Best in South America? There was always a bit of mystery and enchantment about it, as far as Europeans were concerned. The continent was fertile and new talent came all the time, but it was not always seen. And it was hard to figure out real merit of one player compared to the rest. Local bias plus deeply embedded journalistic fears play a role – both aspects not specifically South American, but universal. Choices can be doubted easily, for changes and recognition were and are somewhat late. But change of guard was detectable in South America – top three were two well established names and a newcomer, who was not newcomer at all, yet, clearly represented new generation of players. Elias Figueroa was voted third, although playing by now for modest Palestino (Santiago, Chile). True, he elevated the club to instant success, but... possibly votes went to him by habit too, for he was already unprecedented three times Player of the Year of the continent.
Rivelino was voted second – he played for Fluminense by now and Fluminense was not winning. And the days of Rivelino in the national team of Brazil were nearly finished. He was also getting old and no matter how good Figueroa and Rivelino were, their was a sense that they represented yesterday's football and they were voted high not because they had particularly great season, but because of their names.
Number one was entirely different player – Zico.