The 10 Greatest Spanish Soccer Players

Soccer (Fútbol in Spanish) is the most popular sport in Spain, obviously! With almost 1 million registered players in 2016, many consider soccer as the second “religion” in Spain. If you ask someone if they like and follow soccer in the streets of Barcelona or Madrid, people will probably start to laugh at you. Everyone loves el fútbol!

Two legendary clubs

In Spain, the most popular clubs are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid and they are as well the most successful ones. Since 2000, only four clubs have won La Liga (Spanish first division) and if you look closely you will see that it’s either Barcelona or Real Madrid that win the league. Valencia FC and Atletico Madrid are the two other successful football clubs, although being in the shadow of their rivals.

In this ranking, you will see many Barcelona or Real Madrid players, but not only! Spanish football has always been strong and rich even if they experienced some difficult times the end of the 20th century.

1.) Andres Iniésta

Iniesta Spanish Soccer player

Iniesta by Якушкин Иван, Wikimedia 

Andres Iniesta was born in 1984 in Fuentealbilla and currently plays for the Japanese Side Vissel Kobe. During his young age, he attracted the attention of several youth coaches and the most obvious choice for him was to join la Masia.

Born in La Masia

La Masia is the academy of the Barcelona FC and it’s certainly the best soccer academy in the world. Xavi, Messi, Piqué and Pep Guardiola are the most notable alumni. Not too bad, right?

The Barça number 8 and captain played more than 20 years for his club and was regularly named in the FIFA World XI team of the year. Intelligence, ball control, agility would describe best this fantastic player. Vicente Del Bosque, the former Spain national team head coach, describes him as “the complete footballer”. He can attack and defend, score and assist, and most importantly: think!

Iniesta has always been one of the most popular players in the Liga. Even most Real Madrid’s fans admire this football genius and he was one the key player of the Spanish national team when they won the World Cup and the European titles.

2.) Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas Spanish Soccer

Майоров Владимир [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Today playing for FC Porto, the 37 year-old goalkeeper is considered as one the of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

He played during 16 years with Real Madrid and he won 5 La Liga titles and 3 Champions League. With Spain he was as well very successful with 2 UEFA Euro and 1 World Cup. Not too bad, right?

In 2015, when Iker Casillas left Madrid – a great moment of emotions – everyone was sure it was the end of the Casillas story. But there is something about this unbelievable player… 3 years later, he is still here!

With more than 100 wins in the history of the Champions League, “San Iker” is still the number one player in Europe and it might continue next season if he decides to stay in Porto next season.

3.) Xavi

The 21st century will always be the century of Xavi Hernández. He was only 11 when he joined the youth team of FC Barcelona. With Messi and Iniesta, he was part of the greatest trio in soccer history. They were dominating European football for so long that only the age of Xavi stopped this unbelievable partnership.

He decided to join Qatari club Al Sadd in 2015 after more than 500th games in La Liga – to finish his career and make some extra money.

Soccer Spanish Xavi

Football.ua [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Xavi will always be at the heart of the debate to know who is the greatest midfielder of his generation. According to Zidane, Paul Scholes – Manchester United legend – will always be the best. Xavi himself, also considers that the “the ginger fella” was the most talented midfield player.

… Zidane, Xavi, Scholes, Iniesta, who do you prefer?

4.) Fernando Hierro

Fernando is a retired Spanish central defender who played most of his career for Real Madrid. He won 89 caps for Spain and took part in four World Cups and two UEFA Euro Cups.

Top soccer players in Spain

Антон Зайцев [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Fun fact about Hierro

Not only he was a good goal scorer (more than 100 goals as a centre back), but he was as well well known for being a “dirty” player. In 2007, the Times included the Spanish defender in their Top 50 hardest footballers list.

To everyone’s surprise, Fernando Hierro took charge of Spain during the 2018 World Cup in Russia on two days before the start of the tournament. It didn’t go well for him as La Roja went home before the quarterfinals.

