20 Toughest Tacklers in La Liga
With Gary Medel clattering into midfielders twice the size of him now out of the picture following his move to Cardiff City, the title of La Liga's toughest tackler is up for grabs.
And for once this gives a chance to the other teams to have their say, as Real Madrid and Barcelona are so used to having the ball that they don't have to do much tackling.
Primarily this list focuses on defensive midfielders, as they seem to be the busiest when it comes to crunching into challenges. It has been compiled using a mixture of statistics and previous knowledge of the players listed.
However the odd central defender or full-back is included.
Maneuver your way through the following slides to find out which player has been deemed the Primera Division's biggest hitter.
20. Allan Nyom (Granada)
Allan Nyom, at 6'4", is a right-back you wouldn't want to be crashing into on a dark night. And as Granada are quite often forced to defend, attackers quite often find themselves on the receiving end of one of the Cameroon international's big tackles.
19. Manuel Iturra (Granada)
A summer signing from Andalusian rivals Malaga, Granada will be hoping that Manuel Iturra can provide plenty of grit in their midfield. The Chilean, 29, may only be 5'9", but his square figure makes him tough in the challenge.
18. David Lopez (Espanyol)
Having returned from a successful loan spell at Huesca last season, Javier Aguirre has made the strong figure of David Lopez a starter in his Espanyol side. The 23-year-old is, so far, reveling in a defensive-midfield role alongside Victor Sanchez.
17. Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis excels defensively, which is often rare for a full-back these days. The Brazilian has been consistently brilliant at timing his tackles for nearly two years now, while also offering stability in an attacking sense.
16. Javi Lopez (Espanyol)
Javi Lopez can be a bit rash when it comes to diving in but is often forced into this by finding himself out of position. However, when it comes to it, the Espanyol right-back is not one to shy away from a huge 50-50 or a last-ditch lunge.
15. Markel Bergara (Real Sociedad)
Markel Bergara is so often the beast that allows the beauty of Carlos Vela, Antoine Griezmann and friends to flourish at Real Sociedad. The 27-year-old sits in midfield, flies into challenges and lets the others play—he's never scored a La Liga goal.
14. Bruno Soriano (Villarreal)
After spending a year in the depths of La Segunda, La Liga is a better place for the return of Bruno Soriano—promoted with Villarreal. The 29-year-old has previously been capped twice by Spain and has already set his stall out this season by winning 10 tackles in his first three matches, according to Squawka.
13. Vicente Iborra (Sevilla)
A product of the youth system at Levante, it was always expected that Vicente Iborra, 25, would end up at Valencia...until Sevilla stole his signature this summer. Tasked with filling gaps left by Gary Medel and Geoffrey Kondogbia, the rangy midfielder—he's 6'3"—is more than capable of doing so.
12. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
While many on this list crash, bang and wallop into tackles, Barcelona's Sergio Busquets is more like a wily old fox. The 25-year-old's reading of the game is impeccable, meaning he can win tackles easily without even breaking into a sweat.
11. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Love him or hate him, you can't argue that Sergio Ramos is an unbelievable athlete. In an era headlined by Spain's technical brilliance, the 27-year-old adds a hint or brutality to the brilliance—an elbow here, a thumping tackle there and repeated excellence in the air.
10. Ignacio Camacho (Malaga)
With the exodus at Malaga continuing over the summer, Ignacio Camacho is expected to have a more important role than ever for Bernd Schuster's side this season.
The 23-year-old's string of fine displays in the first part of last season drew heaps of praise, but the former Atletico Madrid midfielder has dropped his levels recently.
At 6'0" tall, he remains a physical threat to opponents in the middle of the park, although he may want to reduce the 2.3 fouls a game he ended last season with, according to WhoScored.
9. Victor Perez (Real Valladolid)
Often under siege against the league's bigger boys, Real Valladolid need players like Victor Perez to stand up and be counted.
