1. "Media puntadas" (offensive midfielders): 30 South American greats 
2. All-round forwards v "pescadores" (penalty-box specialists)
3. The use of foreigners and foreign-based players in the World Cup

1. "Media puntadas" (offensive midfielders): 30 South American greats 
From: marcelo@apollo.HP.COM (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: Five most overrated players in the world
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 95 21:10:07 MDT

bb09872@bingsuns.cc.binghamton.edu (Dj LoOT!) writes:

> Can you please give me the list of the 20 South American offensive
> midfielders that were either numbers 10 or 8 that Valderrama cannot
> be compared to? No one player has opened the door for Colombian
> soccer around the world more than Valderrama, not even Ortiz. Don't
> be so biased against a player just because he is not from the so
> called strong Latin American futbol countries. [...]

Well, you asked for it...

Let me start by stating the criterion I will use: it's impossible to
totally compare players from different times, and of course I'm not old
or fortunate enough to have seen some of them. However, we can always
use as a measure what these players accomplished at their own time, how
they were considered internationally, how they compared to the players
of that time. The list is by no means exhaustive.

Let me add that I'm using it only as an exercise to list South American
genius: it would be a waste of time to use so much talent to challenge
Valderrama's status. Not that I think he's not an excellent player: I'd
like to have him in my team (provided he plays the way he played some
games with Colombia). But to be listed in such a list, you need to
accomplish something better than sitting many times in Montpellier's
bench or contributing to send Valladolid to the second division. Even
better than winning two WC qualifications and one Libertadores. Tens of
players did it after all, you know...

Finally, some of the players I'll include (notably, Pele or Di Stefano)
can be thought as center-forwards. However, they played in most of the
field rather than in the penalty area, so they are more like a "media
puntada." So let's go:

Pele (Brasil), Maradona (Argentina), Di Stefano (Argentina): should I
add something? After these 3, I would add:
Pepe Schiaffino (Uruguay): world champion, considered to be one of the
                best players to have graced the Italian league in all
                times. I even read this statement in a British soccer
                encyclopedia, and British media cannot be considered to
                be biased in favour of South Americans... can it?
Jose Omar Sivori (Argentina): again, one of the best players to have
                 played in Italy in all times. Best European player of
                 the year in 1961 (after he got Italian citizenship)
Jose Manuel Moreno (Argentina): I heard many South American old enough
                   journalists saying that he was better than Pele and
                   Di Stefano (actually, he played with Di Stefano in
                   River). Unfortunately, for political reasons
                   Argentina excluded itself from international soccer
                   in its best time (late fourties and early fifties).
                   While Uruguay and Brasil dominated the WC, Argentina
                   had dominated both of them in the South American
                   arena at the time.
Angel Labruna (Argentina): another genius from the Maquina of River in
              the fourties.
Walter Gomez (Uruguay): In a time where Schiaffino was enjoying all the
             glory I described, he wasn't even considered to be the best
             Uruguayan #10 in his own country. This honor was given to
             Walter Gomez, but since he was playing out of the country
             (again, River Plate of the late fourties and fifties), he
             didn't play in the national team. River fans used to sing:
             "La gente ya no come, por ver a Walter Gomez."
Didi (Brasil): Well, I don't need to add more as he is quite well known
               outside South America...
Zizinho (Brasil): He would be remembered just as Pele or Didi, hadn't
        Brasil lost the WC'50 final...
Ademir (Brasil): same as Zizinho... and I heard this from people in the
       winning side!
Gerson (Brasil): you probably saw him, so no need for explanations here.
Anibal Ciocca (Uruguay): the original Principe, from whom Francescoli
              got his nickname. Just before La Maquina of River, a
              legendary team, the best in the area (which at the time,
              with no discussions, meant the best in the world) was
              Nacional of the 1938-42 "quinquenio." They had two
              formidable "entrealas" or "insiders" (the way today's
              offensive midfielders were called). One was "el Principe"
              Ciocca. The other one, is next in this list.
Roberto Porta (Uruguay): not only a genius in Nacional, but also in
              Independiente, as Uruguay had already started its export
              tradition. Again, remember: the best soccer in the world
              was played at both shores of the Rio de la Plata. They
              didn't send their main teams to the WC's in the thirties
              simply because they didn't want to have their players
              "kidnapped," as was the case with Scarone, Monti, Orsi,
              Andreolo, Guaita...
Severino Varela (Uruguay): From the same years, a legend not only in
                Pen~arol but mainly in Boca Jrs. ("la boina fantasma")
Hector Scarone (Uruguay): Probably the first player to be "kidnapped" by
               Europeans. He played for Barcelona after Uruguay showed
               to the world, in the 1928 Olympic games, ball skills that
               were simply unknown to Europeans (I'm citing again a
               British source...), but returned to Uruguay since he
               wanted to participate in the first WC. Later, despite
               being in his thirties, he left again, this time for
               Italy, to join Inter (Ambrossiana). He was considered as
               the best player in the world during the twenties and
               early thirties.
Zico (Brasil): you know this one, don't you?

