La Liga: The Top 20 Players in Spain Right Now
It’s going to be the case with any list compiling the top 20 players in La Liga, the majority filled up by players from the top two in the country—Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It’s also interesting to note that while the Premier League has far more of a global audience than La Liga, the best players in the world seem to ply their trade in Spain’s top division.
Furthermore, the majority of the complied list features Spanish-born players, something which should be taken into account considering the country’s current purple patch in international football.
The best players in the world all long to play for Barcelona and Real Madrid and, as has been mentioned, their players make up a large percentage of the top players in Spain right now. However, the lesser teams who also strive to make up those last two remaining Champions League spots also possess some of the country’s great talents among their ranks.
A league so troubled by financial difficulty, yet one so awash with talent—some of which are the greatest in the world at the moment.
There can be no argument that Xavi is the most important midfield player Spain has ever had. Over the past three years, not only has he been instrumental during one of the most successful periods in Barcelona’s history, he also guided Spain to winning the Euro’s in 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
A player with remarkable vision and ability, it’s so uncommon to find Xavi having a bad day at the office, making a stray pass or simply having little effect on the direction and tempo of the game.
A hugely important figure in the Barcelona line up, maybe even more so than Lionel Messi.
Arguably the best player not playing for either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Santi Cazorla arrived at Malaga this past summer as the club’s marquee signing; a signal of intent to the rest of the league and to let the club’s followers know that they meant business.
While many, who may not be as familiar with La Liga, might have passed at the thought of Cazorla being in the prominent role of a club in the ascendancy, it’s fair to say that many aren’t aware just how good the former Villarreal winger really is.
Often dubbed “Our Ronaldinho” by his team mates at El Madrigal, Cazorla provides similar styles to that of the Brazilian. Immensely talented with the ball, he has been able to slot in seamlessly with Barcelona and Real Madrid players whilst on international duty.
Sid Lowe describes how a game of “piggy in the middle” often shows the lack of ability in some players looking to lock horns with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta during training with the national side. Cazorla, however, showcases his ability by knocking the ball around with ease and highlighting just why he is so admired by his peers in La Liga.
A remarkably exciting player who has sadly, and may continue to be, overshadowed by those at the two bigger clubs in Spain.
Andres Iniesta gives Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola the option of having a creative central midfielder as well as an option on the flanks alongside Lionel Messi.
Iniesta, much like Xavi, has been hugely influential in the success Barca have had under Guardiola. Passing the ball wonderfully over a matter of yards and working their way out of tricky situations in their own half.
Similarly, Iniesta is one of the more gifted players to emerge from Spain over the past decade, with the ability to ghost past opposition defenders and finish his chances in front of goal.
Very rarely do players of Iniesta’s quality come through, but Barca have the luxury of more than one outstanding offering in midfield.
Another player who could easily claim to be one of the best players in the league not at one of the big two. Giuseppe Rossi was courted earlier in the year by Barcelona with a view to a transfer during the summer. Luckily for Villarreal, the move never materialised and the Yellow Submarine were able to hang on to their prized striker ahead of a gruelling campaign, in which the club returned to the Champions League.
Rossi showcased last season just why he is such hot property in Spain: scoring 18 goals in the league.
A struggling Villarreal may have similar problems in keeping the talented Italian striker for much longer; the club, with very little investment, are not likely to secure Champions League football again next season, and while Rossi and Nilmar have formed a reliable strike-partnership, the calls from aboard may be too hard to resist for a club who heavily rely on selling before buying.
Falcao was signed by Atletico Madrid this past summer for a club record £40 million to replace the departing Sergio Aguero, and the former Porto man has already staked his claim as one of the front-runners for this year’s Pichichi award.
While it is a tall task for any player to replace the productivity of both Kun Aguero and Diego Forlan, Falcao has so far managed to net five goals for his new club, including a hat trick against Racing Santander.
As one of the most lethal strikers in Europe, it may have come as a shock to the Colombian playing, and losing so significantly, against Barcelona. A player so familiar with being the dominating force in the Portuguese league has now arrived at a club who are nowhere near to being a competitor to Barcelona, or city rivals Real for that matter.
But, his ability in front of goal, coupled with the service is will no doubt receive from Jose Reyes and Diego, the inclusion of Falcao almost guarantees Atletico safe passage into next year’s Champions League.
Its such an impressive feat of Valencia to continue to sell off their most valuable assets in David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata and remain competitive, in and around the top four in Spain.
The presence of Ever Banega in the centre of midfield is not only a shining light in the midst of big name departures, but also a player who could be sold on for a sizable fee in order to service the club’s huge debt.
One of many creative options Los Che have in midfield, Ever Banega is a player who likes to be the central hub of all of Valencia’s attacks. A midfielder very comfortable with the ball at his feet, he has excellent ball retention and the ability to play in others ahead of him.
Sadly for Valencia, Banega may be another who is snapped up by a club who hold themselves in better financial stead than they do. There are certainly one or two in the Premier League who are looking for a player very much in the mould of Ever Banega.
Another hugely influential midfielder at both international and club level. Xabi Alonso’s importance to Real Madrid is similar to that of Xavi at Barcelona—a player who dictates the tempo of the game and ensures his side retain possession.
A more defence-minded midfielder, Xabi Alonso has forged successful partnerships at both Madrid and his prior club, Liverpool.
An important figure at set pieces as well, Xabi Alonso’s importance at this current Real Madrid side is paramount. As the only deep-lying playmaker it was important that manager Jose Mourinho brought in a player similar to that of the Spaniard. However, new recruit Nuri Sahin has yet to feature for Madrid due to injury.
