The continent of South America has long been one of football’s finest talent factories.
From the favelas of Brazil, to the barrios of Argentina, countless world class players have hailed from regions in that part of the world.
Its football history is so rich that of the four players that grapple for position in the argument of ‘best player ever’ South American can lay claim to three of them: Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Pele.
The other is, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo who hails from Portugal.
However, if you’d care to scour further back through the footballing echelons of immortality, you could also include a host of other South American legends in that conversation: Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Garrincha, Alfredo Di Stefano, Zico, and trust us when we say the list only goes on.
Anyway, you get the point, South America is a special place for the beautiful game. And now we’ve ran through some of its finest players in history, why not consider who it’s best representatives are right now?
Fortunately, FourFourTwo, as they have done so frequently with other controversial topics throughout this off-season, have sought to decipher exactly that.
FourFourTwo’s 10 best South American footballers right now
10. Fabinho Tavares
The Reds’ highly rated Brazilian defensive midfielder can manage just tenth position overall, which given how integral he is to Jurgen Klopp’s team seems pretty harsh.
Fabinho is widely regarded to be amongst the best central midfielders in the Premier League, but maybe the fact he is often kept out of the Brazil team by Casemiro counts against him in this case.
9. Gabriel Jesus
Arsenal’s new £45 million man skips in just ahead of his Premier League compatriot.
He enjoyed a decent goal return at Manchester City across his time there, scoring 95 goals across 234 games in all competitions, but saw his game time decrease last season and he’ll be hoping his move to the Gunners will aid him in his bid to secure a starting berth for the Selecao at the upcoming World Cup.
8. Lautaro Martinez
The lethal Argentine forward was an essential ingredient in firing Inter Milan to the Serie A title two seasons ago and he came close last campaign too, scoring 25 goals as his club narrowly missed out on retaining their glory.
Still aged just 24, Martinez could have a big future ahead of him for both club and country.
7. Luis Diaz
Liverpool’s latest sensation, Diaz hit the ground running like few we’ve ever seen in the Premier League. The Colombian touched down in the UK and became a guaranteed starter in arguably the world’s best team within three games – it was some feat.
If there’s one criticism you could level at the energetic winger it’s that he hasn’t scored enough goals for the Reds. Six in a Liverpool shirt since he joined seems decent enough, however it could have been so many more had his finishing been on point.
Nevertheless, that should come and he’s a star for sure.
It’s testament to Neymar’s reputational decline that he could now not be considered as a top five South American in the sport.
There was a time whilst he was at Barcelona that people uttered him in the same breath of Messi, and in truth, he wasn’t all that far off back then.
But for whatever reason things just haven’t gone to plan for him and he’s never hit the stratospheric heights many expected, certainly at club level, anyway.
On the national front, well, he could become Brazil’s all time highest goalscorer at the upcoming World Cup and that’s hardly a bad record to have.
Maybe if he’s talismanic in leading the Selecao to glory in Qatar perceptions will soften on the superstar.
Mr. Consistent, Casemiro rarely puts a foot wrong and he’s got the defensive enforcer role down to an art.
As mentioned, he keeps Fabinho out the Brazil team at times and anyone that does that has got to be a serious player.
And let’s not forget he’s a five time Champions League winner with Los Blancos – talk about achieving success in the game.
4. Federico Valverde
Well this poses a twist, doesn’t it? If Casemiro claims the tag of ‘consistent’ then Valverde almost certainly takes Mr. Versatile.
The determined Uruguayan is quite literally a manager’s dream given he can effectively operate in the centre of the park, on the right-wing or at right-back.
Worthy of fourth, though? We’re not so sure.
3. Lionel Messi
This is bound to get many devout Messi fans up in arms, however, despite being one myself, there can be no denying that the footballing icon has felt the effects of nature’s ageing process recently.
His move to Paris Saint-Germain has not been a marriage made in heaven just yet, and whilst Messi has shown flashes of brilliance this season, most recently by scoring five in an incredible performance vs Estonia, he’s slipped down the pecking order in terms of current footballing abilities.
He’s still South America’s greatest player of all time, though – at least in our humble opinion.
2. Alisson Becker
It’s ironic that two of Brazil’s greatest ever goalkeepers in Alisson and Ederson play in the very same era and at direct rivals in England.
Ederson is an excellent keeper, especially in the modern sense, however he plays second fiddle to Alisson in the national side and doesn’t quite do enough to make FourFourTwo’s top 10.
On the other hand, Alisson is simply on another planet. His 1v1 stopping ability is like nothing we’ve seen before in the game and his all round goalkeeping skillset leaves him with no real weakness.
He might actually be unlucky not to have been awarded first place.
1. Vinicius Junior
Still just 21-years-old who knows what Vinicius could go on to achieve.
Frighteningly fast and fiendishly skillful, defenders usually have no answer for the young star and his reputation has sky-rocketed over the last couple of years.
He scored the winning goal in the Champions League final last month also, which will do nothing but add fuel to the already raging fire.
Keep your eye out for him in Qatar because whilst Neymar is still very much Brazil’s main man, that could be set to change with Vinicius around.