In the second rate, which are still much better than Valderrama, I would

Teofilo Cubillas (Peru): you see, I can recognize talent from the other
                 side of the Andes when it is so blatant... :-) In a
                 similar situation, i.e., leading the emergence of his
                 country's soccer, Valderrama doesn't even compare to
Adhemir da Guia (Brasil): were you fortunate enough to see play for
                Palmeiras in the late sixties and early seventies?
Ermindo Onega (Argentina): take a tape of WC'66 and I won't need to add
              explanations. I had the fortune to see him play for my
              team, Pen~arol, at the end of his career. Still a genius.
Osvaldo Ardiles (Argentina): A great talent which added to it also some
                defensive skills.
Socrates (Brasil): I'm still wondering if he doesn't have a place in the
         first rate, but I think he lacks the fire...
Pedro Rocha (Uruguay): Not only the basis of the legendary Pen~arol of
            the sixties, but ask Sao Paulo fans who was Rocha in the
Ricardo Bochini (Argentina): well, I'm sure you saw this one playing. He
                can multiply Valderrama's only achievement (a
                Libertadores) by 5! He can even claim to be a WC'86
                champion... and above all he was an absolute genius.

Having given a list of 24 players, I can give you now a list of South
American offensive midfielders that are in the same league as Valderrama
(i.e., can be compared to him) but, in my opinion, were better than him
(although in this case I admit that Valderrama might be arguably better)

Francescoli (Uruguay): Valderrama won a Libertadores? Francescoli too
            (although he didn't play in the late stages, in 1986).
            Valderrama got the "best South American player" award (for
            what it worth...)? Francescoli too. Valderrama played two
            WC's? Francescoli too. But, did Valderrama win a Copa
            America? No, he didn't. Francescoli won two of them and a
            second place. Did Valderrama have some success in Europe?
            Not at all. Although less successful than what could be
            expected, Francescoli is in a different league in this
            particular item.
Beto Alonso (Argentina): Although I didn't like him, he was undoubtedly
            a great player. And a world champion, too.
Cesar Cueto (Peru): another one from the other side of the Andes!
Romerito (Paraguay): at his best, playing for Fluminense, he was, IMHO,
         better than Valderrama. But I admit I might be wrong.
Ruben Paz (Uruguay): Ask people who followed the Brazilian league in the
          eighties. Did you see him in the Mundialito in 1980-81? Not a
          big event, but more than whatever Valderrama can claim...

