When you think of football and South America it’s fair to say that Chile isn’t the first nation that springs to mind. But don’t be fooled. Over the years, national team La Roja have produced some of the best players of the game.
Five of the best are:
NUMBER 5 – ARTURO VIDAL
Vidal came through the ranks of Colo-Colo. After moving to Europe, he established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world. The Barcelona man has the tactical discipline to shield a defense but can also play box-to-box; his tough tackling has earned him a reputation as an enforcer, but he’s much more than that with the ability to create and score goals too. During his time with the national team he’s racked up 113 caps and was part of the team that won back to back Copa America, which can sit proudly alongside the nine major domestic honors (and counting) he’s collected. Arturo might be past his prime, but he still has enough strength to rival a stallion among the betting favorites of Kentucky Derby.
NUMBER 4 – IVAN ZAMORANO
Zamorano is held in high regard in his homeland after scoring a goal every other game in a 69 match international career that spanned across three decades from a goal scoring debut in 1987 through to 2001, which was the year after he top scored in the Olympic Games as Chile won bronze. His scoring prowess wasn’t limited to international football either and it is a safe bet that his name will conjure good memories for Real Madrid and Inter Milan fans after he notched 97 and 41 goals for them respectively.
NUMBER 3 – MARCELO SALAS
Salas achieved the impressive feat of winning major silverware for each of the four clubs he played for. Most of his time was spent in South America where he made himself a legend with both River Plate and Universidad de Chile, but he could deliver the goods in Europe as well. Three Serie A crowns in four years with Lazio and Juventus, where he scored 36 goals in under 100 matches, is evidence of that. For Chile, Salas had a record of 37 goals in 70 caps and that made him, at the time, their leading scorer.
NUMBER 2 – ALEXIS SÁNCHEZ
Forget the Alexis Sánchez from Manchester United because this man has proven over the years that he’s the real deal. Sánchez, like Vidal, was integral to the Copa America successes in 2015 and 2016, and he’s notched more goals for Chile (43 in 131) than any other player – taking the record from number three on our list.
In the world of club football, he’s represented some of the biggest teams in the game but perhaps found his best form at Arsenal where his tenacity and ability to score with quality and in quantity helped the Gunners to two FA cup wins. He might have a reasonable trophy haul with seven domestic honors to his name, but his talent is worthy of so much more.
NUMBER 1 – ELIAS FIGUEROA
Figueroa’s place at number one on our list was never in doubt. The centre back was a Rolls Royce defender who had every single thing you’d want in a player; he could tackle, he could head it, he could play and, alongside it all, he was the consummate professional. He may have spent his career in South America but he won pretty much every trophy going and if that doesn’t convince you of just how good he was then take it from the best striker ever seen – Pelé – who claimed Figueroa was a World Cup win away from being the best defender on the planet. High praise indeed.
There you have it, five enormous talents that have come out of Chile to light up the world stage. The big question is: Who will be the next player to do the same?