It’s now looking increasingly likely that Argentine playmaker Paulo Dybala will be heading to the Premier League before the transfer window deadline on August 8.
The 25-year-old is out of favour at Juventus and it’s possible that he could arrive at Manchester United as part of a swap deal involving Romelu Lukaku.
The English top-flight has had its fair share of Argentinean superstars down the years, despite Sheffield United once rejecting Diego Armando Maradona for being too expensive.
Let’s have a look then, at some South American stars that have left an indelible mark on English shores.
Ossie Ardiles/Ricky Villa – Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur boss Keith Burkinshaw was watching the 1978 World Cup finals on TV when he suddenly thought to himself; “I fancy bringing some of these players over to England to play for my lot”. He was particularly taken with Argentina midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles, who famously wore the number one on his back during that tournament, as numbers were given out to players in alphabetical order. Keith jetted out to Buenos Aries to ask Ossie if he’d like to come and play in England to which he replied; “Yes, but only if I can bring my mate with me”. The Spurs board agreed so Ricky Villa came over with Ossie creating huge media interest in the UK.
Story goes that after a month or so they were both ready to chuck in the towel but to their credit, they tried to adapt to their surroundings both on and off the pitch and slowly but surely, their sublime skills and exemplary behaviour won over a sceptical public. In 1981, they were Spurs legends thanks to Ossie’s vocals on the club’s FA Cup Final song and Villa’s mesmerising replay goal that won Tottenham the cup. 12 months later however, the Falklands conflict pretty much did for both of them and life in North London would never be the same again, although they remain two of the most loved players ever to wear the famous white shirt.
Alex Sabella – Sheffield United/Leeds United
Burkinshaw had set a trend now of course and soon after Ardiles and Villa had arrived on these shores, so did another Argentine midfielder, Alex Sabella. As stated in the introduction, Sheffield United had turned down the chance to sign the man who would go on to become probably the greatest player of the 20th century and opted instead for Sabella who arrived at Bramall Lane for 160K in June 1978.
The Yorkshire weather soon got the better of Sabella however, and his form dipped quickly along with the rest of the team who were relegated to the Third Division. Blades boss Harry Haslam decided to cash-in on his Argentine and accepted a £600,000 bid from Second Division Sunderland, only Sabella had other ideas and refused to go to Wearside. He finally ended up at Leeds United were he made 23 appearances before heading home.
Carlos Tevez – West Ham/Manchester United/Manchester City
Carlos Tevez spent seven years in English football and pretty much won everything there is to win in the game. He started out with West Ham United where he, just like Ardiles and Villa, formed a double-act with fellow countryman Javier Mascherano (more of him later). He achieved god-like status with Hammers fans after his final day goal against Manchester United kept them in the top-flight and despite no one actually knowing who owned him (see below) that strike earned him a move to Old Trafford where he won two league titles and the Champions League.
His questionable temperament was sure to piss Sir Alex Ferguson off sooner or later and Carlos took great pleasure in sticking two fingers up to the Scotsman when he swapped United for City in 2009 and lead the Blues to their first league title for 44 years in 2012 (definitely more of that later).
Javier Mascherano – West Ham/Liverpool
West Ham United breaking rule B13 (acting in good faith) and U18 (concerning third-party ownership) was probably the best thing that ever happened to Argentine enforcer Javier Mascherano. After just five appearances for the East London side and a protracted legal battle, Mascherano joined Liverpool on an initial loan-deal in January 2007 and by May of that year, he was a Champions League finalist with the Anfield giants.
Able to play either as a centre-half or defensive midfielder, Mascherano’s outstanding performances for the Reds attracted huge attention from the rest of Europe and in 2010 he set a new trend that would see Liverpool become FC Barcelona’s feeder club when he arrived at the Camp Nou for what was then a cool £24m and start a trophy-laden eight years in Catalonia.
Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
Once in every lifetime a player scores a goal that brings a commentator to orgasm and in 2012, Sergio Aguero’s last gasp strike against QPR won Manchester City the Premier League title and caused Sky Sports stalwart Martin Tyler to combust on the gantry at The Etihad Stadium. A year earlier, City boss Roberto Mancini had brought the Argentine striker to England following a devastating five-year spell in Spain with Atletico Madrid, which saw him net 100 times in 230 games for Los Colchoneros.
Those stats have now been eclipsed during eight years in the North West which has seen Aguero score 211 goals in 314 games for The Citizens. Loyalty seems to be a dirty word in football’s modern era, but the 31-year-old from Buenos Aries goes against the grain having turned down even more lucrative offers from elsewhere to stay at City. Many people believe he’s the greatest ever foreigner never mind the greatest Argentinian to play in English football’s top-flight, but that’s a subject for another day.