I'm sure I forgot many players, but isn't this list enough? Cheers,

>From marcelo@hplms1.hpl.hp.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: Teofilo Cubillas (was: Re: Telemundo sucks loudly)
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 19:18:35 GMT

nguzman@ufcc.ufl.edu (Nick Guzman) writes:
> (Marcelo Weinberger) writes:
> > Teofilo Cubillas was a great playmaker, indeed. But Carlos, come
> > on, one of the best of all time in a continent whose main soccer
> > production has been playmakers? And not just real genius: genius
> > that won championships! One of the best of his time, agreed. Of
> > all time? Just consider this list:
> > Argentina: Di Stefano, Maradona, Sivori, Moreno
> > Uruguay: Schiaffino, Walter Gomez, Hector Scarone, Ciocca
> > Brasil: Pele, Didi (Cubillas' coach, BTW), Gerson, and many more
> >         including Zico
> BTW Marcelo, How many of these playmakers can claim 10 goals in a
> single WC? And especially in one touted as being one of the highest
> quality WC ever played (WC70)? Maybe Cubillas was actually one of the
> greatest in the "history of the World Cup" (as a matter of fact that
> is how I have seen him described in a couple of books regarding the
> WC).
> I agree that Cubillas was neither Pele nor Maradona. But the fact
> that his WC70 team did not advance further (or "won championships" as
> you say) has a lot more to do with the misfortune of having to play
> against a Brasilian team that most people agree was the greatest team
> to EVER play in a WC (yes, I know the argument about Brasil 82) than
> with the quality of the Peruvian team.

First, the underlying below "won championships" was not mine. This was
not a central part of my argument, although I regard this as important.
Second, saying that Peru's elimination is related to the misfortune of
playing Brasil ignores the structure of a WC: Peru played Brasil because
it was second in its group. Had Peru obtained the first place, the
opponent would have been England, not Brasil. This is just to contradict
your argument and has nothing to do with Cubillas (a great player, as I

> Remember who they eliminated to get to the WC? Many Argentinians will
> agree that Peru eliminated an Argentinian team that had as many great
> individual players as the '78 and '86 teams

Incidentally, I regard Colombia today as playing a similar style to that
Peruvian team, and now look what a coincidence: both tend to summarize
their glory in victories against Argentina. I wish they succeed, but
claiming that a team was great at a world level requires more than a
victory against Argentina.

> So with all due respect to all the great players you listed above, in
> WC history, Cubillas can claim to have been one of the best (just as
> much as Johann Cruyff, Ferenc Puskas and Eusebio can claim to
> have been one of the best in WC history without ever winning a WC).
> El nene was clearly below the likes of Pele and Maradona, but at the
> same level of some, and above many of the ones you listed.

Cubillas, a great player, played many years. He can claim only one cup
at an international level, including clubs and national team: the 1975
Copa America, where BTW neither Argentina nor Brasil used full squads.
As I wrote at the beginning of this message, I don't think that winning
championships is the key issue to discard him, but the final credentials
are the achievements, not necessarily in WCs. In your examples: Puskas
and Cruyff were runner ups, Eusebio (besides a third place) won EC1 with
Benfica. These are things that people remember. South America had superb
playmakers, but nobody will remember, say, Beto Alonso as one of the
best: there were so many and so good, that one has to select as the best
of all time those that lead their teams to many, many championships,
those that played regularly at the top levels of their time.

For example, Walter Gomez was the best Uruguayan playmaker in 1950, he
was rated above Schiaffino, but he didn't play WC'50 since he was playing
abroad (at that time, in River Plate across the river was considered
"abroad"). So he didn't win a WC. But one can safely say that a player
for which the River supporters of the early 50's, the top world level,
song "la gente ya no come, por ver a Walter Gomez", was one of the best
playmakers of all time. Di Stefano and Sivori didn't participate in WCs,
as they were playing abroad. But the world recognized them as the best
and that's why they were playing in Spain and Italy, respectively.

Schiaffino not just won a WC and played the "game of the century", where
he lost WC'54: he had a great career in Milan, playing at the top level
of his time. Did Cubillas, with all due respects, play regularly at that
level? No, and this is the reason for which I cannot rate him among the
best of all time. I probably should not have included Zico in that list,
but except for him, I can't see what did you mean by "he was above many
of the ones you listed". Examples?

