The last few years in global soccer two players have reigned supreme in their league, and in their domestic league. Outside of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, La Liga has become a hotbed for quality players, and world-class talents. The following players will provide just a glimpse of that talent, and we’ll try to rank the brightest stars in the league behind these two leviathans of the pitch.
- Andres Iniesta, FC Barcelona: At the tender age of 28, Andres Iniesta has racked up a plethora of accomplishments usually reserved for the “all-time greats.” When you’re a leader on one of the most successful club/national sides in the history of the sport, there is a certain level of merit associated with that. Playing a central midfield and at times winger role, Iniesta has developed into one of the most diverse players in all of soccer. His pinpoint passing, incredible creativity and circus like ball control culminate into the ultimate offensive weapon. Iniesta’s off ball actions are just as important as his on the ball theatrics. Nicknamed El Ilusionista (The Illusionist) by fans at Camp Nou, Iniesta’s impact on the game of soccer will be felt long after his playing days end.
- Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona: If Iniesta is the “Illusionist” than Xavi’s nickname “The Puppet Master” speaks volumes about his impact on the game. As a holding midfielder, Xavi is the creator of all plays on the field, on a club and national level. If soccer is a game of chess, than Xavi is always a move or two ahead, his ability to find seams in the defense and exploit them is the trademark in his playing style. Also, considered one of the greatest passers that the game has ever produced, Xavi’s style of play is conducted with great pace, control and above all cunning passes that fuel the game’s most feared offensive barrages. A man who doesn’t waste possession, executes plays with subliminal technical ability, is a no brainer for the second position on this list.
- Radamel Falcao, Atletico Madrid: The dark horse on this list, Falcao has been playing like a mad man the last two years, and has emerged as one of the game’s elite “pure strikers.” Currently on a scoring tear on the national level and club level (including Europa League) it’s no wonder why the 26-year-old Columbian national is attracting the attention of some of Europe’s elite club sides. Falcao is most dangerous in the air, his uncanny ability to find space in the box and utilize his head around the goal make him the game’s top aerial threat. Known for his ability to use his feet as well as his head to finish, Falcao is agile, strong and is a natural scorer. In all competitions thus far, Falcao has netted 13 goals in 10 games, there is no doubt this man is on pace for a monster year.
- Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid: The product of Jose Mourinho’s coaching and some serious technical talent, Mesut Ozil has emerged as a formidable attacking midfielder. His creativity on the ball and ability to pass in tight spaces has fueled Real Madrid in the past few seasons. As of last year, Ozil led all of La Liga in assists and helped in an immense effort to throttle Barcelona from their spot atop the table of La Liga. As a whole, Ozil has shown great diversity in La Liga and on the national stage as well, his patience on the ball give him the ability to drop and become a holding midfielder. On the other hand, his athleticism and technique blended in with a goal-scoring knack can make him a threatening forward as well.
- Iker Casillas, Real Madrid: It would be a crime not to include the world’s best goalie on this list. I would have placed Casillas higher if it not were for the simple fact that the offensive production in La Liga is a bit under par compared to other leagues in Europe. This, however certainly doesn’t dilute the value of Iker Casillas, he is the unconditional leader of his club and the Spanish National Team. In the world of soccer, Casillas has set the bar high for the standard of the goalie position in general. He is quick, intelligent and patient, at times a bit eager off his line in terms of forcing the attacker to make a move. Overall, Casillas is a forceful presence in goal and his spectacular saves are jaw dropping. No matter whom you ask in the game, Casillas is the pinnacle of his position. Through 10 games, he has 5 clean sheets, it’s easy to see why he commands so much respect within the soccer community.