Top 10 La Liga Players Not at Barcelona or Real Madrid
It is no secret that La Liga suffered a talent drain over the summer months. While Real Madrid and Barcelona continued to snap up young players to bolster their squads, the rest of the pack seemed to either offload its stars to the big two or send them to foreign shores.
Regardless of recent trends, there are still plenty of great players plying their trades in Spain—and not all of them call Camp Nou or the Bernabeu their home. From goalscorers to creative midfielders, La Liga has technical ability on par with any league in the world.
The following are the top 10 players in La Liga not at Barca or Madrid.
10. Weligton Oliveira, Malaga
Something of a late bloomer, Weligton Oliveira formed a formidable partnership with Martin Demichelis to help Malaga to a quarterfinals Champions League appearance last season. The Brazilian is 34 years old, and after bouncing around for most of his career, he seems to have found a home at La Rosaleda.
Weligton is tall, strong and calm on the ball. He is just as capable intercepting a pass as he is distributing the ball up the field. The loss of Santi Cazorla a year ago put further pressure on Weligton and Demichelis to perform, but the pair stood strong.
Malaga certainly have missed him this campaign. Injured in the summer, Weligton has featured in just one game thus far, but his eventual return to fitness will boost his side immensely.
9. Helder Postiga, Valencia
Nomadic striker Helder Postiga moved to Valencia this summer in the hopes that he could replace Roberto Soldado's output. With three goals in his first seven league appearances, Postiga is off to a decent start.
The much-maligned striker has bounced around Europe throughout his career—including spells with Tottenham, Porto and Panathinaikos, to name a few. Despite his mixed results in his club play, Postiga has led the line for Portugal consistently.
Postiga has earned 65 caps for his national side, scoring 27 goals. That impressive return points to the finishing talent he has, but Valencia will hope he can finally settle in and replicate his international success with his new club side.
8. Beñat Etxebarria, Athletic Bilbao
Beñat Etxebarria is a remarkable midfield talent. After a successful stint with Real Betis, the Basque playmaker has returned to the club that gave him his start. The No. 7 will look to replicate his performances from last season in his new shirt.
He has plenty of time for that.
Beñat is 26 years of age, just starting to come into his prime. He is a free-kick expert and is currently dishing out 1.4 key passes per game, according to WhoScored.com. With four caps to his name, Beñat will look to improve that tally if he can beat out the tough midfield competition.
Beñat was a wonderful pickup by Bilbao this summer, and the player will look to carry the team to a strong finish this season.
7. Inigo Martinez, Real Sociedad
Defending is rarely glamorous, but Inigo Martinez knows how to draw attention to the art with fine tackling at the back. The 22-year-old plays a key role for Sociedad, and the club will need him to continue his fine form if it is to build off last year's success.
The Spaniard won his first full cap as a substitute against Ecuador in August of this year, but the boy should have many more to come. While not blessed with great pace, Martinez is clever with his stature, skillful on the ball and capable of intercepting passes with ease.
6. Koke, Atletico Madrid
The young midfielder finished with 10 assists last La Liga campaign, good enough for sixth in the division. At just 21 years of age, Koke has a bright future. As a member of a surging Atletico side, Koke has been tipped to develop into an important contributor to the national side.
Capable of playing anywhere across the midfield line, Koke's performances have reportedly drawn attention from the likes of Manchester United.
He is still a bit raw, but with an 84.5 passing completion rate according to WhoScored.com, Koke is well on his way to moving up this list.
5. David Villa, Atletico Madrid
David Villa has been scoring goals in La Liga for more than a decade, and his successes have been well-documented. After bagging 108 goals for Valencia in 168 games, Villa was finally rewarded with some trophies after a move to Camp Nou in 2010.
The striker won two Liga titles and a Champions League crown with Barca while capturing both a Euro Championship and a World Cup trophy. Villa did this while becoming Spain's all-time leading scorer with 56 goals from 92 caps.
His star has faded slightly in the last two years—with a critical leg break partially to blame. But the forward has a new home at Atletico Madrid and is still capable of finishing off any move.
4. Ivan Rakitic, Sevilla
The creative Croatian is something of an underrated talent. Ivan Rakitic has been a phenomonal addition to Sevilla since his arrival in 2011, contributing consistently in the midfield. Last season, Rakitic knocked in eight goals and 10 assists.
His performances with the club have been rewarded, as Rakitic was named captain of the side ahead of this season. He may not have the notoriety of his compatriot at Real Madrid, but the playmaker is a vital part of his squad and one of the best in the league.
3. Ever Banega, Valencia
Ever Banega occupies the crucial No. 10 role for Valencia. His exquisite touch and distribution make him a valuable asset both for club and country. The Argentinian has no shortage of competitors for a place in his national side, but at the tender age of 25, the player has already earned 23 caps.
However, Diego Maradona overlooked Banega, and he missed out on the 2010 World Cup. He will be looking to continue his fine form in La Liga to book his place to Brazil this summer. With a goal and three assists to his name already, the midfielder is off to a strong start.
2. Carlos Vela, Real Sociedad
It is easy to forget that Carlos Vela is just 24 years old. The dynamic striker was busy delighting the Emirates Stadium crowd with delicate chips just a few years ago, but Vela is now a genuine star in La Liga.
His impressive return of 14 goals last campaign was crucial to Sociedad's fourth-place finish in the Champions League. The club qualified for the League due in large part to the Mexican's eye for goal.
Vela is off to a decent start this season as well and had previously been linked by Spanish paper Depor Sport (h/t Goal.com) with a move away from Anoeta Stadium.
Sociedad, on the other hand, are struggling out of the gate, but they must perform if they wish to sign their main man to a new deal.
1. Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid
It has been a long time since the leading scorer in La Liga was not Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. With nine games gone, Diego Costa stands in front of the pack with 10 goals.
At just 25 years of age, Costa might just be coming into his prime. The burly striker has won two caps for the Brazilian national side—his place of birth—but has recently gained citizenship for Spain. The two countries are set to clash over his allegiance in the coming months, but Atletico's star striker has indicated that La Roja are the team for him.
Whatever color Costa will be wearing at next summer's World Cup, one thing is for sure: The player has a keen eye for goal. Right now, he is La Liga's best player not at Barcelona or Real Madrid—but just give it another year or two before they come calling!