Spanish Premier League Best XI of the Past 15 Years
The current Barcelona and Real Madrid teams have taken La Liga to another level.
There was life before them though, and although the recent achievements of the Spanish national team means many of those players feature, there is a mix of players here from the last 15 years.
Of course, more than 11 good players have played in Spain's Primera division, for that reason there are many that had to be cut.
Some of those players that particularly tugged at my heart strings as I looked them in the eye and told them they hadn't made the cut are listed in each slide.
Remind me to get Simon Cowell to do it for me next time.
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GK: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid 1999-present)
He won his first La Liga title in 2001 and has added another four since. Add to that two Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, a World Cup and two European Championships with Spain. Still only 31, he's closing in on 150 Spain caps.
Santiago Canizares (Real Madrid 1988-92 and 1994-98, Celta Vigo 1992-94, Valencia 1998-2008), Victor Valdes (Barcelona 2002-present)
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DF: Fernando Hierro (Real Valladolid 1987-89, Real Madrid 1989-2003)
In 14 years with Real Madrid Fernando Hierro won it all—five La Liga titles and three Champions league triumphs the most memorable. Unfortunately, despite nearly 100 international caps, he just missed out on playing in Spain's golden generation.
DF: Carles Puyol (Barcelona 1999-present)
Carles Puyol needs no introduction. He has been the lion heart behind five La Liga titles and three Champions League successes. It should become six Liga's this season, while in his 100 La Roja caps he's also clinched the World Cup and one European Championship.
DF: Roberto Ayala (Valencia 2000-07, Zaragoza 2007-09)
The last side to beat Barcelona or Real Madrid to the title was Valencia, winning it twice in the early years of the 21st century. The Argentinian libero was a mainstay in both those successes and also in the 2004 UEFA Cup win during his spell at Mestalla.
Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid 1996-2007), Sergio Ramos (Sevilla 2004-05, Real Madrid 2005-present), Dani Alves (Sevilla 2002-08, Barcelona 2008-present), Michel Salgado (Celta Vigo 1995-99, Real Madrid 1999-2009)
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MF: Xavi (Barcelona 1998-present)
One World Cup, two European Championships, six La Liga titles and three Champions League victories are all testament to the wonder of Xavi. The midfielder epitomises Barca's tiki-taka style and is still an important cog in their system 15 years after his debut.
MF: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid 2001-06)
The Frenchman was one of the symbols of Madrid's Galacticos, but he won surprisingly little during five years at the Bernabeu. He was always a marvel to watch though, and one league title was backed up with one Champions League success against Bayer Leverkusen—including that goal.
MF: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona 2002-present)
If Andres Iniesta had been born in another era he would have possibly been littered with personal honours. As it is Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominate. Still, the 28-year-old will be more than happy with his five league titles, three Champions Leagues, two European Championships and one World Cup—where he scored the winner.
AM: Ronaldinho (Barcelona 2003-08)
On his day Ronaldinho was unplayable, unfortunately his Barcelona career fizzled out to a backdrop of urban myths and disappointment. However when he was good, boy was he good. He scored just shy of 100 goals for the club and helped them to two league titles and one Champions League.
Luis Figo (Barcelona 1995-2000, Real Madrid 2000-05), Fernando Redondo (Tenerife 1990-1994, Real Madrid 1994-2000), David Albleda (Valencia 1996-present), Juan Carlos Valeron (Mallorca 1997-98, Atletico Madrid 1998-2000, Deportivo La Coruna 2000-present), Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad 1999-2004, Real Madrid 2009-present), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona 2008-present)
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FW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona 2004-present)
La Liga and, particularly, Barcelona have moved to another level in recent years and Lionel Messi has been one of the main catalysts. Four Ballon d'Or's represent his individual brilliance, as do the countless goalscoring records he continues to break. On an individual level the Argentinian's been involved in five league triumphs and three Champions League wins.
FW: Ronaldo (Barcelona 1996-97, Real Madrid 2002-07)
The word lethal didn't quite cover Ronaldo when he was at his scintillating best. It seems such a shame that he has come to be known as 'The Fat One' in some circles. The Brazilian scored 47 in 51 with Barcelona and a further 118 for Real Madrid. He only won one La Liga title though in Spain, as well as a couple of minor trophies.
FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid 2009-present)
The Portuguese forward, like Lionel Messi, continues to take football to heights not previously thought possible. 188 goals in 186 games included 46 as Real Madrid won La Liga last season and he will surely add more as Los Blancos pursue the Copa del Rey and Champions League this season.
Samuel Eto'o (Real Madrid 1997-2000, Mallorca 2000-04, Barcelona 2004-09), Rivaldo (Deportivo La Coruna 1996-97, Barcelona 1997-2002), David Villa (Sporting Gijon 2001-03, Zaragoza 2003-05, Valencia 2005-10, Barcelona 2010-present), Raul (Real Madrid 1994-2010)