaps best-known for his goal in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay, which was awarded Wembley’s Goal of the Century Award in 2001.

Did you know? Fondly remembered for his hirsute appearance (lending him a passing resemblance to Che Guevara), Villa also dedicated himself to politics for a period in the 90s.

6. And the one that got away...

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DIEGO MARADONA (SHEFFIELD UNITED – ALMOST!)

Blades manager Harry Haslam had struck a deal to sign Maradona for an estimated £600,000 in 1978, but after being told there were no funds to complete the deal, he turned to Alex Sabella as his replacement.

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Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Millie Davies
    Millie Davies - Travel Expert

    Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.

  • Charlotte in Bolivia
    Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert

    Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.

Meet the team