Whilst the Premier League is widely referred to as the 'best league in the world', many argue that La Liga tops the English equivalent - a claim that's hard to argue with given the array of footballing talents who have graced the Spanish division in years gone by.
The likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho and most recently Lionel Messi have all plied their trade in Spain's top tier, leading us to look at the best La Liga XI from the past decade. But do you agree? Leave a comment and have your say!
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
The Spain and Real Madrid number one is now something of a legend in world football and fits into the same category as Dino Zoff, Walter Zenga, Gianluigi Buffon, Rustu Recber and Oliver Kahn as one of the best goalkeepers the world has ever seen.
Right-back: Sergio Ramos (Sevilla & Real Madrid)
Although he is now often deployed as a centre-back, he made his name as a wing-back with his adventurous runs and crossing ability. Many believe he should once again be played as Madrid’s right-back, as it was his performances out wide for Sevilla that commanded Los Blancos to shell out £30 million for his signature back in 2005.
Centre-back: Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
The Blaugrana captain has been an ever-present fixture in the Barcelona line-up since his breakthrough in 2000. He has overseen many generations of Barcelona players and has used his experience to lead the Catalan giants to many trophies. He has also led Spain to global domination, and has consistently been one of La Roja and Barcelona’s best players for over 10 years.
Centre-back: Roberto Ayala (Valencia)
When he arrived in Spain after two dismal campaigns with Italian powerhouse AC Milan, nobody thought he would make much of a splash in Spain. Fast forward seven years and it would be an emotional end to his Valencia career, as he would be remembered as one of their greatest ever players. He led Valencia to a Champions League final, two La Liga titles and one UEFA Cup.
Left-back: Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid)
The Brazilian legend had a 12-year stay at Real Madrid and gained a reputation as one of the greatest left-backs of the modern era. His rocket like free-kicks becoming a trademark, and will always be remembered for assisting Zinedine Zidane’s legendary volley against Bayer Leverkusen. Although he made more than his fair share of defensive blunders, he was a vital part of Real Madrid’s set-up for over a decade.
Centre-midfield: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)
The Barcelona legend is now known as one of the greatest midfielders of the modern era, and his only known competitor for talent and class is a certain Andrea Pirlo. His extraordinary vision and passing range has seen him be the centre of Barcelona’s ‘tiki taka’ style for what seems like forever, and his telepathic connection with Andres Iniesta is what makes Spain and Barcelona such formidable opponents.
Centre-midfield: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
In Pep Guardiola’s class of 2010, he had three players that no team in the world wanted to face alone, never mind combined. They were Xavi, Iniesta and of course Lionel Messi. The little magicians goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final ensured his name went down in Barcelona folklore, while his World Cup winning goal in the 2010 final against the Netherlands has given him all-time legendary status.
Centre-midfield: Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)
Zinedine Zidane or ‘Zizou’ needs no introduction to football fans. Known by many as the only player who could rival Diego Maradona’s talent, he arrived from Juventus in 2001 for a then world record fee of around £75 million. He guided Real Madrid to two La Liga titles and scored one of the greatest goals ever in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen.
Right forward: Ronaldinho (Barcelona)
Other than his last season at Barcelona, his previous five legendary. He led Barcelona to two La Liga titles, but neither of them would be the crowning moment of his career. He led Barca to Champions League glory in 2006 with a fine performance against AC Milan in the semi-final, but the most memorable moment of his Barcelona career was at the Bernabeu in the 2005/06 El Clasico, where he single-handedly crushed Real Madrid 3-0 in one of the finest virtuoso performances the world has ever seen.
Centre forward: Diego Forlan (Villarreal & Atletico Madrid)
Diego Forlan will always be remembered for his outstanding performances for Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup, but many seem to forget that he had been playing to that standard in La Liga for a long time. He is the only player in history to win the Pichichi award twice with two different clubs and also win the Golden Boot. The Uruguayan's most successful season was in 2008/09, when he scored an unrivalled 32 goals in 33 games.
Left forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
At the age 25, he is already a Barcelona legend and the breathtaking 92 goals in the calendar year of 2012 gives him an achievement that will probably never be bettered. With 215 La Liga goals, he is well on his way to becoming the league's all-time top scorer - he also has four Ballon D’or awards - which is another feat that will surely never be matched. He is rightly recognised as the best player in the world and by far the best of the current generation.
Honourable mentions: Ronaldo (Barcelona & Real Madrid), Victor Valdes (Barcelona), Santiago Cañizares (Real Madrid, Elche, Celta Vigo & Valencia), Fernando Hierro (Valladolid & Real Madrid), Pablo Aimar (Valencia), Luis Figo (Barcelona & Real Madrid), David Villa (Real Zaragoza, Sporting Gijon, Valencia & Barcelona).
So there you have it. Do you agree with my La Liga XI? Has anyone been left out who you feel is worthy of a place in this stellar line-up? Have your say in the comments box below.
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