Paraguay's 15 Greatest Footballers Ever

Who is the best Paraguay football player of all time?

In the last two decades, Paraguay national football team consistently shows convincing performances in various international tournaments. The country regularly exhibited captivating playing styles in the World Cup and Copa America and produced great numbers of talented footballers. Those Paraguayan footballers also play major roles in maintaining the respectable reputation of Paraguay national team as one of the strongest football countries in South America.

Among the dozens of great Paraguay footballers, there are several names who successfully captured more attention from football fans such as Jose Luis Chilavert, Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Gamarra, and Nelson Valdez. The question is, who is the greatest among them?

15. Darío Verón

Dario Veron is a central defender who spends most of his career playing in the Mexican League with UNAM. He is dubbed as "Hechichero" (the Witch) due to his beautiful style of play. Not only that, Veron also often scored goals with headers. He made his debut for the national team of Paraguay in 2003, and played an important role as the country's defense leader when they finished as a runner-up in the 2011 Copa America.

14. Edgar Barreto

Edgar Barreto is a central midfielder who started a career in Europe in 2004 with a Dutch club, NEC. His career progressed more rapidly after he moved to Italian club Reggina, in 2007. At Reggina he showed outstanding performances and gained a reputation as a midfielder who often scored goals from long-range shots. At national team level, Barreto presented a silver medal for his country in the 2004 Olympics.

13. Francisco Arce

Francisco Arce played as a right-back for Paraguay national team in the 1995-2004 period. Not only possessing great strength in defense, Arce was also quite prolific in netting goals, especially from free kick situation. He underwent a career in Brazilian league with Gremio and Palmeiras before moving to Japan League clubs, Gamba Osaka, in 2003. After his retirement, Arce worked as Paraguay coach for one year from 2011 to 2012.

12. Celso Ayala

Celso Ayala is a former defender who possessed complete defensive skills, ranging from tackling, heading, marking, and interception. He was also often trusted to be the team captain because of his remarkable leadership skills. The best period of his career happened in the mid 1990s and early 2000s when Ayala played for River Plate. At the club, he several times won the Argentine League and Copa Libertadores. Throughout his career, he scored six goals in 85 matches with Paraguay national football team.

11. Cristian Riveros

Riveros is known as a versatile midfielder who became a key player of Paraguay national team in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup. His natural position is a defensive midfielder, but he can also play as an attacking midfielder or winger. He had a career at two European club, Sunderland and Kayserispor, but returned again to South America due to difficulties in adapting the playing style of European football. His best achievement at the national team level is helping his country become the runner-up of 2011 Copa America.

10. Justo Villar

Justo Villar gained the position as number one goalkeeper of Paraguay national team in 1999. He was given the position after the retirement of Jose Luis Chilavert. Although Villar is less famous than Chilavert, his ability as a goalkeeper should not be underestimated. His shows consistent performances during his performances with the national team in more than 100 international matches. Villar's best individual achievements is selected as the Best Paraguayan footballer of 2004.

9. Nelson Haedo Valdez

Nelson Valdez has a reputation as an energetic, fast, and strong striker. He helped Werder Bremen win the Bundesliga in the 2003-04 season, where he played in 21 league matches and scored five goals. Due to strict competition with Ivan Klasnic and Miroslav Klose to be the first-team striker, Valdez eventually moved to Borussia Dortmund in 2006 and regularly played as a starter until 2010. He was given the award of "Best Paraguayan footballer abroad" in 2010.

8. Miguel Ángel Benítez

Miguel Angel Benitez had the best period in his career in the mid-1990s, when he played for Espanyol. At the club, he won a Copa Del Rey trophy and scored a total of 28 goals from 147 appearances. Although he did not particularly prolific in scoring goals, Benitez is greatly still admired by Espanyol fans for his great contributions for the club. In total, he scored 11 goals in 30 appearances for Paraguay national team.

7. Denis Caniza

Although he possessed small, short stature; Caniza also had outstanding strength and a high stamina. He represented his country in four World Cup tournaments and was trusted to be the captain of the team for several years. He could not only play as a wingback, but sometimes was also positioned as a central defender, a winger, or a sweeper. Between the 1996-2010 period, he capped 100 times for his country and scored a total of one goal.

6. José Cardozo

Cardozo is known as a legendary striker of Deportivo Toluca, one of the greatest clubs in the Mexican League. He is the club's top scorer of all time, with a total of 249 goals in 332 appearances. Throughout his career, he became the top scorer of the Mexican League four times and was elected three times as Paraguayan Footballer of the Year. His greatest career period occurred in 2003, in which Cardozo scored 58 goals in a season, making him receive the award of FIFA's World top scorer of the Year.

5. Roberto Acuña

Roberto Acuna is a retired midfielder who had a long career in Spanish La Liga. In total, he played for seven years in the Spanish League with Real Zaragoza, Deportivo La Coruna, and Elche. Roberto Acuna nicknamed as "El Toro" (the bull) due to his strong physique and incredible stamina. For Paraguay national team, Acuna scored five goals in 100 appearances. He was also elected as the Paraguayan Footballer of the Year in 2001 when he performed brilliantly at Zaragoza by helping the club win the Copa Del Rey.

4. Paulo da Silva

Starting his debut for Paraguay national team in 2000, Paulo da Silva currently holds the record as the player with the highest number of caps for his country. He is known as a central defender who has consistent performances and great leadership qualities. Da Silva also represented his country in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. At club level, he underwent a period of scintillating career with Toluca, a Mexican League club. At the club, da Silva won the award for Best Player of the Primera División de México in 2008.

3. Carlos Gamarra

In addition to the existence of Jose Luis Chilavert as a goalkeeper, the greatness of Paraguay's defense line in the 1990s was also influenced by the formidable performances of Carlos Gamarra. He was known as a strong, calm, and dignified center back. He represented his country in three World Cup tournaments, five Copa America, and two Olympics. His greatest achievement was winning a silver medal for Paraguay national team in the 2004 Olympics. Not only that, Gamarra also twice selected as Best Footballers of Paraguay in 1997 and 1998.

2. Roque Santa Cruz

If he weren't often hit by frequent injuries, I'm sure Santa Cruz could be as great as the other Latin American elite striker of his generation such as Carlos Tevez or Diego Milito. He started his career in Europe with Bayern Munich. Despite struggling with prolonged injuries and facing tight competition with other strikers, Santa Cruz continued to show good performance at Bayern. During his career at FC Hollywood, Santa Cruz won five Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokal, and one Champions League trophy. Prior to joining Malaga in 2013, Santa Cruz also briefly played for Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, and Betis. Currently, he also holds the record as the all-time top scorer of Paraguay national team.

1. Jose Luis Chilavert

Jose Luis Chilavert greatness as a goalkeeper cannot be doubted. Many football pundits named him as one of South America's best goalkeeper in football history. In addition to having outstanding goalkeeping abilities and great leadership skills, Chilavert was also famous for his ability to score goals from set-pieces. Throughout his career, he netted 67 goals, eight of them were scored when playing for Paraguay national team. Chilavert also three times elected as IFFHS's Best Goalkeeper in the World and awarded a title of South American Footballer of the Year in 1996.

Scroll To Top