Germany and Argentina are two football nations inexorably entwined. On no less than three occasions, these two countries have faced each other in football's biggest game: the FIFA World Cup Final. Two of them ended in German triumphs, most recently in 2014.
The Bundesliga has certainly had its fair share of Argentinian stars, too. Today, Franco di Santo leads the line for FC Schalke 04, David Abraham is a key part of Eintracht Frankfurt's defence and Emiliano Insua has helped lift VfB Stuttgart away from the relegation places since the turn of the year.
With their famous combination of Latin American footwork and no-nonsense attitude, Argentinian imports waste little time acclimatising to their new surroundings in Germany. As Hamburger SV chairman Dietmar Beiersdorfer once put it: “Argentinian players are low maintenance and easy to integrate. They have a similar mentality to the Europeans.”
The story of Argentinians in the Bundesliga, however, did not begin with a bang. It was the summer of 1972 when Christian Rudzki and Horacio Neumann became the first players from the South American nation to try their luck in Germany’s top flight.
One year, four appearances and one goal later, Rudzki left Hannover 96. Neumann fared little better for 1. FC Köln, making only 20 appearances in two and a half years for the Billy Goats before departing for France.
Nearly two decades later, Jose Horacio 'Nene' Basualdo touched down in Stuttgart in 1989. 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 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 08 Homburg, SC Freiburg, SV Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV between 1989 and 2004. A fan favourite at Freiburg, it was at HSV that Cardoso eventually settled. He has since become a mainstay of the club's coaching staff, and has had a number of spells as caretaker coach.
Lower Saxony launchpad
Cardoso's career in Germany coincided with the Bundesliga's development into a global phenomenon, capable of attracting players from all over the world. By the time he retired in 2004, Cardoso had been joined by several compatriots, including Diego Placente, who made 171 appearances during a four-year stint at Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
It was VfL Wolfsburg, though, who provided a launchpad for Argentinian players around that time. The likes of Andres 'Magic Mouse' D'Alessandro, Pablo Quattrocchi and Diego Klimowicz (above) could all be found amongst the ranks of the Wolves in 2004. Klimowicz would go on to become the most prolific Argentinian goalscorer in Bundesliga history, with 71 goals in 213 games for Wolfsburg, VfL Bochum and Borussia Dortmund.
No time like the present
Yet it is arguably the current era which is the shining example of the Argentinian success story in the Bundesliga. The likes of Javier Pinola, who spent ten years at 1. FC Nürnberg, and Martin Demichelis, who won four Bundesliga titles with FC Bayern München, may now be gone, but there remains a wealth of talent in the ranks of the 18 Bundesliga clubs.
Santiago Garcia has made 63 appearances for Bremen since joining the North German giants in 2013, while his former team-mate Di Santo is now terrorising defences at Schalke. Abraham, meanwhile, was a member of Argentina's U-20 World Cup winning team of 2005, playing alongside the likes of Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi, who he describes as “a very nice, quiet guy, on and off the field.”
Having arrived in the league in 2013, Abraham is one of the most recent additions to the proud history of Argentinian Bundesliga stars. If that history is anything to go by, he will certainly not be the last.