When the most anticipated annual game in world football comes so close to key National Team commitments, it becomes impossible not to link them. In this case, the UEFA Champions League final, which will be watched by the whole world as always, will be played days before the resumption of the Qualifiers and the Copa América. And it is a good occasion to review the common history of South Americans with the most important European competition.
The relationship between the best exponents of football on our continent and the great clubs in Europe has existed for decades. However, after the Bosman law and the opening of borders in the 1990s, it became much more powerful. Today, all the great South American footballers play on Champions League teams. There are no exceptions.
Throughout the more than sixty-year history of the European Cup, dozens of South American stars participated in finals and several left their mark. These are the most remembered performances.
ALFREDO DI STÉFANO
The first symbol of what is now the UEFA Champions League. The Argentine star arrived from Millonarios de Colombia to Spain in 1953 and two years later he was already shining in the first European final, in which with a goal of his own and a double from his compatriot Héctor Rial, Real Madrid defeated by 4- 3 to Stade de Reims in Paris. After that, Di Stéfano won another four finals and scored goals in all of them. There were 7 goals in total, an absolute record. Probably the best player in the European finals is South American. The Argentinean Rogelio Domínguez and the Uruguayans José Emilio Santamaría and Héctor Omar Ramos were also on that team.
The first Brazilian to stand out in a tournament that they took over in the 21st century. Far from the style of many of his compatriots, Altafini was a powerful and inconspicuous forward. Champion with Brazil in the 1958 World Cup, he arrived in Milan that same year. Thanks to two goals of his own, the rossonero team cut the streak of Eusebio’s Benfica, who was the current two-time champion, in the 1962/63 European Cup.
Two-time champion of the Copa América and world champion with Brazil, the best left-back in history for many also won three Champions League finals with Real Madrid: 1998, 2000 and 2002. In all of them he stood out and in the last one he gave an assist to Zinedine Zidane for the winning goal over Bayern Munich.
As he continues his eternal search for an international title with the Argentine National Team, Messi is recognized as one of the best players in the history of the Champions League. In total, he won four and played three finals, with a goal against Manchester United in Rome 2009 and another against the same rival in London 2011. And his legend continues.
For a season, Milito was more than Messi. In 2010, the former Racing Club striker was a scoring machine. With José Mourinho on the bench, Inter became European champion thanks to the Argentine’s double in the final against Bayern. Before, he had scored in the semis against Guardiola’s Barcelona.
The 2014/2015 Champions League final was very close when, 23 minutes into the second half, Luis Suárez did what he does best: score a goal. Thanks to its definition, Barcelona was definitively ahead of Juventus and was champion of the Champions League. The forward of that team was one hundred percent South American: Suárez, Messi and Neymar, who scored another goal in that game in Berlin.
In total, 24 players won the Champions League and also the Copa América. The Brazilians Zé Roberto, Roberto Carlos, Flávio Conceição, Cafu, Rivaldo, Serginho, Dida, Ronaldinho, Julio César, Ricardo Oliveira, Maicon, Adriano, Dani Alves, Casemiro, Alisson, Firmino and Coutinho; the Argentines Di Stéfano, Domíguez and Fernando Redondo, the Uruguayans Martín Cáceres and Luis Suárez, the Chilean Claudio Bravo and the Colombian Iván Ramiro Córdoba.