And more often than not last season, under the guidance of Miroslav Djukic, the 25-year-old was more than happy to step forward and indulge in the dirty work.
According to Squawka, he won 84 tackles across the campaign, and new manager Juan Ignacio Martinez will need him to hit similar heights to keep Valladolid away from the trap door over the next 10 months.
8. Asier Illarramendi (Real Madrid)
Those who expect Ruben Pardo to step into Asier Illarramendi's role at Real Sociedad quite so easily are perhaps underestimating the physical difference between the two players.
While both possess great know-how on the ball, Illarra's physical presence makes him markedly different from his heir apparent.
The 23-year-old won nearly 100 tackles last season—also committing 49 fouls, according to Squawka—and Real Madrid will benefit from his return.
7. Borja Oubina (Celta Vigo)
Borja Oubina's career path could have been quite different were it not for a clash with Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt way back in 2007.
The Celta Vigo midfielder had just penned a year-long loan with Birmingham City in the Premier League, but the incident with Kuyt all but ended his season.
He's since returned to Vigo, though, and last season he guarded his defence both admirably and cynically as the Galicians managed to survive on the last day.
6. Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
Were it not for a string of injuries and a year of birth that is carrying him toward 36, Carles Puyol would probably be sat comfortably at the top of this list.
You only have to look at this photo, to look at Puyol's face, to realise that it is probably not a pleasant experience to be on the end of one of his smashing challenges.
Barcelona's defence has not quite been the same without him—will they ever find someone similar to fill his boots as his career winds down?
5. Victor Sanchez (Espanyol)
With what has the makings of one La Liga's best defensive midfield duos, Victor Sanchez sits alongside the aforementioned David Lopez.
Sanchez joined Barcelona in 2005 and made his way from the C team through to the first team, where he made 14 appearances in total.
After a year in Switzerland with Neuchatel Xamax he returned to La Liga with Espanyol last season—with 109 tackles, only teammate Javi Lopez made more challenges in the league in 2012/13, according to Squawka.
4. Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao)
Don't be fooled by that baby face, Ander Herrera won't think twice about niggling at your heels or crunching in for a 50-50.
The Athletic Bilbao midfielder committed 51 fouls last season but also won 90 of the tackles that he attempted, according to Squawka.
He's probably one of the most technically gifted players in this list too, demonstrating the variety that led to Manchester United seeking to take him to England on deadline day recently, as reported by Eurosport (via Yahoo!).
3. Javi Fuego (Valencia)
Javi Fuego was an absolute terrier for Rayo Vallecano last season, leading to Valencia luring him to make the switch to Mestalla this summer.
Fuego plays as the deepest part of Miroslav Djukic's midfield for Los Che, and his tackling ability—not to mention knowing when to make a sneaky foul—make him a key part of the Serbian's plans.
Talking of fouls, the 29-year-old made 69 last season—he's already made seven this season—but he did also complete 103 tackles, according to Squawka.
2. Pape Diop (Levante)
Perhaps a symbol of the style that has seen Levante so successful over the past two seasons, Pape Diop is a bruiser of a midfielder.
The Senegalese international was signed from Racing Santander and uses his imposing frame to dominate midfields—he'll have been sad to see Vicente Iborra depart this summer.
Throughout last season he made 3.6 tackles every game; on the flip side he also gave away 2.4 fouls each game too, according to WhoScored.
1. Gabi (Atletico Madrid)
Gabriel Fernandez Arenas, or Gabi to you and me.
Atletico Madrid's captain is the sort of player you hate playing against but love having on your team.
The 30-year-old midfielder returned to the club in 2011 and has since been a part of three trophies.
He committed a staggering 93 fouls last season—he probably knew exactly what he was doing with most of them too—which saw him pick up 11 yellow cards and one red card.
A red card also came his way in the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid.
Fortunately he did manage to complete 99 successful tackles too and, although his game may be limited, his importance to a Diego Simeone side cannot be understated.
Stats via Squawka.