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Best La Liga Players of All Time

| September 24, 2020 7:05 am PDT
Best La Liga Players of All Time

La Liga is one of the most celebrated soccer leagues in Europe, so it’s no wonder that Spain’s top flight has attracted many of the world’s best players over the years.

But who are the greatest players in the history of La Liga?

Given that La Liga has been in existence for 90 years, there are thousands of players to choose from. However, a select few stand out from the rest. There are a number of obvious names on this list, but I’ve also made a couple of less obvious selections.

Here are my top 10 La Liga players of all time.

Raul Gonzalez

  • Real Madrid – 1994-2010

It only makes sense to kick things off with the record appearance maker for Spain’s most successful club, right?

Across a phenomenal 16-year career with Real Madrid, Raul played 741 games, scoring 229 goals in 550 La Liga outings. He helped Los Blancos to win six top-flight titles and three Champions Leagues, as well as picking up a host of individual accolades.

It’s easy to see why his former teammates used to call him the “The Ferrari.” You only have to watch a few seconds of one of Raul’s many online highlight reels to witness his efficient finishing and fluid movement.

Despite ending his career with short spells in Germany, Qatar, and the US, Raul will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Real Madrid supporters. After all, at his peak, he was arguably the best striker in Europe.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals for Los Blancos, but we’ll get to him later.

Andreas Iniesta

  • Barcelona – 2002-2018

A mainstay at the heart of one of Barcelona’s most famous sides, Andreas Iniesta is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in history.

Having come through the revered La Masia academy, the diminutive wizard broke into the first team at Camp Nou in 2004 and won the last of his nine La Liga titles with his boyhood club in 2018.

Managers, pundits, and supporters have all run out of superlatives to describe Iniesta over the years. Of course, his magical touch and outrageous dribbling ability cannot be ignored, but I believe he can be summed up in one word: selfless.

While former Barca teammates like Ronaldinho and Neymar craved the limelight, Iniesta was happy to take a backseat, orchestrating the play with his unselfish passing and godlike vision.

Now 36, Iniesta is enjoying the twilight of his career with Japanese club Vissel Kobe.

Alfredo Di Stefano

  • Real Madrid – 1953-1964
  • Espanyol – 1964-1966

It’s difficult to think of a player who has redefined a club’s history to the extent that Alfredo Di Stefano transformed Real Madrid.

A true pioneer of the game, Di Stefano arrived from Colombian club Millonarios in 1953 and immediately set about establishing Los Blancos as a powerhouse of European soccer.

Largely thanks to the Argentine’s goals, Real Madrid won an unprecedented five successive European Cups from 1956 to 1960. Oh, and he also helped the club to win eight La Liga titles in ten years.

To say that Di Stefano was ahead of his time would be a massive understatement. He was undoubtedly the best player on the planet by some distance for much of his illustrious career.

Although he finished his career with Espanyol, Di Stefano will always be remembered for his heroics in Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Real Madrid – 2009-2018

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Cristiano Ronaldo?

Not only is the five-time Ballon d’Or winner Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer, but his record for the club is frightening. The Portuguese megastar racked up an unfathomable 450 goals in 438 appearances for Los Blancos. Just let that sink in for a second or two.

At the peak of his powers, Ronaldo surpassed the 50-goal mark in six consecutive seasons. But even at 35, he is still one of the most prolific forwards in the game.

On the back of firing Real to three straight Champions League triumphs between 2016 and 2018, Ronaldo left the Spanish capital to join Italian giant Juventus.

Many believe that he made the switch to show that he can dominate any league in the world, regardless of his age. But does he really need to prove anything to anyone? I don’t think so.

Carles Puyol

  • Barcelona – 1999-2014

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Carles Puyol was superhuman at times for Barcelona.

Sure, he wasn’t the most technical defender, and he was by no means tall for a center-back. But what he lacked in natural ability and stature, he more than made up for with his fearless approach and dogged commitment.

“El Captain” led Barcelona through one of the most successful eras in the club’s history, clinching six La Liga crowns and three UCL trophies. And as if that wasn’t enough, he also won a European Championship and a World Cup with Spain.

With his trademark long, curly hair, he was best known for his game-saving tackles and his willingness to do the ugly side of the game.

