18+ | Commercial Content | T&Cs apply | Begambleaware.org
The English Premier League might be widely regarded as the best league in the world but when it comes to technical talent it's all about Spain. To prove our point, we're taking a look at the top 10 best La Liga players of all-time.
Number 10. Laszlo Kubala
For the first name on our list of the best La Liga players of all-time we take your back to 1951. That's the year that Hungarian forward Kubala arrived at Barcelona. Kubala landed at the Nou Camp without huge amounts of hype despite having proven a more than tidy goal scorer – primarily – for clubs in his homeland. What he achieved with Barca surpassed every single expectation and then some.
It didn't take Kubala long to write his name into the history books either. During his first year he hit 26 goals including one spellbound showing against Gijon where he scored a record equalling seven; then, within his first three seasons he added two La Liga titles and three Copa del Generalisimo's (what is now the Copa Del Rey) to his trophy cabinet. Fast forward to the end of his Barca stay when he took up the reins as manager and he'd notched 280 goals and won 11 pieces of major silverware. He wasn't quite finished in La Liga though and a short spell as player-coach at Espanyol saw him grab a few more goals.
Number 9. Iker Casillas
Iker Casillas, take a bow. He's the only goalkeeper to make the cut. The Spanish World Cup and twice European Championship winning shot stopper joined the Madrid youth team prior to his 10th birthday and made his senior bow at the age of just 18. Shortly after, he became the youngest keeper to ever appear in a Champions League tie. He'd go on to win the tournament in the same season. It would prove to be the start of a career littered with trophies at both the team and individual level.
In total, Casillas appeared between the sticks 725 times for Real Madrid with 510 of them coming in the league. He recorded an impressive 177 clean sheets in La Liga – the third best number of all time – giving him a near 35% shutout ratio to boot. In terms of the trophy cabinet, it's well stocked with two Copa Del Rey wins, three Champions League's and five La Liga titles amongst a total of 19 honours from his time with Real.
Number 8. Raul
When you're the second greatest goal scorer in a club like Real Madrid's history it's fair to say you're going to feature high up the list of the best La Liga players of all-time. Raul was never going to miss out. He joined Real as a 15-year-old from neighbouring Atletico. The Spain legend went on to become the club's youngest ever player and bagged the first of his 323 Madrid goals against his former youth team. His inaugural campaign ended with La Liga glory and the personal award of La Liga's breakthrough player. It was the first of many trophies.
When Raul finally left Real to join Schalke he did so with an impressive collection of honours. The main trophies coming in the shape of six La Liga's and three Champions League wins.
Number 7. Dani Alves
You can't have a list of the best La Liga players of all-time and not include the greatest right back to ever play the game. Alves was a sensation for Barca as they dominated European football between 2008 and 2016. In that time he helped the club lift three Champions Leagues, five Spanish Cups and six league titles. It was with Barca where Alves started to gain more widespread recognition for his marauding displays but, to be fair, that wasn't a new thing to regular viewers of Spanish football; he'd already been doing the business for several years with Sevilla. The silverware wasn't new either because he arrived from Los Palanganas with two UEFA Cups and a Copa Del Rey in his pocket.
In total, Alves managed to rack up over 400 La Liga appearances. The fact that he left for Juventus with a goal contribution every four matches is a rather telling nod to just how much he did to create the attack-minded fullbacks we demand in our game nowadays.
Number 6. Francisco Gento
A raw look at the trophy count would have you ranking Real Madrid legend Gento as the best player in La Liga history. Why? Well, nobody can match the 12 league titles he boasts. It wasn't just in Spain where the former Racing Santander man collected the medals though and the six European Cups he won is another record. Needless to say, we haven't ranked him at number one but that doesn't mean we don't think of him as a genius.
His rapid pace and trickery made him a nightmare for defenders whilst his ability to find the net from range meant he was central to several memorable moments. In total, Gento made 438 La Liga appearances with his career total standing at over 650.
Number 5. Sergio Ramos
At number five on our list is the greatest defender Spanish football has ever seen. Ramos came through the ranks at Sevilla but was quickly snapped up by Real and has become synonymous with the Madrid club such is a) his loyalty but b) his willingness to do what it takes to ensure Real win. Those characteristics mean he's often not a hugely popular figure away from the Bernabeu but everyone knows they wish their team had players with Ramos' spirit.
His game isn't all about mentality and being a master of the dark arts though. Oh no, Ramos is a sensational footballer. Of course, defensively he is rock solid regardless of whether he plays in the full back or centre back positions but he can play too whilst 100 Real goals shows he's adept in both boxes. It also means he's the top scoring defender in La Liga history. Finally, you've got the longevity factor; Ramos has turned out in over 500 La Liga games with the best part of 200 more club games in other competitions as well. Then, for good measure, he's sat on 178 Spanish caps – another record. We've not even mentioned the sickening amount of honours he's won!
