Quite possibly there is no more romantic and proud soccer history than the one that belongs to Uruguay. A country of only 3.2 million people, Uruguay has produced some of the best soccer players ever to play the game.
Along the way Uruguay was the first nation to host the FIFA World Cup and win it. Maybe the small but great soccer country’s greatest accomplishment was winning the 1950 World Cup against host Brazil 2-1 and producing the famed Maracanazo, arguably the greatest upset in all of sport.
From Luis Suárez to Enzo Francescoli, from Uruguay’s two FIFA World Cup’s to their 15 Copa America’s and a lifetime of memorable World Cup moments, here are the 25 greatest Uruguayan soccer players of all-time.
*Note: Caps of current players is up to November of 2022.
25. Paolo Montero
Some might argue why Paolo Montero is on this list, it’s not easy to lead a national team with so much pride during dark times and the former Juventus defender did that. Montero was a tough defender and a true captain of La Celeste. During his time, considered the dark times of modern-day Uruguayan soccer, Montero still managed to captain the side 61 times and play the 2002 World Cup.
24. José Piendibene
A forward of incredible quality, José Piendibene played his whole career in Peñarol and scored 22 goals in 43 caps for Uruguay from 1909- 1922. Piendibene was a pioneer in establishing Uruguay as a world power in the early 20th century winning 16 titles with the national team.
23. Pedro Petrone
Known as “the gunner” for his incredible knack for scoring, Pedro Petrone won three major titles with Uruguay, Olympic Gold Medals in 1924, 1928, which were considered World titles at the time and the first FIFA World Cup in 1930.
22. Schubert Gambetta
A rugged defender best known for his time in Nacional of Uruguay, Schubert Gambetta was a leader at the back as Uruguay won the 1950 World Cup on Brazilian soil. Schubert Gambetta was named to the 1950 All-Star team.
21. Julio Montero Castillo
The father of Paolo Montero, Julio Montero Castillo was a tough defender in a long-standing tradition of great defenders for the small country. While Uruguay at the time was not winning trophies like they did in the past Julio Montero Castillo was a rock and star defender in the fourth-place finish in the 1970 World Cup.
20. Óscar Míguez
Uruguay’s all-time World Cup leading scorer with 8, Óscar Míguez was a part of the 1950 and 1954 World Cups. Miguez played 39 times for Uruguay and scored 27 goals.
19. Víctor Espárrago
One of the most decorated midfielders in Uruguay 's history, Víctor Espárrago played in three World Cups for La Celeste, 1966, 1970, and 1974. Espárrago played for clubs like Nacional and Sevilla as well as becoming an accomplished coach in Spain.
18. Rodolfo Rodríguez
Goalkeeper Rodolfo Rodríguez was a big part of the Uruguayan national team during the years 1976- 1986, representing the country 79 times. Rodolfo Rodríguez played in two World Cups and won the 50th anniversary tournament of the first World Cup, the 1980 Mundialito, and the Copa América in 1983.
17. Carlos Aguilera
Skillful but undisciplined creative midfielder Carlos Aguilera played 64 times for Uruguay scoring 22 goals. El Pato, as he was known, won the 1983 Copa America as well as participated in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. Aguilera was highly skilled but suffered from substance abuse issues.
16. Fernando Morena
Fernando Morena is considered by many the greatest player in the history of Peñarol and the all-time goal scorer of the Uruguayan league. Morena also played in Spain for Valencia, but it was his 22 goals in 53 games for the national team why he is on the list. Morena won the 1983 Copa America and played in the 1974 World Cup.
15. Pedro Rocha
Legendary forward Pedro Rocha is the only player to appear in four consecutive World Cups for the Uruguay national football team: 1962, 1966, 1970 and 1974. Rocha scored 17 goals in 52 appearances and played in Uruguay, Brazil, and Mexico. He is another Peñarol legend winning 14 titles with the club.
14. Diego Godín
Diego Godín carries with him the long tradition of great Uruguayan captains. A modern version of a leader at the back, Godin has played in LaLiga, Serie A, Brazil, and now in Argentina. A key component to “El Proceso” of coach Óscar Washington Tabárez, Godin has over 150 games for Uruguay.
