15 Spanish Midfield Maestros

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2012

15 Spanish Midfield Maestros

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    If you paid attention at all in middle school Spanish class, you know that maestro can mean both master and teacher in Español.

    That seems about right. Today we're bringing you a list of 15 Spanish midfield maestros, and we can think of few words more suited to these maestros than master and teacher.

    They're masters because few play the game so well. And they're teachers because they showed us all how to play with such art and flair.

    You'll recognize a lot of the names on this list. Several of them are current, and more than a few play on the same team—but that's okay. You know which team we're talking about, and they deserve multiple selections.

    Some of our other maestros you might not know as well. If we forgot any, let us know about it in the comments.

Xavi

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    Xavi, 31, has played a large part of his career in the shadow of Lionel Messi. But while Messi gets all the attention, Xavi is the guy who gets things done.

    He's the Edge to Messi's Bono, the Richards to Messi's Jagger.

    Sure, Messi is already being considered among the all-time greats, but some prefer Xavi anyway.

    It's not hard to see why. Sans Messi at the 2010 World Cup, Xavi helped lead Spain to the promised land—their first world title. With both Spain and Barça, Xavi serves as the hub of passing and the instigator of ideas.

    Without him, Barça and Spain don't tick.

Luis Suárez

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    Nicknamed the "Golden Galician," Luis Suárez orchestrated Spain's run to the Euro '64 title on home soil—their only major trophy until 2008.

    Suárez played 32 times for Spain between 1957 and 1972, scoring 14 times from his deep-lying playmaker position. At the club level he won a pair of league titles with Barcelona before moving to Inter Milan, where he won three Scudetti and two European Cups.

    In 1960, Suárez won the Ballon d'Or as Europe's best footballer of the year.

    This is how he's remembered on the official Barcelona website:

    He had everything you could want of a footballer: amazing skill, an amazing talent for moving the ball about with his feet, great vision and a tremendous shot. But he was mainly noted for his elegant style, it was often said he was such a graceful player that he could have played in a dinner jacket.

    We'd like to see that, actually.

Andrés Iniesta

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    In a Barcelona team that also features Lionel Messi and Xavi, Andrés Iniesta is sometimes overlooked. That's a shame, because Iniesta plays with a flair and control all his own.

    Xavi is rightfully considered the world's top midfielder, but Iniesta ranks just behind him. A regular for Barça since 2002 and Spain since 2006, Iniesta has done one thing none of his teammates have...

    He scored the winning goal in a World Cup final.

Míchel

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    A member of Spain's so-called Quinta del Buitre (Vulture's Cohort, after striker Emilio Butragueño's nickname), Míchel scored 21 goals in 66 appearances for Spain from 1985-1992.

    Míchel scored four goals at the 1990 World Cup despite Spain reaching only the Round of 16, with three goals coming in a group-stage match against South Korea.

    At the club level Míchel won six league titles and two UEFA Cups with Real Madrid.

José Luis Caminero

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    After coming up through the Real Madrid youth program and B-team, José Luis Caminero made his name with Valladolid and Atlético Madrid.

    At the latter, Caminero helped win the Spanish League and Cup double in 1995-96, scoring nine times in 37 games and earning various end-of-season awards.

    Watch his various highlight videos and you'll agree. Caminero was a true maestro.

Cesc Fàbregas

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    These days with Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas is more of a forward.

    At Arsenal, though, he was a midfield maestro. All the more impressive was Cesc's age: He joined the Gunners at 16 and became captain at 21.

    He could yet be a midfield maestro and captain at Barça, too, as Xavi ages.

Gaizka Mendieta

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    Gaizka Mendieta's peak did not last long, but it was high.

    Mendieta led Valencia to back-to-back Champions League runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2001. He was named the competition's best midfielder both seasons.

    The rest of Mendieta's career wasn't so glorious. His only achievements were winning the Copa del Rey with Valencia in 1999 and the English League Cup with Middlesbrough in 2004.

    But the lack of success wasn't Mendieta's fault.

Alfredo Di Stéfano

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    Alfredo Di Stéfano was born in Argentina of Italian descent, but he played for Spain from 1957-61, so he qualifies.

    A striker and forward, Di Stéfano revolutionized the game with improved tactics at a time when the long ball was just about the only option.

    Known as the Blond Arrow, Di Stéfano won eight league titles and five European Cups with Real Madrid, where he scored 307 goals.

Rafael Gordillo

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    Famous for his low socks, Rafael Gordillo starred for Real Betis for a decade before moving to Real Madrid in 1985. There he helped win five league titles, one Copa del Rey and one UEFA Cup.

    Gordillo also played 75 times for Spain, also on the team that advanced to the Euro '84 final.

Pep Guardiola

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    Guardiola is world famous today as the cerebral manager of Barcelona, the best team in the world. But he was a pretty smart and skillful player in his own right.

    Most of the players on this list took an attacking approach. Guardiola, on the other hand, was known for his defensive capabilities.

    While not as glamorous, the defensive midfield role is just as important as its attacking counterpart. Especially when you see what Guardiola did with it.

    Guardiola helped Barcelona win the league six times and the Copa del Rey twice as a player. He also picked up a gold medal with Spain at the 1992 Olympics, which were held in Barcelona.

Xabi Alonso

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    Few players have earned so much praise for something as simple as passing. But that's what Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso is known for.

    Apparently, it's something he's always loved doing.

    Still just 30, Alonso has won the Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool, the Copa del Rey with Real Madrid and the World Cup and European Championship with Spain.

Luis Enrique

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    Luis Enrique played mostly as a midfielder and forward, but he could play almost anywhere on the pitch.

    A veteran of three World Cups, Luis Enrique won just one league title and Spanish Cup with Real Madrid. But he was also a member of Spain's 1992 gold medal-winning team.

    Enrique ensured he'll live on in infamy after moving from Real to Barcelona in 1996. But he also earned recognition of the good sort in Pelé's list of 125 greatest living footballers.

Miguel Ángel Nadal

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    Miguel Ángel Nadal played as defender and midfielder for Mallorca and Barcelona from 1986-2005. He appeared 62 times for Spain, scoring three times.

    Nadal played an integral role in five title-winning Barça teams, and also earned a European Cup winner's medal in 1992.

Juan Carlos Valerón

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    Like Xabi Alonso, Juan Carlos Valerón is known for his passing. But he's also known for his ball-control skills.

    A member of Deportivo La Coruña since 2000, Valerón represented Spain 46 times from 1998-2005.

Victor Muñoz

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    Victor Muñoz made his name as a strong, tough midfielder who was able to wear opponents down.

    A member of Spain's Euro '84 runner-up team, Muñoz also helped Barcelona to the 1984-85 league title and two cup triumphs.

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