They don’t make defenders like Carles Puyol anymore.

Lionel Messi

  • Barcelona – 2004-Present

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. For well over a decade, soccer fans have argued about who is better. But in my opinion, we should just be grateful that we’ve been blessed with both of them in the same era.

Ever since Messi made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old in 2004, he has wowed the Camp Nou faithful — and supporters across the world — with his talents.

16 years and 700 Barcelona appearances later, the Argentine magician finds himself over 100 goals clear at the top of La Liga’s overall goalscoring charts. And at 32, he is nowhere finished.

Players of Messi’s current age are usually winding down their careers, jetting off to the MLS or China for one last juicy pay packet. However, it feels like Messi is capable of operating at this highest level for many more years.

Hopefully, we get to enjoy him in La Liga for a little while longer. After all, who wouldn’t want to see more goals like these?

Telmo Zarra

  • Athletic Bilbao – 1940-1955

It’s hardly surprising that Messi and Ronaldo occupy the top two spots on La Liga’s all-time goalscoring leaderboard, but even the most learned soccer nuts may have trouble naming the player who sits third in the standings.

David Villa? Karim Benzema? Raul? All of these names would be decent guesses, but none of them have scored as many La Liga goals as Telmo Zarra.

Yes, Zarra played in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and there have been countless world-class stars that have graced Spain’s top division since then. But his remarkable record makes it impossible for me to leave him off this list.

The formidable striker won the Pichichi — La Liga’s top scorer award — six times, while his record total of 251 top-flight goals wasn’t broken for almost six decades.

Arguably Athletic Bilbao’s greatest-ever player, Zarra is a certified La Liga legend.

Xavi Hernandez

  • Barcelona – 1998-2005

Alongside the aforementioned Iniesta, Xavi controlled Barcelona’s midfield for the best part of two decades. The pair developed an almost telepathic connection with one another, humiliating opponents with their seemingly psychic understanding.

Barca’s record appearance maker — 769, to be exact — won every domestic and international trophy available during his time at Camp Nou. In fact, he ranks just behind Iniesta as Spain’s second-most decorated player.

If there is one player who embodies Barcelona’s famous tiki-taka style of play, it is Xavi. His metronomic short-range passing truly kept the team ticking, and he rarely gave the ball away.

The pint-sized midfielder left Catalonia in 2015 and retired in 2019 following a stint with Qatari outfit Al Sadd. However, I’m sure he wouldn’t look out of place in Quique Setien’s current Barca side.

Zinedine Zidane

  • Real Madrid – 2001-2006

Has there ever been a more elegant player than Zinedine Zidane? You’ll certainly struggle to find one, that’s for sure.

The Frenchmen always made the game look easy. He possessed the balance of a ballerina, glided effortlessly across the pitch, used delicate flicks to link up play, and boasted a phenomenal passing range. Let’s not forget that he was also capable of scoring from almost any position.

Zidane’s five-year spell at Real Madrid may be viewed as short in comparison with many of the players’ long-term careers on this list, but there is no denying that his time in Spain was hugely successful.

He was already a World and European champion by the time he arrived in Madrid, but that wasn’t enough for Zidane. He went on to add a Champions League and La Liga title to his collection during his time at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldinho

  • Barcelona – 2003-2008

You didn’t think I was going to leave out Ronaldinho, did you?

Like Zidane, the Brazilian only spent five years in La Liga. But the way he lit up Spanish soccer will be remembered for generations.

Throughout his Barcelona career, Ronaldinho bamboozled opposition defenders with his trickery. Sure, a lot of players could probably emulate his skills in a training session. But Ronaldinho had the audacity to try things in games that nobody else would even dream of.

The former star was recently detained in prison for the alleged use of a fake Paraguayan passport, but I think it will take a lot more than that for him to go down in many Barca supporters’ estimation.

There are skillful players, and then there is Ronaldinho. His trickery alone makes him one of La Liga’s most loved stars.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. Picking my top 10 La Liga players wasn’t easy, but I’m sure you’ll agree that my list of greatest-ever La Liga stars contains some amazing players.

Which players do you think deserve to be on the list? I’m well aware that there are hundreds of famous names that didn’t make the cut, so feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section below.

For more content like this, why not check out our soccer blog?

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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