13. Héctor Castro
Héctor Castro is the first player to ever score a goal in a World Cup for Uruguay in 1930. He was skilled and lethal in front of goal scoring 18 goals in 25 caps. Castro at 13, accidentally amputated his right forearm while using an electric saw, and was called El manco (meaning "the one-armed"`). Castro won the 1930 World Cup, a gold medal in the 1928 Olympic games, and two Copa Americas.
12. Ángel Romano
Before the 1930 World Cup, Ángel Romano was a born winner with the Uruguayan national team. The striker scored 28 goals in 70 appearances and won an astonishing 21 titles with Uruguay between official competitions and friendly cups.
11. Roque Máspoli
Goalkeeper Roque Máspoli was a legend in goal for Uruguay, having actually scored 1 goal in his 40 caps. Roque Máspoli was the starting goalkeeper for the famed 1950 World Cup title and played for both Nacional and Peñarol.
10. José Nasazzi
José Nasazzi is a legend in South American soccer circles, he captained with elegance the Uruguayan side that won the first ever World Cup. Known as an elegant defender and an inspirational captain, the legend of Nasazzi led to all the traits each captain of the Uruguayan team has had to uphold since.
9. Héctor Scarone
Héctor Scarone was a legendary goal scorer in South America scoring over 100 goals for Nacional, and having played for Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Palermo. On the national team Scarone scored 31 goals in 51 games and won 7 titles with Uruguay including the 1930 World Cup. Scarone owned Argentina scoring 13 goals against the Albiceleste.
8. Juan Alberto Schiaffino
One of the most elegant players Uruguay has ever had, Juan Alberto Schiaffino was a legend at AC Milan and was a big part of upsetting Brazil in the 1950 World Cup, Juan Alberto Schiaffino played only 21 times for Uruguay and scored 9 goals, but his talent was unquestionable.
7. Ladislao Mazurkiewicz
Sensational goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz played in three tournaments for La Celeste in 1966, 1970 (4th place), and 1974. Mazurkiewicz was named best goalkeeper in the 70 World Cup in Mexico.
6. Enzo Francescoli
Elegant, dynamic, and a leader, Enzo Francescoli was a great creative force for Uruguay in his 73 caps and 17 goals. ‘The prince’ was able to win three Copa Americas, 1983, 1987, 1995, as well as playing in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. Francescoli is best known for his years at River Plate in Argentina where he is a club icon.
5. Edinson Cavani
Uruguay’s second all-time leading scorer with 58 goals in 133 caps. Cavani has been a hard worker for the team, often being asked to track back and defend. Cavani has played up front, on the wings, as well as in defense. When in his natural position the now Valencia striker is usually on the scoresheet.
4. Alcides Ghiggia
The man who silenced Maracana and gave way to El Maracanazo. Ghiggia would score Uruguay’s go-ahead goal to defeat Brazil in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. Over 180,000 people were in shock and disbelief as Uruguay lifted the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.
3. Diego Forlán
The 2010 player of the World Cup, Diego Forlán was sensational in South Africa, leading Uruguay to the semifinals with key goals against South Africa and Ghana. Diego Forlán scored 33 goals in 112 games for La Celeste and was one of the most consistent players for over 10 years. Forlán also scored two goals in the 2011 Copa America final to give Uruguay their historic 15th Copa América.
2. Luis Suárez
There have been many great goal scorers that have played for Uruguay, but Luis Suárez is the complete package having become Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer with 68 goals. Luis Suárez has played in top teams like Ajax, Liverpool, and Barcelona. He is currently at boyhood club Nacional after the fans created a hashtag to bring their star pupil home. Luis Suárez won the 2011 Copa America for Uruguay and has scored 7 World Cup goals for Uruguay.
1. Obdulio Varela
The captain of the Uruguayan national team in the 1950 World Cup, he coined the phrase “los de afuera son de palo” meaning the fans don’t count, when Uruguay was set to take the field against Brazil in front of 180,000 fans. His legend has grown since then and is considered the quintessential Uruguayan. Obdulio Varela is the player and captain all Uruguay soccer players look to emulate with his leadership and legend.
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