The top five Argentinians ever to set foot in Brazil

First, let’s get one thing straight.

Despite the huge, intense, fierce rivalry between Brazil and Argentina, I personally don’t hold any grudge against the Argentinians. After all, our hermanos – the brothers from the South – in addition to being such nice people, haven’t put up much of a fight on the football field lately.

The two last Copa America meetngs (in 2004 and 2007) and the 2005 Confederations Cup 4-1 massacre kind of softened my feelings towards them. Poor guys.

And it's more than 20 years since their last World Cup win, while in that time the Seleção have snatched two more crowns, making it an unsurpassed five in total.

Baptista cracks home opener in 2007 Copa America

And that’s why in this blog I’ll celebrate the spirit of Argentinian football, highlighting those clever guys who over the years have landed in Brazil looking to elevate their game.

Here's my list of the top five Argentinians ever to feature in Brazil... including the only foreigner to have coached the Seleção in its near 100-year history.

Carlitos Tevez

By far the most successful hermano in the land of the samba football, ever.

The former Boca Juniors star and future West Ham and Manchester United hero was an instant hit with Corinthians. Alongside fellow countryman Javier Mascherano, Quasimodo led the Parque São Jorge squad to the 2005 Brazilian Championship title and was honoured  as the best player of the tournament.

Because of that, some Corinthians die-hard fans even bastardised the sacred Brazil yellow shirt with the Argentinian's name and ugly face. But three seasons later, Corinthians was relegated to the second division.

A lesson never to be forgotten.

Corinthians fans do the unthinkable

Victor Alejandro Mancuso

No one in Brazil had ever heard of the bulky-sized, long-haired midfielder before Palmeiras snapped him from Boca in 1995.

He wasn’t very gifted and sometimes mistook football for kung-fu (well, he’s an Argentinian defensive midfielder), but his most distinctive characteristic was his giant heart.

Mancuso had no problem sweating blood if required, with the image of him crying on the pitch after a Palmeiras defeat etched in fans’ memories. Now he’s assistant coach to Diego Maradona at the Argentinian national team, surely to whisper to the players all the secrets he learned while playing in the land of the pentacampeões.

Antonio Sastre

We've gone all the way back to the 1940s to remember the first Argentinian to make the headlines in Brazil.

Sastre was a heroic centre-forward for Independiente, and was brought to Brazil in 1943 (when he was a 32-year old veteran) to help ending São Paulo’s title drought.

The Brazilian press mocked the signing, saying that “Sastre would be a deSastre.” But he answered his critics on the pitch, helping the Tricolor to win the 1943, 1945 and 1946 State Championships.

In a game against Portuguesa Santista, he scored six goals, still a club record. “El Maestro” became so popular in São Paulo that a club director started a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Prize!

Agustín Mario Cejas

Several Argentinian keepers have starred in Brazil, most notably the 1978 World Cup winner Ubaldo Fillol (Flamengo 1984-85) and Edgardo Andrada (Vasco 1968-1945), famous for being the glove-man who conceded Pelé’s 1000th goal.

But Agustín Mario Cejas (Santos 1970-73) was the most acknowledged of them all.

The Racing Club academy alumni (with his trademark sideburns) played alongside Pelé and became the first goalkeeper, in 1973, to receive the National Championship best player award. He is also one of just two Argentinians ever graced with the honour, the second being Tevez 22 years later.

Cejas lines up alongside Brazil's finest

Don Filpo Nuñez

In the 1950s, a young Argentinian by the name of Filpo Nuñez arrived in Brazil to pursue a coaching career following a stint with Velez Sarsfield.

After jobs at Cruzeiro, Guarani and Vasco, he arrived at Palmeiras in 1964 and started molding one of the club’s greatest squads, which would become part of Brazil’s football history as the “Academy of Football”.

The following year, Palmeiras were invited to represent the national team in the inauguration of the Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte – and Don Filpo became the first (and so far only) foreigner ever to coach the Seleção, leading Palmeiras-slash-Brazil to a 3-0 rout of Uruguay.

After that, he coached several Brazilian squads, including Corinthians, Coritiba and Santo André. In fact, the Buenos Aires-born coach decided to remain in Brazil even after his retirement.

“I’ll only leave Brazil with my feet first – inside a coffin,” he said. Indeed, Don Filpo Nuñez died in São Paulo in 1999.

Filpo Nuñez: Brazil's only overseas coach


FourFourTwo’s April issue, out now, is a South America special.

It features the 10 best new wonderkids from that continent, including exclusive interviews with Manchester United’s twins Fabio and Rafael da Silva plus Sao Paolo’s £100m-rated “new Kaka” Hernanes.

There are also interviews with Zico and Socrates; a look at the Boca Juniors academy responsible for Tevez, Burdisso, Gago, Banega et al; and the Lord of the Rings star so dedicated to Argentine outfit San Lorenzo that he bunked off a film set to see them play.

---------------------------------------------- More to read...
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