If, for Christmas this year, you received a build-the-perfect-La-Liga-player kit, would you know exactly which aspect of which player you would use?
Which players’ right foot would you steal? Left foot?
Using only one attribute from any given player, here is an attempt at building the ultimate machine to take to the pitches of Spanish football.
There is also a poor-man’s alternative, just so it isn’t completely focused on the Primera Division’s top sides.
Right foot: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
If Cristiano Ronaldo’s right foot was to take out insurance, it wouldn’t be cheap. Real Madrid’s No. 7 scores goal after goal, penalty after penalty and free-kick after free kick—so help any goalkeeper who finds themselves staring down the barrel of a strike from the 28-year-old.
Poor-man’s option: Patrick Ebert (Real Valladolid)
Left foot: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
On the opposite side to Ronaldo is Gareth Bale, a Welshman with a left foot which is destined to follow a similar path to that of Ronaldo’s right.
His left peg has already proved a match-winner time and again for Tottenham, and there have been more than glimpses that it’s ready to do the same for Real Madrid—at the price he cost you’d hope so, anyway.
Poor-man’s option: Piti (Granada)
Heading: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
A few years ago you might have chosen Carles Puyol, but as age has caught up with the Catalan, Sergio Ramos has become the outstanding candidate in the air.
Admittedly he switches off at times, although at his best he’s ruthless with his head at both ends of the pitch. He’s notched 35 goals in his career in La Liga, five more in the Champions League and nine for Spain—most of them with his head.
Poor-man’s option: Mikel San Jose (Athletic Club Bilbao)
Passing: Xavi (Barcelona)
Like him or loath him, surely everyone has to admit that Xavi is the market leader when it comes to passing.
The Barcelona midfielder was the heartbeat at the emergence of tiki-taka—a style which many clubs around the world have sought to replicate—and despite his years remains vital to La Blaugrana’s play at the top level.
Poor-man’s option: Roberto Trashorras (Rayo Vallecano)
Dribbling: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
If Lionel Messi is dribbling at a defender, most people would know where they would put their money: on the Argentine.
Opposing managers, knowing this, regularly choose to use two, even three, defenders to try to stop the mercurial wizard in his tracks. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, though—remember this goal against Getafe?
Poor-man’s option: Suso (Almeria)
Tackling: Gabi (Atletico Madrid)
Flair and individual brilliance takes you so far, but behind most successful teams there’s a guy like Gabi letting the match-winners do their thing.
Captain of Atletico Madrid and a symbol of Diego Simeone’s style of play, Gabi shields Los Rojiblancos’ back four brilliantly—even if that means leaving a cynical foot in every now and again.
Poor-man’s option: David Lopez (Espanyol)
Acceleration: Neymar (Barcelona)
There may be quicker players in La Liga than Neymar, but few use it as dangerously as Barcelona’s Brazilian star.
It’s not just the 21-year-old’s pace, though; it’s how he uses it. He can be running at a full-back one minute, stop, stand still for a few seconds and then accelerate immediately at the same speed—it’s breathtaking to watch in person at times.
Poor-man’s option: Jairo (Sevilla)
Mind: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
There are midfielders like Xavi, midfielders like Gabi and then there is Sergio Busquets.
It’s hard to tell whether he’s underrated or overrated, such is the contrast of opinions on him, but it’s easy to tell that he’s very good. Watch how he reads play, intercepts passes, makes tackling look easy and always knows where his colleagues are.
Poor-man’s option: Joan Verdu (Real Betis)
Drive: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
When Diego Costa is in the zone, it’s advisable to keep out of his way.
He hasn’t always used his drive as a positive, although this season there have been fewer glimpses of the negative side. Sheer determination sometimes sees him ride through three challenges, often with four men hanging from his back.
Poor-man’s option: Bruno Soriano (Villarreal)
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