2. All-round forwards v "pescadores" (penalty-box specialists)
From: marcelo@apollo.HP.COM (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: A moment of thought for Alex Aguinaga
Date: Feb 27, 1996

Ariel Mazzarelli writes:
> Oh, and what about Spencer? I'll let Marcelo answer that one

What about Spencer? It would be enough to say that he is the greatest
scorer in the history of Copa Libertadores (44 goals; second is Morena
with 37; both played for Pen~arol, of course). Take a look at the tape
of Pen~arol 2 - Real Madrid 0, Intercontinental 1966, where he scored
twice (I don't remember if it's the game in Montevideo or the one in
Madrid, both finished 2-0 and he scored in both...), and then tell me
what about him...

In fact, Ecuador doesn't need to generate 10 Aguinagas to become a
"respectable" soccer country: one Alberto Pedro Spencer was enough.

From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: Marco Van Basten is overrated!
Date: [1993?]

gvanmoor@aoc.nrao.edu (Gustaaf Van Moorsel) writes:
> Mario Smarduch writes:
> > European scorers are good finishers but not skillfull players
> > (unlike most South American scorers), remember Rossi and Mueller.
> ... you have a point here, although I would not call people like
> Rossi and Mueller not skillful: being a continuous threat in the
> opponents penalty area takes a lot of skill. These players will not
> even attempt to pass one player; they know far too well that their
> strength lies elsewhere. I think I've never seen Gerd Mueller touch
> a ball more than twice per ball possession. It is indeed a type of
> player I've rarely if ever seen among South Americans. If I had, more
> world championships would have gone there, I'm sure.

I can remember several South American players of this kind, most of
them Argentineans. The more extreme case I have seen is Luis Artime, a
formidable Argentinean scorer who was at his best during the 1964-1972
period. He was an extreme case for two reasons: first, his skill of
being in the right place at the right time was incredible, and second,
his lack of any other skill was incredible too. In 1969, after having
starred at River and Independiente, he arrived to Nacional (of Uruguay),
and with his and other arrivals the long ruling of Pen~arol during the
sixties came to an end.  His goals were crucial for Nacional to win the
Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cups in 1971. I also remember him
as a real gentleman. Another Argentinean of the same kind that played
for Nacional was Sanfilippo, in the early sixties.

In Spanish, this kind of players are called "pescadores". Since most
European teams nowadays play with only 2 forwards, such players are no
longer possible. However, in South America you still have teams using
the traditional 4-3-3, with two wings, and the center-forward is very
often just a scorer. But you need two wings like the ones that played
with Artime at Nacional, either dribblers as Luis Cubilla, or runners as
Julio C. Morales.

From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Foreign Legions (was Re: Marco Van Basten is overrated!)
Date: [1993?]

meadeff@sadeff.vislab.olemiss.edu (Sergio E. Adeff) writes:
> Marcelo's account of Argentinean van Bastens is really accurate, Artime
> being the most consistent one.  He didn't do as well in WC, though
> (pretty much as Van Basten), so he truly is the equivalent one.  But
> he got tired of winning championships for his club teams...
> ...Kempes didn't do as well for club teams though.

It might be inferred from Sergio's reference that I see Van Basten as
just a scorer, like Artime, which is not the case at all. He is much,
much more than that. I can remember one South American counterpart, at an
obviously lower level though: Fernando Morena, Pen~arol's and Valencia's
forward of the seventies and early eighties. Besides being a great
scorer (he scored something like 700 goals during his career), he was
able to play anywhere in the field. And, what a coincidence, he also was
really bad with the national team (the Uruguayan), while getting tired
of winning championships for his club teams (Libertadores and Toyota
Cups with Pen~arol in 1982, the UEFA Cup with Valencia some years before
that, but I'm less sure about this one). BTW, Sergio, his fellow forward
in Valencia was Kempes.

