A full Argentina international at the age of 20, it seems a matter of when, not if Leonardo Balerdi will make his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund. bundesliga.com delves into the history of the young defender’s predecessors…
At the time of writing, a grand total of 42 Argentinians have played club football in the German top flight. Ricardo-Horacia Neumann was the first, the late forward scoring two goals in 16 Bundesliga appearances for two-time champions Cologne during 1972/73.
Neumann had company in the form of fellow countryman Christian Rudzki, who helped himself to a debut goal in the colours of Hannover on Matchday 4 of the 1972/73 campaign to become the first Argentinian player to score in Germany’s top tier. The ex-Estudiantes striker featured just three more times in the Lower Saxony capital before fading into obscurity.
Nearly two decades later, Jose Horacio 'Nene' Basualdo touched down in Stuttgart. Basualdo, so the story goes, had only brought two changes of clothes with him, not realising that VfB Stuttgart would sign him up there and then. It would be five months before he saw his family again, but Basualdo was a success, making 44 appearances for VfB and featuring for Argentina in a FIFA World Cup final against Germany while still a Stuttgart player.
His contemporary, Rodolfo Cardoso, made more Bundesliga appearances than any other Argentinian player before or since, playing 220 times for FC Homburg, Freiburg, Werder Bremen and Hamburg between 1989 and 2004. Since hanging up his boots, Cardoso has taken charge of the HSV youths, reserves and even the senior squad in a caretaker capacity. He is currently serving as technical coach of the club’s youth teams.
Cardoso registered 44 goals and 44 assists across his 16,771 minutes of Bundesliga action; Diego Klimowicz is the only Argentine to have hand a direct hand in more goals. Starting out at Wolfsburg in 2002, moving to Dortmund in 2007 and rounding out his German adventure with Bochum in 2009/10, Klimowicz struck 70 times in 214 Bundesliga appearances - a league best for an Argentine - and chipped in with 27 assists.
Watch: The top 5 Bundesliga goals by Argentinians
Twenty-eight past and present members of the Bundesliga’s Argentinian connection lasted more than one season, but only two got their hands on the league title. Martin Demichelis spent eight-and-a-half years at Bayern Munich, amassing 174 league appearances and winning four Bundesliga-DFB Cup doubles. Jose Sosa didn’t make quite the same impact, playing only a bit part-role at best under Ottmar Hitzfeld and Louis van Gaal between 2007 and 2010.
Anibal Matellan and Javier Pinola also got their hands on top domestic honours on German soil. Matellan won the 2001/02 DFB Cup with Schalke, while Pinola – who stuck around for a decade – followed suit in Nuremberg colours five years later. The duo totalled 263 Bundesliga appearances between them.
Diego Placente can count himself desperately unlucky not to be part of Germany’s list of Argentine title winners. The former Argentina international left-back was part of a Bayer Leverkusen team that went into the final weeks of the 2001/02 season with genuine designs on a Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup treble, only for those best-laid plans to be laid to waste in dramatic fashion.
Leverkusen did not recover after losing their lead at the league summit to Dortmund on Matchday 32 and, after going down 4-2 to Matellan’s Schalke in the DFB Cup, succumbed to a famous Zinedine Zidane goal in the Champions League final at Hampden Park. Placente moved on three years later revered by fans, but as one of the club’s fabled ‘Eternal Bridesmaids’.
History didn’t stop Lucas Alario joining Bayer from River Plate in summer 2017. The 26-year-old played with Pinola at club level, and made his debut for Argentina in a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay, a game in which Lionel Messi scored the only goal. Alario has tallied one goal in four for his country, as well as 19 in 56 Bundesliga games for Die Werkself.
Watch: Alario made a fantastic start to life in the Bundesliga
David Abraham completes the latter-day list of Argentinian representatives in the Bundesliga. Fifty appearances in a Hoffenheim shirt have been followed by over 130 for Eintracht Frankfurt, with whom he reached back-to-back DFB Cup finals in 2017 and 2018, winning the latter, the UEFA Europa League semi-finals in 2018/19. Unlike contemporaries Balerdi and Alario, however, the 33-year-old is uncapped at senior international level.
Argentinians in the Bundesliga:
First player: Ricardo-Horacia Neumann (Cologne, 1972-75)
Most goals: Diego Klimowicz (70); Wolfsburg (57, 2001-07), Dortmund (6, 2007-09), Bochum (7, 2009-10)
Most appearances: Rodolfo Cardoso (220); Homburg (14, 1989-93), Freiburg (63, 1993-95), Werder Bremen (32, 1995-97), Hamburg (111, 1997-2004)
Most Bundesliga titles won: Martin Demichelis (four), Bayern Munich (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010)