58. Carlos Valderrama
This colorful and talented midfielder has been regarded as one of the very best in his position in South America over the past decade or so. Valderrama made his debut for Colombia in October 1985 losing 3-0 to Paraguay, but established himself soon and won the captaincy at an early age. At club level, he started playing for Colombia’s first division side Union Magdalena in 1981. He also played for Millionarios and Deportivo Cali before he signed for French side Montpellier in 1988, a club he won a French Cup championship with two years later. Valderrama also played for Spanish team Valladolid before he returned home to his native Colombia to play for Atelitico Junior where he also won two league championships.
Known as “El Pibe” (the kid), Carlos Valderrama is easy recognizable with his big curly blonde hair and all his jewelry. He was an accurate passer of the ball and a playmaker of finest caliber. He is also one of very few players to have captained his country in three World Cups. His biggest World Cup moment was when he dribbled past several players and delivered a pinpoint pass to teammate Rincon who scored the necessary equalizer three minutes into injury time against eventual winners West Germany in 1990. That goal meant Colombia qualified to the second round.
In 1994, Colombia were one of the hottest candidates to win the World Cup, much thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of Argentina in Buenos Aires in the qualifying rounds, and even though Valderrama was on top of his game, Colombia disappointed a lot and got knocked out already in the first round. Neither in France four years later, at the age of 37, could “El Pibe” and his teammate get past the first round. He joined Tampa Bay Mutiny in the MLS in 1996 where he has had success as one of the best players.
Colombian Carlos Valderrama dribbles the ball, as England’s Sol Campbell(L) looks on, during a group G first-round World Cup match against England in Lens June 26.