3. The use of foreigners and foreign-based players in the World Cup
From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Foreign Legions (was Re: Marco Van Basten is overrated!)
Date: [1993?]

As for Artime's performance with the national team, I don't remember
how well he did in WC'66, but since then he didn't have another
opportunity! He wasn't responsible for Argentina's elimination of WC'70
(remember the Peruvian "Cachito" Ramirez?), since before '74 it was not
customary in South America to bring players that are playing abroad to
play for the national team (Artime was playing in Uruguay and also in
Brasil, for Palmeiras). And this raises the question: when did national
teams start using their "foreign legion"? Did Europeans use them before
that? For example, did Luis Suarez play for the Spanish national team
while being in Italy? (Sorry, I can't remember other examples in Western
Europe.) Because in South America, Argentina and Uruguay started using
them only in WC'74. And there were plenty of examples of stars playing
overseas before that. Just consider:
- Di Stefano and Sivori didn't play for Argentina since they left the
  country. Can you imagine a mid-field with these two players in the
  late fifties?
- Schiaffino and Santamaria didn't play for Uruguay after '55, when they
  left for Milan and Real Madrid, respectively.
- Many, many Uruguayan players that were playing in Argentina during the
  sixties (100 miles away from Montevideo, so the distance was not a
  factor!) were not taken into account. Some examples: Matosas, Cubilla,
  Pavoni. The first two played for the national team again only in
  WC'70, after "returning home", and Pavoni in WC'74, when he was
  already too old. I can even bring examples from 1950 (Walter Gomez,
  the Uruguayan that was signed by River Plate some months before WC'50
  and was forced to leave the national team).
- In 1970, Brasil did have a great goalie, non comparable to the
  ridiculous Felix: Manga, who was playing for Nacional in Montevideo.
  He was almost as good as the best Southamerican goalie of these years,
  Mazurkiewicz. I know that Brasilians blame him for their poor
  performance in WC'66, but anyway, Manga was a superb goalkeeper.
- The superb attack of Pen~arol's team in the sixties was based on
  Spencer and Joya, from Ecuador and Peru respectively. Since they
  joined Pen~arol, they didn't play for their national teams any more.
  And during those years, Spencer was probably the second best
  center-forward in the world, behind the great Eusebio of course.

  This are just a few examples and, again, I would appreciate if any
European poster can tell me what was the situation in Europe before
WC'74 and, if he knows, what was the reason for that.

From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: Foreign Legions (was Re: Marco Van Basten is overrated!)
Date: [1993]

Sergio E. Adeff writes:
>Italians did exactly the other extreme of what South Americans were
>doing at the time (see Marcelo's account of SA rejecting players
>playing in foreign lands before WC74).  They imported foreigners of
>Italian ascendancy and have them playing on the Italian team!.
>Italy used TWO famous Argentinean players to WIN a world cup.

I think the other two were called Orsi and Guaita. And they also did
have a Uruguayan player in their WC'38 team: Andriolo. I also think that
Santamaria played for Spain (not in a WC) after having played for
Uruguay in WC'54. But there are also examples across the Atlantic Ocean.
The most impressive I can remember is Juan Eduardo Hohberg, a superb
striker that played for Uruguay in WC'54, especially remembered for the
semi-finals game against Hungary, which many people believe to have been
the most exciting WC game ever. After a 2-0 Hungarian lead in the first
half, Hohberg scored twice. Then, in the last minute, he kicked a ball
that was stopped by a puddle before entering the goal. Hungary
deservedly won in overtime 4-2, and this was the first game in WC
history lost by Uruguay. Well, this Hohberg was born in Cordoba,
Argentina, and he even played some soccer there. A similar example: the
left wing of the world champions in WC'50, Vidal, was born in Argentina
(but I think that he was quite young when he went to Uruguay).