Despite being on the opposite sides of the planet, Argentina and Italy have a very close history that is interlinked in many different ways. With such a close relationship, it’s not surprising that many of the best Argentinian footballers have ventured to Italy to play in Serie A, one of Europe’s biggest leagues. The result has seen some of the very best players of all time earn legendary careers that still shine on to this day and become cult heroes throughout the country. So which famous Argentinian footballers have thrived in Italy’s top tier?
5 best Argentinian footballers in Serie A history
Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan)
Very few players stay with one club for all their careers yet Javier Zanetti did exactly this, playing at the pinnacle of Italian football for almost 2 decades. Joining Inter in 1995, the right-back was a constant presence at the San Siro, winning fans over with his pace and excellent technical ability.
Never one to give less than 100%, Zanetti was one of the most consistent full-backs in the world throughout both the 1990s and the 2000s becoming one of the most beloved players in Europe. Zanetti has a trophy cabinet full of awards including 5 Serie A titles, 4 Coppa Italia winner’s medals as well as a Champions League winner’s medal too.
His career was one of the most successful in Serie A history with the 4th most appearances in Serie A history and most for a foreign player at 612 games. On top of that, his number 4 shirt was retired at the end of his career in 2014 and he was inducted into the Italian Hall of Fame in 2018.
Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina, Roma, Inter Milan)
No list of the greatest Argentinian footballers in Serie A would be complete with the mercurial striker Gabriel Batistuta.
A promising youngster in the early 90s, Batistuta moved to Fiorentina in 1991 from Boca Juniors amid rising expectations. He didn’t disappoint for La Viola scoring 13 goals in 27 appearances as his pace and finishing ability was shown for all to see. He would use that finishing ability to deadly effect in the following years scoring 20+ plus goals in 4 consecutive seasons for Fiorentina in the late 90s.
At the start of the millennium, Batistuta left Tuscany for Rome and immediate proved that he could be just as effective elsewhere, scoring 20 goals in 28 games in the 2000/01 season. Unfortunately, injuries dogged his late-career affecting his time with both Roma and Inter. The Serie A title with Roma in 2000/01 still proved to be his only major title win although his Argentine Player of the Year award in 1998 and induction into both the Roma and Fiorentina Hall of Fame awards shows the true quality of Batigol’s career.
Juan Sebastian Veron (Sampdoria, Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan)
Juan Sebastian Veron can be considered one of the top midfield generals of the 1990s and 2000s and it was in Italy where he was at his most successful. Known for his excellent passing ability and powerful set pieces, Veron was always pulling the strings tormenting defences throughout Italy and Europe.
His most prevalent goalscoring run was with Lazio, where he scored 11 goals in 53 appearances cementing his place as one of Europe’s top players. An ill-timed spell in England didn’t work out as well as he had hoped and he flourished briefly again with Inter Milan, as they dominated Serie A in the mid-2000s, before winding his career down in Argentine with boyhood side Estudiantes.
Veron’s success was well defined with 2x Argentine Footballer of the Year awards and a spot in the 1998 World Cup All-Star team.
Hernan Crespo (Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Genoa)
With his long hair and quick pace, few glided through penalty areas like Hernan Crespo at the turn of the century. His presence in the final third was unmatched by most strikers and he consistently found the net no matter which side he played for.
His form in the 1999/2000 and 2000/01 seasons saw him score 22 and 26 goals respectively for Parma and Lazio earning him a reputation as one of Europe’s deadliest strikers. He returned in 2005 following a few seasons in England and still looked the part scoring 14 goals in 29 games for Inter Milan in 2007.
This form allowed Crespo to win 3 Serie A titles and 1 Coppa Italia as he was named as part of the FifPro Team of the Year in both 2005 and 2006. An excellent career all-round.
Diego Maradona (Napoli)
There is perhaps no greater love affair between club and player than Diego Maradona and Napoli.
The Argentine legend was known for his mesmerizing runs and finishing leading Napoli to dominate Europe throughout much of the 1980s. During his time in Naples, Maradona scored 81 goals in 188 league games but led his side to 2 Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 as well as the 1989 Europa League. Some of his goals were incedible.
It was here though that Maradona would prove enough highlights to be called Fifa Player of the Century in 2000 and have his 10 jersey retired once he left the Italian club. The love affair remains to this day and just after Maradona died in 2020, Napoli renamed their stadium in his honour cementing his legacy once and for all in the city. A true legend. Not just one of the best Argentinian footballers in Serie A history but, arguably, the best player of all time.
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