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La Liga is rightly regarded as one of the top leagues in the world. Founded in 1929, the division has had an exemplary list of players who have brought fame and joy to spectators. It is the presence of such players which has enabled La Liga clubs to dominate in domestic and European fronts. La Liga has provided four different winners of the Champions League, while Real Madrid hold the record for the most honours picked up in this competition. Naturally, the league has been able to do this with the help of top players. The pick of the bunch would be:
10. Dani Alves
Few have been able to make the right-back position as a crucial entity on the pitch. Dani Alves belongs to this illustrious list, as the Brazilian’s incredible energy and offensive thrust were instrumental in Barcelona’s success. He would also play a major role in Lionel Messi achieving superstardom, as Alves would always be available for Messi if the Argentine superstar needed more space or assistance.
9. Michael Laudrup
Michael Laudrup was part of the Barcelona team under Johan Cruyff. This was often referred to as the ‘dream team’ and Laudrup was able to provide his creative influence from the middle of the pitch. He played alongside some incredible names like Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain. His excellent ball control and passing skills were crucial behind four La Liga titles and a Champions League medal. Laudrup would also go on to represent Ajax and Real Madrid.
8. Raul Gonzalez
There have been few efficient goalscorers like Raul Gonzalez, who was able to dominate the Real Madrid numbers for several decades before being ultimately replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo. During his 16 years with the Spanish giants, Raul set numerous records by starting to feature on the scoring sheets from a young age. After making more than 100 appearances for the Spanish national team, Raul has proven his worth to Madrid by returning to the club as a coach to the youth setup.
7. Iker Casillas
Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation and more, Iker Casillas was an icon for Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. At a time when it was considered advantageous to have a tall goalkeeper in the team, Casillas was able to dominate between the sticks with his excellent shot-stopping skills, instant reactions, and athleticism. Even though his Real Madrid departure came in acrimonious circumstances, the goalkeeper had laid his mark by making more than 500 appearances for Madrid in the La Liga while also being immensely successful Spanish national team.
Even though this list comprises of many players who have dominated Spanish football for several years, Ronaldinho is one of the names who was able to leave a mark on the game in a very short span. The Brazilian spent only five seasons with Barcelona and his numbers of 70 goals in 145 league games may not set the world on fire. However, he is one of the very few players to have been applauded off the pitch by Real Madrid supporters in the famed El Clasico derby and it says a lot about the joy he brought to fans.
5. Andres Iniesta
Iniesta is widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders. Despite not being huge in physical stature, the former Barcelona youth star was able to grow in influence as his career progressed. If not for playing during the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Iniesta would have certainly picked up many individual honours like Ballon d’Or awards. Apart from being immensely successful in his club career, Iniesta also won the World Cup and European Championship with the Spanish national team.
4. Xavi Hernandez
Barcelona’s midfield ran on Xavi Hernandez’ brilliance for several years and it would be impossible to leave him out of this list. During his 17 years with Barcelona, the midfielder with a small physical stature was influential in winning four Champions League medals and eight La Liga trophies. The vision of Xavi was extraordinary and he would later be an inspiration for many young Barcelona players coming through the La Masia Academy. Xavi is also one of those players who might have been more successful with Ballon d’Or titles to his trophy cabinet if he did not play during the era of Messi and Ronaldo.
3. Alfredo di Stefano
Alfredo di Stefano was one of the players who began the era of stars at Real Madrid. A top centre forward during his days, Real Madrid were able to get 216 goals in just 282 matches from the Argentine forward. He was a massive influence on the Madrid team that won five European cups, eight first division titles, and more. The impact di Stefano had Real Madrid was so great that he was brought back to the club as anhonorary president in 2000.
2. Lionel Messi
A close second on this list would be Lionel Messi, who has been a torchbearer for the La Liga in the last two decades. An amazing talent made great with true dedication, Messi has picked up every possible honour Barcelona. Crucially, his talent and skills enabled Barcelona to play a certain way –under Guardiola and Luis Enrique – which was so successful not just in terms of trophies, but also being brilliant to watch. Messi is also the record holder when it comes to Ballon d’Or awards, as he has six compared to Ronaldo’s five.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo may not have spent the entirety of his football career in Spain, but he is the ultimate player to have in any team. Ronaldo has had to alter his style at multiple stages in his career, as he played in different leagues – Portugal, England, Spain, and now, Italy. Yet, the Portuguese superstar achieved more goals than Lionel Messi and he helped Real Madrid to an astonishing three consecutive Champions League titles. Ronaldo has everything that one can ask from a footballer – dedication, pace, power, and skill.