Copa America: Greatest ever players

Countless legends have participated in the Copa America since its inception in 1916, but four players stand above the rest as the greatest to ever lace up their boots in the international tournament.

The world gets to witness the best talents in South American soccer every time the Copa America unfolds. Although Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil have traditionally dominated the competition, more and more nations have proved they are worthy of lifting the trophy over the last century. Winning such a difficult tournament requires elite teamwork, goalkeeping, and of course, goalscorers.

Check out the four greatest ever players in the Copa America’s long history.

4. Eduardo Vargas (Chile)

Eduardo VargasEduardo Vargas

Chile’s Eduardo Vargas / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Eduardo Vargas led Chile to back-to-back Copa America titles in 2015 and 2016, overcoming Lionel Messi and Argentina in both finals. Although Vargas has never won the Copa America Best Player award, the forward has two Golden Boots after he netted the most goals in the 2015 and 2016 tournaments.

In fact, Vargas currently has the fifth most goals in the competition’s history with 14. If he has another breakout tournament this summer, then he could become the all-time leading scorer in the Copa America.

3. Ronaldo (Brazil)

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Brazil’s Ronaldo / ALEJANDRO PAGNI/GettyImages

Brazil’s Ronaldo is another player who has back-to-back Copa America titles. Ronaldo and Brazil won the 1997 and the 1999 Copa America, largely thanks to the striker’s ten total goals across both tournaments.

Ronaldo won the Copa America Best Player award after scoring five goals in 1997, and followed up his impressive performance with five more goals in the next edition of the tournament. The legendary player even scored in both Copa America finals against Bolivia and Uruguay respectively.

2. Lionel Messi (Argentina)

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi / CARL DE SOUZA/GettyImages

Even without winning a Copa America title, Lionel Messi would have still been one of the greatest players to participate in the competition. Despite losing to Chile in the 2015 Copa America final, Messi received the Copa America Best Player award for his performance throughout the tournament.

Messi solidified his legacy for Argentina in the 2021 Copa America when he finally led his country to their first Copa America title since 1993. Not only did Messi take home the ultimate trophy, but he also received the Copa America Best Player award and the Golden Boot after scoring four goals and tallying five assists.

Like Vargas, Messi also has a chance to become the all-time top goalscorer in the 2024 tournament. The Inter Miami player currently sits in 7th place with 13 total goals.

1. Norberto Méndez (Argentina)

Norberto "Tucho" Mendez.Norberto "Tucho" Mendez.

Argentina’s Norberto “Tucho” Mendez / AFP/Getty Images/GettyImages

The greatest player in the history of the Copa America has to be Norberto “Tucho” Mendez. The Argentinian currently holds the the record for the most goals scored in the tournament’s 108-year existence with 17.

Mendez’s contributions helped Argentina secure three consecutive Copa America titles in 1945, 1946, and 1947. Almost 70 years later, Argentina are still the only nation to ever threepeat.

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