Xabi Alonso’s influence and importance to any club can be witnessed at Liverpool, who are only recently finally finding their feet following Alonso’s departure back to Spain.
A sometimes hot-headed character, but a hugely important figure nonetheless. Sergio Ramos makes the grade as one of the better right-backs in Europe, marauding up and down the Real Madrid right flank, often finding himself assisting in the goals department as well as preventing them at his own end.
A staple in the Madrid back-four, but someone who often comes with uncertainty—picking up a number of red cards per season.
Dani Alves has been the Barcelona right-back since 2008, although, I use “right-back” in the loosest possible sense. Dani Alves prefers to operate far more further up the field than any conventional full-back, often allowing commentators to refer to Barcelona’s defensive line as a back-three.
Still, the player is a hugely talented and successful part of the current Barcelona squad. Offering width that is sometimes lost through the central intricacies of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, and one who knows how to find the goal from both open play and set pieces.
The top scorer at Valencia for so long, and now a consistent scorer for the European Champions, Barcelona. Alongside Messi and the rotating Pedro, Cesc Fabregas or Alexis Sanchez, David Villa has been part of the deadliest front-line in European football.
Even playing in a new role out of the left-hand side of a forward trident, David Villa has been able to net 23 goals in La Liga alone last season, as well as the third goal in the Champions League final against Manchester United.
There had been a lot of excitement surrounding Mesut Ozil following his performances for Germany at U21 level and also during last year’s World Cup. Fortunately for Real Madrid they were able to pick him up for a relatively small fee due to his expiring contract.
The impact Ozil has had at the club has been hugely noticeable. Among the star-studded arrival of Angel Di Maria and the big names already at the club, Ozil has been able to strike up a far more influential partnership with the Madrid forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Robert Soldado has been one of the stand-out performers of La Liga so far this season. Leading Valencia to 5th place in the league and helping himself to five goals, Soldado is doing well to stake a claim for a spot in Spain’s Euro 2012 squad.
Furthermore, Soldado’s predatory instincts in front of goal means Valencia have another player that may be highly sought after come the end of the season.
Despite missing much of the last Campaign for Real Madrid, Gonzalo Higuain remains one of the best finishers in Spain.
A contrast to the style of Karim Benzema and someone who prefers to finish off chances for himself rather than play in a team-mate, it is yet to be clear what exactly Higuain’s role is going forward with Madrid.
Karim Benzema may have found himself out of favour with manager Jose Mourinho before the long term injury to Gonzalo Higuain last season, but the Frenchman has managed to settle in well, forming a productive understanding with Cristiano Ronaldo.
The whole of Europe knew about the ability of Benzema while he was playing in France for Lyon, winning league title after title. However, it was yet to be confirmed if the player could settle outside his comfort zone and have a similar impact at one of the giants of European football.
So far, it’s a fair assessment that Benzema is Mourinho’s favoured striker of the two, proving to be far more of a team player and managing to find the confidence to perform to his highest level.
Jesus Navas may never be released to experience life away from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan due to his suffering of homesickness. However, that may be a blessing for Sevilla who currently possess one of the best wingers in the league.
Certainly a throw-back to the days of traditional wingers who like to hug the touchline, Navas looks to exploit spaces behind opposition defences with his pace and ability in the final third.
Often a joy for strikers as he always manages to send the right deliveries into the box. Definitely a standout player among those not at Barcelona or Madrid.
Gerard Pique’s rise from back-up at Manchester United to title-winning defender at Barcelona has been impressive. No doubt, the experience of playing alongside veteran Carles Puyol has aided in his development. It also helped to ensure Barcelona had a mix of youth and pace in Pique coupled with the cool-headed and ever reliable Puyol.
Pique has since become an important player for both Barca and Spain and has risen to be one of the elite centre-halves in Europe.
For a decade Iker Casillas has been the number 1 ‘keeper in Spain, fending off recent challenges from the talents of Victor Valdes, Pepe Reina and Diego Lopez.
His leadership qualities have earned him the captains armband for both Real Madrid and Spain, guiding the latter to last year’s World Cup.
At only the age of 30, it’s a testament to Casillas’ ability and mental strength that he has been in the Madrid line up for so long, making his debut as a teenager and firmly establishing himself as the No.1 by the time he reached the age of 20.
Possibly the best midfielder in the Premier League over the past number of years, Cesc Fabregas has finally found his way home. The former Arsenal captain has now joined a host of players equal to that of his own talents, able to bring out the best in him and help him realise his desire for trophies.
Cesc has already made an outstanding contribution for Barcelona so far this season, seemingly scoring by the bucket load and striking up an almost telepathic understanding with Lionel Messi.
Fabregas has always been one of Europe’s premier players, with outstanding vision and the ability to lead others with his performances.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the poster boys for La Liga, Real Madrid’s counter to Barcelona’s threat of Lionel Messi, and a player who can so easily lead his team to consistent glory were it not for the current World Player of the Year.
It was thought at the time that Ronaldo would not better the impressive tally of 42 goals he racked up for Manchester United during the 2007/08 season. However, the Portuguese winger has since netted over 50 times for Madrid in a single season.
Lionel Messi rightfully takes his place as the best player in La Liga, the best in the world and perhaps the greatest of all-time. Nothing is ever beyond the realm of possibility with Messi—a sensational gift to football.
Although he is yet to fully make his mark on the international stage for Argentina, Messi’s accomplishments at club level have been outstanding.
It’s difficult to see where any end in sight for the current World Player of the Year, someone who is comfortable where is he at Barcelona and with very little getting in his way of bettering himself.
Its an exciting prospect to think that with age Messi may only get better.