5.) Raúl González

Raul soccer spain

Doha Stadium Plus [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

323 goals in 741 games. Raul Gonzalez Blanco will always be one of Real Madrid’s greatest players. He was the captain of the “Galacticos” during the 2000s – the dream team with Zidane, Beckham, Ronaldo and other fantastic players.

Neither very physical nor the most technical player on the field, it was easy to forget his presence during a game… but he knew how to score a goal! He was a prolific goalscorer and was as well a very creative player when he was playing for an attacking team.

Fun fact About Raul: He only had one goal celebration: kissing his wedding ring.

6.) Luis Suárez

Luis Suarez spanish soccer player

The original uploader was Snake90 at Italian Wikipedia. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are two Luis Suarez in Spanish football:Luis Alberto Suarez Diaz, the current Barcelona number 9 who likes to bite his opponents and Luis Suárez Miramontes, the legendary Spanish midfielder who was born in La Coruna in 1935.

In 1960, he became the first and ONLY Spanish footballer to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. He was also part of the talented team that won the European Championship in 1964.

As a creative forward and attacking midfielder the Galician genius played for Deportivo La Coruna, Barcelona FC, and Inter Milan, scoring more than 100 goals during his career.

7.) David Villa

Valencia CF, Barcelona FC and Atlético Madrid: David Villa played for the major soccer teams in Spain and he was successful in all of them.

David Villa is a great finisher but he knows how to dribble as well. His style of playing was perfect for Barcelona, but he had to make many sacrifices to become a key player alongside Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Indeed, he was forced to play as a left winger to make space for the Argentinian legend Lionel Messi.

This position issue was the main reason to explain why he decided to join Atlético Madrid in 2013. A great choice. With 13 goals in 36 games, he contributed to the final victory of his team in La Liga, by drawing against Barcelona in the last league game.

“El Guaje” won eight trophies with Barcelona and two major trophies with the Spanish national team and he scored 59 goals in 98 caps for La Roja.

8.) Sergio Ramos

We all know about Sergio Ramos. He is the captain of Real Madrid, he is also aggressive, but he is also very very talented. According to many specialists, he is the best defender the world and is a true legend for Real Madrid fans.

As the leader of the team, he is always playing his best football during big games – scoring in the Champions League final for example.

Winning the UEFA Euro 2008 and 2012, and the World Cup in 2010 as captain of the Spanish team, the 32-years-old football will be difficult to replace at the end of his career.

9.) Emilio Butragueño

Emilio Butragueño, nicknamed El Buitre, was a member of the prestigious Quinta Del Buitre during the 80s in Spain.

Emilio Butragueño footballer

The “Vulture’s Cohort“- in English – was the appellation given to the generation of players which is viewed as one of the best in Real Madrid’s history. Five players were the members of this legendary team: Rafael Martín Vázquez, Sanchís, Miguel Pardeza and Míchel.

20 years before the Galácticos (Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Raul and Ronaldo), they managed to win five Liga in a row and two European Cups between 1984 & 1990.

10.) Francisco Gento

Francisco Gento spanish footballer

Marca (2018), image source

Maybe you’ve never heard of Francisco “Paco” Gento Lopez but he is a true soccer legend in Spain. With 12 La Liga titles and 6 European Cups with the Real Madrid, Paco Gento is one of the most successful soccer players in Europe.

He played 601 official games and scored 182 goals with Madrid between 1953 and 1971 and played two World Cups with La Roja in 1962 and 1966.

“I played in eight finals in total and I won six. We were the strongest team in the world and it was a huge pleasure to play with so many magical players.” Real Madrid 1956-60 is indeed the greatest football team of all time. Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Raymond Kopa were the other key players.

Today, Gento is still involved in the club’s life as he became in 2016 the Honorary President of Real Madrid.

Alfredo Di Stefano (Argentinian but played for Spain), and Carles Puyol could also be part of this ranking, but we had to make some serious decisions!

¡Viva España!

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