Number 4. Xavi and Andres Iniesta
That's right, we're bending the rules slightly here. We won't apologise though because Xavi and Iniesta simply go together. Neither one of them would have been what they were without the other. Xavi, who is a few years older, was the first to make the step up to the first team; his breakthrough came in the 1998/99 season as Barca won the La Liga title. It would be the only trophy he'd get his hands on until Iniesta joined him in the midfield in 2002. The Spanish duo went on to establish themselves as the heartbeat of Barcelona for over a decade racking up an incredible trophy haul.
In addition to the La Liga winner's medal Xavi had already collected, they shared another seven with Iniesta winning another two – taking his personal haul to nine – after Xavi had called time on his career. The unquestionable highlight of their domestic success came in 2012/13 as Barca equalled the La Liga points record with 100 points. They also shared three Spanish Cups. Again, Iniesta won more after Xavi retired. Proof of the importance of the two playing together though is highlighted in the Champions League performances. They won four together. When Xavi decided to hang up his boots, the Catalan giants failed to progress beyond the quarter-final.
Number 3. Cristiano Ronaldo
We're moving into dangerous Greatest of All Time debate territory with this one. Let's knock it on the head now, this list isn't about who is better between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi; it's a rundown of the top 10 best La Liga players of all-time. Given Ronaldo has spent significant time in several other countries, he was always going to struggle to rank in first place. Still, it's fair to say that La Liga will never forget Mr CR7. Why? Well, where do you start? The obvious place is the goals, which he knocked in with consummate ease throughout his 438 appearances for the Los Blancos with an overall tally of 451; that's more than a goal every game. In respect of La Liga his goal contributions stand at 311 goals and 96 assists in just 292 games – a tally of 1.4 goal involvements per appearance!
On top of just banging in the goals, which Ronaldo was capable of doing from literally anywhere on the field, he also produced in big moments to help the club deliver silverware. Most notably, this is shown by the four Champions League wins (where he scored a total of 105 goals) but two La Liga titles and two Copa Del Rey’s shouldn't be ignored either. Oh, and then there is just the small matter of him being Real Madrid's leading scorer of all time and the fact he scooped four Ballon d'Or's during his time in the Spanish capital.
Number 2. Alfredo Di Stefano
Before we go on to sing the praises of Di Stefano, it might interest you to know the legendary Real Madrid man was actually part of the welcome that greeted Ronaldo on his arrival at the Bernabeu back in 2009. Anyway, in our opinion, Di Stefano pips the Portuguese to the runners up spot. Before we detail why, we'll go back to the beginning when Real and Barca struck up a deal that would be impossible in today's world; in a nut shell, the two clubs had an agreement in place where Di Stefano could play for both sides. Barca found the player to be lacklustre in his early showings and sold their stake to Real making Di Stefano a bonafide Los Blanco. Oh, how Barcelona called it wrong.
Di Stefano stayed with Real Madrid for over a decade and went on to establish himself as, probably, their greatest ever player. He's predominantly known for his goal scoring prowess, which, for Real was a total of 308 in 396 matches, but really he could do everything that was required of a footballer be it shooting, passing, heading, tackling. You name it, Di Stefano could do it. The fact he led the team to five back to back European Cups with goals in every final along with eight La Liga’s and one Spanish Cup should be evidence enough. If it isn't maybe two Ballon dOr's are.
Number 1. Lionel Messi
There are no prizes for guessing who tops our list of the best La Liga players of all-time; it's Lionel Messi, of course. The little magician came through the system at Barcelona after joining the club at the age of 13 from Newell's Old Boys. Since then he's not only established himself as their best ever player but he is also seen as the greatest player to have ever played the beautiful game by a lot of players, coaches, pundits and fans. It's hard to argue but, personally, we just like to enjoy all the top talents and there is no disputing that Messi is one of them.
In respect of how he's impacted La Liga, the easy thing to look at is the 10 titles he's won. Then there are the goals; consider the fact he's still playing in La Liga and the fact he's already over 150 goals clear of second-placed Ronaldo on the all-time list really is quite ridiculous. Part of the reason for the goal haul, which stands at 463, is because he has netted a record 36 hat-tricks and holds the best single-season goal return with 50 in 37 appearances back in 2011/12. If you go beyond La Liga then Messi boasts a trophy count of 20 major honours with four Champions League's and six Copa Del Rey wins being added to the 10 La Liga's. To finish, we'll just remind you that Messi holds the most Ballon d'Or's as well!
There you have it, the top 10 best La Liga players of all-time.