In a League of Their Own
This weekend saw the Argentine duo of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain reek havoc at the expense of Serie A minnows Empoli. Sports Gazette pays tribute to the Juventus strike pairing by looking back at fellow ‘La Albiceleste’ hitmen to have terrorised Serie A defences
Argentine footballers have always gravitated to the shores of Italy. The country’s greatest and most decorated finishers are synonymous with Serie A, and here are four of the league's all-time greats.
While it is a stretch to compare his game to that of Uruguayan legend Enzo Francescoli, Milito’s physical appearance at least earnt him the same nickname “El Principe” (The Prince).
His innate goal scoring prowess saw him win a sensational treble during 2009-10 at Inter Milan. Within the month of May, Milito scored crucial goals in the Coppa Italia final, the ultimate day of the Scudetto season and a brace in the Champions League final. While not blessed with the mesmerising footwork of some of his fellow countrymen, his spatial awareness and propensity to net vital goals make him one of the best to represent Argentina in Serie A.
“The Angel Gabriel” remains the most expensive player ever sold over the age of 30 following his historic move from Fiorentina to Roma.
Batistuta was a talismanic powerhouse with the ability to dominate defences aerially while equally blessed with a silky touch and a piston-like right foot. He retired from international duty back in 2002 and was only very recently eclipsed as the country’s greatest goal scorer by Leo Messi. His most successful time in Italy technically occurred at Roma where he helped fire the 'Giallorossi' to their last title in 2001. However, football romantics to this day still love to lament his wonderful partnership with Portuguese playmaker Manuel Rui Costa.
Crespo picked up the baton from his countryman Batistuta and arguably soared to even greater heights. At international level only 'Batigol' and Messi better his goal scoring record. However, at club level, Crespo was a sensation for all three Italian clubs he represented. Equally adept on his left or right foot, the dynamic Argentine was also blessed with electric pace, height and the ability to score highlight-reel acrobatic volleys.
While he spent over ten years plying his trade in Italy, his stints at Parma and Lazio leave the most vivid memories. Despite a slow start at Parma, a young Ancelotti kept faith in Crespo and was rewarded with a staggering 60 plus goals in just over 100 appearances. Having lifted the Uefa Cup at Parma, Lazio broke the world transfer record by paying £35m for the Argentine, and he went on to win the Golden Boot in his debut season.
Arguably the greatest player to play the game, and while not technically an out and out striker, any discussion regarding Serie A and Argentine goal scorers is incomplete without ‘El Pibe de Oro’.
Despite playing in a more withdrawn role, Maradona remains Napoli's all-time goalscorer across all competitions with a staggering 115 goals in 259 appearances. While his career took him to La Liga twice, it was in Italy that he was etched his name in club football folklore leading Napoli to their first ever league titles.
When he arrived only teams from the North had won the Scudetto, however, the diminutive Argentine propelled Napoli to the top of Serie A during a golden period of Italian football that saw the league adorned with the likes of Van Basten, Baggio, Mancini and Klinsmann.
History tells us that Italian football will always be a treasure trove of Argentine talent and the tradition remains unyielding today. It can be argued that the top three strikers currently in the league are all members of ‘La Albiceleste’.
Breaking into the Argentina team is no easy feat with the likes of Messi and Aguero for company. However, Inter’s Mauro Icardi is expected to soon become a mainstay in the national side. His direct style and leadership are reminiscent of Carlos Tevez, another candidate worthy of the above list, and he currently sits as the league’s top scorer with six in only six games.
Icardi is in excellent company alongside Juventus strikers Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. Indeed, the Juve front two best illustrate the beautiful relationship between Argentine forwards and Serie A. If Massimiliano Allegri can find a way of forging a fruitful partnership that best utilises both player’s talents, there is no reason not to suggest that Argentine players will continue to dominate the Capocannoniere for the foreseeable future.