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From Pelé all the way to Messi, South America has famously brought us many of the most successful footballing icons in the history of the beautiful game. Group Tours Travel Consultant and devoted Sheffield Wednesday supporter Sean Rhodes takes a look at the South American players who have been most influential in shaping the fortunes of British clubs over the years… and explains how Diego Maradona was nearly among them.

1. Carlos Tévez (WEST HAM UNITED, MAN UNITED, MANCHESTER CITY)

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Tévez is certainly the most controversial, but also arguably the most successful Latin American footballer to play in the English top flight. Tevez has won the Premier League with both Manchester teams as well as the Champions League and FA Cup with United. Individually he also won the Golden Boot in 2011, scoring 20 goals.

Did you know? In his spare time, Tévez moonlights as a pop star with Piola Vago, a cumbia villera group from the shanty town of Fuerte Apache on the outskirts of the Argentine capital where he was born.

2. DAVID LUIZ (CHELSEA)

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After a mixed start to his Chelsea career, Brazilian Luiz has gone on to win the FA Cup and Champions League with the west London Club. Luiz has also captained his national team, against South Africa in September 2012.

Did you know? The Sideshow Bob lookalike was once memorably ridiculed by Gary Neville, who claimed he looked as though he was “being controlled by a ten-year-old in the crowd on a PlayStation.”

3. OSSIE ARDILES (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR)

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Osvaldo ‘Ossie’ Ardiles, a native of Argentina, helped Tottenham win the FA Cup in his third season there (1980-81) and was a major force in the Spurs team that reached the final the following year. He also had a less successful spell managing the club in the mid-90s.

Did you know? Interestingly, Ossie collaborated with pop duo Chas and Dave on the song ‘Ossie’s Dream’.

4. Faustino Asprilla (Newcastle United)

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Asprilla had a mixed period with Newcastle which ended in 1998, and the tone of his stay was summed up when he arrived dressed in a flamboyant fur coat during a snowstorm in 1996. The Colombian famously scored a hat trick against Barcelona in the Champions League and achieved a similar feat against Nottingham Forest to secure Newcastle’s place in the tournament the following season.

Did you know?
Asprilla’s nickname ‘El Pulpo’ (the Octopus) comes from his habit of putting everything that is placed in his hands in his mouth.

5. RICKY VILLA (TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR)

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Another FA Cup winner with Tottenham and the third Argentinean in our list, Villa is today perhaps best-known for his goal in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay, which was awarded Wembley’s Goal of the Century Award in 2001.

Did you know? Fondly remembered for his hirsute appearance (lending him a passing resemblance to Che Guevara), Villa also dedicated himself to politics for a period in the 90s.

6. And the one that got away...

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DIEGO MARADONA (SHEFFIELD UNITED – ALMOST!)

Blades manager Harry Haslam had struck a deal to sign Maradona for an estimated £600,000 in 1978, but after being told there were no funds to complete the deal, he turned to Alex Sabella as his replacement.

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