South America XI: The best footballers from the continent in 2020

August 17

While Europe can be regarded as the birthplace of football, the continent of South America has played an equal role in the development of sport all across the world. The South American influence in the sport can, in fact, be seen since the first FIFA World Cup which was won by Uruguay who were also the hosts. The best South American footballers – such as Alfredo di Stefano, Garrincha, Roberto Carlos, Gabriel Batistuta, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Pele, and more recently, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, Neymar, and so on – are also some of the world’s best players of all time.

Even though it has been close to two decades since a country from the continent last won the FIFA World Cup, players from countries like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay continue to be an important part of the sport, even in club football across Europe.

Therefore, without further ado, let us take a look at some of the best South American footballers and attempt to construct an XI based on their current form, arranged in a 3-4-1-2 formation.

South America XI

GK – Alisson Becker

Although he narrowly missed out on the Premier League Golden Glove this season to Manchester City’s Ederson Moraes, Liverpool ace Alisson Becker can still be regarded as the best South American goalkeeper right now. The 27-year-old enjoyed a brilliant 2018-19 season, winning the Copa America with Brazil and the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup with Liverpool FC. He also won the Lev Yashin trophy for the world’s best goalkeeper, FIFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year award, Premier League Golden Glove, and the Copa America Golden Glove in the same year.

In the 2019-20 season, Alisson’s stunning performances between the sticks played a crucial role in the Reds’ first Premier League title win in 30 years. He is currently regarded as one of the most valuable shot-stoppers in world football.

CB – Marquinhos

Brazilian defender Marquinhos is considered by many as one of the best centre-backs in world football right now. The 26-year-old currently plies his trade with Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and is valued at over €55 million. He has already played 280 matches for the Parisiens and has also won six Ligue 1 titles, four French Cups, five French League Cups and six French Super Cups.

In the ongoing season, Marquinhos made 34 appearances for PSG. He also won his first-ever International trophy last year, when he lifted the Copa America with Brazil which consists some of the best South American footballers at the moment.

CB – Jose Maria Gimenez

Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez is the second centre-back in this list and one of the most important yet under-appreciated members of this South American XI. The Uruguayan has been with Los Rojiblancos since 2013, and the club values him quite high which is not surprising because of the consistency that he has displayed at the highest level over the past few years.

In the ongoing 2019-20 season, Gimenez made 26 appearances so far, also registering an assist in the UCL group-stage game against Juventus in September.

CB – Nicolas Otamendi

Nicolas Otamendi has been a valued member of the Manchester City squad since he joined them from Valencia in 2015. The Argentine defender has played over 200 matches for the Sky Blues so far – 38 of which happened in the ongoing 2019-20 season. Although City missed out on a third successive Premier League title this time, they still have a chance to end this season on a high by lifting the UCL trophy that has remained elusive so far.

The 32-year-old Otamendi has won two Premier League titles and one FA Cup with the Cityzens. He has also lifted the English League Cup four times and the English Super Cup twice.

RM – Douglas Costa

Juventus’ Douglas Costa is another under-appreciated member of this XI. The Brazilian joined the Bianconeri from Bayern Munich two years ago, and in the ongoing 2019-20 season, he scored thrice along with providing seven assists across all competitions. He lifted yet another Serie A title under Maurizio Sarri.

The 29-year-old Douglas Costa would be one of Andrea Pirlo’s most important trump cards for the 2020-21 season.

CM – Casemiro

Casemiro just won the La Liga with his club Real Madrid – and with 45 appearances and five each of goals and assists so far this season, it is not at all surprising as to why he is a part of this list.

The defensive midfielder was signed by Los Blancos in 2013, but became a regular in the side by only two years later. He has won four Champions League titles, two La Liga, one Spanish Cup, two Spanish Super Cups, three FIFA Club World Cups and two UEFA Super Cups.

CM – Fabinho

It has only been two years since Fabinho moved to Liverpool from his former club AS Monaco. Despite so, the Brazilian is already an integral part of the Reds’ starting XI under Jurgen Klopp and recently won his first-ever Premier League medal with the club.

