Spain's 5 Greatest Players Ever

Jason PettigroveContributor IOctober 8, 2013

Spain's 5 Greatest Players Ever

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    Who makes the cut as one of the greatest ever players to pull on a La Roja shirt?
    Who makes the cut as one of the greatest ever players to pull on a La Roja shirt?Clive Mason/Getty Images

    There is no doubting that this is a golden age for Spanish football.

    As such, it's natural to lean toward current players in a list of the five greatest Spanish players to have ever pulled on the national team jersey.

    The subjective nature of such a list means that there are a huge number of other players that you could realistically make a case to have included here.

    Let's take a look at whether you agree with my choices.

5. Raul

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    Raul made over 100 appearances for La Roja. Photo credit: Frome Town Youth
    Raul made over 100 appearances for La Roja. Photo credit: Frome Town Youth

    Raul Gonzalez Blanco was the mainstay of the Spanish attack for 102 games between 1996-2006.

    Until compatriot David Villa burst onto the scene and effectively retired Raul from the national side, the player held the record for goals scored with 44.

    A former captain of the side, Raul's influence in the dressing room as well as on the pitch was clear.

    What a shame therefore, that his international career was curtailed at the relatively early age of 29.

4. David Villa

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    Spain's record goalscorer David Villa in familiar pose. Photo credit: The Guardian
    Spain's record goalscorer David Villa in familiar pose. Photo credit: The Guardian

    Since his national team debut in 2005, David Villa just hasn't been able to stop scoring. In his 92 appearances, Villa has racked up an astonishing 56 goals.

    A goals to games ratio of better than 1-in-2 at the elite level of international football is very special indeed, and his prowess in front of goal puts him way out in front at the very top of the goalscoring list.

    Villa's injuries have often prevented him from adding to his tally, missing both Euro 2008 and 2012 finals, but El Guaje is still an automatic pick for the squad and at 31 years of age still has at least one final hurrah left in him.

3. Andres Iniesta

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    Andres Iniesta, the man who won the World Cup for Spain.
    Andres Iniesta, the man who won the World Cup for Spain.Lars Baron/Getty Images

    Andres Iniesta. The man who won Spain their first ever World Cup.

    It doesn't really get much better than that, and ritual standing ovations at every ground he plays at with Barcelona are testament to how important his contribution to the national team has been for his adoring Spanish public.

    Alongside Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta has provided a craft and guile to the midfield position unlike anything we have seen before. The way in which he manages to keep hold of the ball under the most demanding of situations is a joy to behold.

    One of the most decorated players in World Football, it's easy to forget that Iniesta is still just 29 years of age.

    Back in 2012, Spanish teammate David Silva went as far as to say that Iniesta was the best player in the world, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (per Terry Lands of the Mirror).

2. Xavi Hernandez

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    There is no finer passer in world football than Xavi Hernandez
    There is no finer passer in world football than Xavi HernandezScott Heavey/Getty Images

    Xavi Hernandez is simply one of the finest footballers ever to grace a pitch with his talent. Try telling that to the player who said (via Andy Mitten, Eurosport):

    "I'm not strong, nor fast, nor skilful, I'm a player from the street. Without my team-mates, without space, I am nothing."

    That's certainly not how Pep Guardiola saw him: "There's the man who will retire me," nor Barcelona team-mate Dani Alves: "We all live in the present but Xavi actually lives in the future. That's how he sees things the way he does. He shows that the little smart guys can play great."

    Xavi is the midfield maestro who makes Spain tick. 128 outfield appearances (a record) speak for itself and though he may be approaching the business end of his career, Xavi can still be relied upon to change the course of a game. 

    His pass completion rates are the stuff of legend and Spain will be much the poorer when he hangs up his boots. 

1. Iker Casillas

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    Iker Casillas has been outstanding whenever he has been called upon.
    Iker Casillas has been outstanding whenever he has been called upon.Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Iker Casillas gets the vote for the greatest ever to have represented Spain for a number of reasons.

    Since 1996, Casillas has represented his country at every level from U15 upwards and has now amassed a World Record 150 appearances for La Roja.

    Of those, Casillas has won over 100, a truly unbelievable statistic.

    He also holds the world record for most clean sheets , per Ben Hayward of Goal.com

    Adept in one-on-ones, coming for the high ball and general all-round quality, one of the early highlights of his international career will have been when he earned the nickname "Saint Iker" or The Saint.

    Deputising for an injured Santiago Canizares in the 2002 World Cup against Republic of Ireland, the 21 year old Casillas save two penalties in the round of 16 game to see the Spaniards progress.

    It was the shape of things to come.

    At 32 years of age and despite his reported troubles at Real Madrid, Casillas is still going strong at international level, and will want to become the first captain in football history to lift four consecutive international trophies when Spain head to Brazil for World Cup 2014.