The 26-year-old midfielder also won the Champions League last season. In 2019-20, Fabinho played 39 matches, scoring twice along with notching four assists. He also won the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup with the Merseysiders. Unfortunately, Liverpool have been unable to defend their European title this season as they got knocked out in the Round of 16 by La Liga giants Atletico Madrid.

LM – Neymar Jr.

Arguably one of the best exponents of football in the world right now, Neymar may have been a tad underrated in the past couple of seasons. His frequent injuries and the fact that he plies his trade in Ligue 1 may have been the reasons for this.

The Brazilian forward who scripted a world record in transfer fees in 2017 with a €222 million move from Barcelona to Paris, played only 24 matches so far this season as Ligue 1 ended prematurely due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown. However, he has already registered 19 goals and 10 assists. As of right now, PSG also have one of the best odds to lift the UCL title – and if that happens, it would be one of the most important moments of the 27-year-old’s career to date.

CAM – Paulo Dybala

A mainstay in the Juventus starting line-up in the past few years, Paulo Dybala’s star value at the Bianconeri dipped slightly when a certain Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club in 2018. However, the same cannot be spoken about his performances as the Argentine has continued to impress for the reigning Serie A champions.

Valued at about €75 million with clubs like Manchester United showing keen interest to sign him, the 26-year-old made 45 appearances across all competitions in the 2019-20 season. He also recorded 17 goals and 14 assists and was selected the MVP of Serie A this year.

CF – Lionel Messi

It would be shocking only if the world’s best footballer and current Ballon d’Or winner was not a part of this XI. Argentina and Barcelona talisman Leo Messi did not enjoy a successful domestic season in 2019-20 as the Blaugrana failed to defend their LaLiga title. Despite so, he continued to dominate the numbers by emerging as the top-scorer (25 goals) and top-assist provider (21 assists) in the competition.

With most of their stars currently going through an unusually lean patch, the Catalans may have to rely heavily on the brilliance of the best South American footballer to try and end their European trophy drought of over five years.

CF – Sergio Aguero

It has been nine years since Sergio Aguero joined Manchester City and it is safe to say that he has established himself as a club legend by now. In fact, no one can forget THAT goal which he scored against Queens Park Rangers (QPR) in 2011-12, winning the Cityzens their first-ever Premier League title. He has since won three more league titles and an FA Cup and is also a former Olympic champion with Argentina.

With 23 goals and four assists in 32 appearances so far this season, the 32-year-old played an important role as Manchester City finished second to Liverpool in the Premier League. At the time of writing, he was a part of the club’s Champions League squad that was all set to face Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter-finals on August 15.

Honourable mentions

Midfielder: Federico Valverde

Touted as one of Uruguay’s best prospects, Fede Valverde is having an encouraging first season as an essential component of the Spanish side Real Madrid.

The Uruguayan has started Madrid’s most notable games this season and has drawn comparisons with new Blaugrana signing Frenkie de Jong. As for Valverde, he is a tenacious and tireless midfielder that plays up to the Merengues’ standards every time he sets foot on a football pitch.

Along with Argentinean Giovani Lo Celso, he’s one of South America’s brightest talents. He must continue on this vibe to fulfil his potential, especially if he wants to fill his rather empty trophy cabinet consisting of a Club World Cup, a Spanish Super Cup and an Uruguayan championship with Penarol in 2015.

Nicolas Tagliafico

Nicolas Tagliafico was a nobody about two years ago and should look back at his transfer to Ajax with pride as he went from rags to riches last season.

His rise has coincided with Ajax’s resurrection under Erik Ten Hag and has played up to the Amsterdam giants’ level. His performances led Cruyff’s former club to reach a Champions League semi-final and seconds away from the final only for Lucas Moura to dash their hopes of European glory with a sensational hat-trick goal.

The Argentinean is one of Europe’s most sought-after left-backs, and it was truly bizarre to see him stay in the Netherlands in the summer after Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong left the Dutch champions for bigger clubs. However, the defender still can go to a bigger club if he chooses to.



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