Who are the best Spanish footballers of all time?
Spain is a football crazy nation. Spain is also one of the most successful countries when it comes to the sport. They have won the world cup once and the European Championship three times. Over the years countless talented Spanish football players have graced the field. The question who the best Spanish footballers of all time are leads to a lot of discussions. We at Footballtripsonline have put together a top 10 of the best Spanish football players ever.
Raúl is our best Spanish footballer of all times. Raúl González Blanco was a top striker and is seen as one of the most important players in the history of Real Madrid. Raúl grew up in the neighbourhood of Madrid and that’s how he ended up in the youth academy of Atletico Madrid. After just two years, Real Madrid swooped in and took the then young Raúl away from Atletico. In 1994 Raúl signed his first professional contract with Real Madrid Castilla (the second team of Real). In total Raúl only played seven games with Real Madrid Castilla and one game with Real Madrid B before he was called into the first team squad. Raúl would then remain at Real Madrid for 16 years.
In those 6 years, Raúl grew to become one of the most important players in Real history. Raúl is the player with the most games for Madrid, 741 games. In those 741 games he scored 325 times, only Cristiano Ronaldo scored more goals for Real. Raúl’s trophy cabinet is enormous. He was crowned footballer of the year 5 times and won many trophies with the team. These include 6 national titles, 3 Champions League titles and 2 World Club trophies. In 2010 Raúl left Real Madrid. Between 2010 and 2015 he played for Schalke 04, Al Sadd and the New York Cosmos.
Additionally, Raúl played for the Spanish national team for 10 years. He played a total of 102 international games and scored 44 times.
2. Andrés Iniesta
What applies to Xavi certainly also applies to Iniesta. The creative midfielder is a real ball wizard. There is a reason as to why Iniesta is known throughout Spain and Catalonia as ‘El Mago’ (the magician) or ‘El Illusionista’ (the illusionist). Iniesta initially played in the youth team at Albacete but at 12 years old he was brought to ‘La Masia’, the youth academy of FC Barcelona.
Six years later, at 18 years old, Louis van Gaal gave Iniesta his debut for the first team of Barcelona. In his years at Barcelona, Iniesta won just about everything that can be won in football, including European Player of the Year, World Player of the Year, 9 La Liga titles and 4 Champions Leagues. In total Iniesta played 675 matches in the Barcelona shirt, only Xavi has more games for Barcelona. In 2018 Iniesta decided to leave Barcelona for a new adventure in Japan. The midfielder transferred to Vissel Kobe.
Iniesta was not only a driving force at Barcelona, but also in the Spanish national team. For example Iniesta scored the winning goal in the World Cup final against the Netherlands. Iniesta was also part of the squad that won the European Championship twice. In the end Iniesta took to the pitch in 136 games for Spain, scoring 12 goals.
Many Spanish footballers are known for their good technique and their football intelligence. Xavi is the perfect example of such a footballer. The 38 year old midfielder is currently the trainer of Al Sadd in Qatar. He played nearly his entire career at FC Barcelona, where he grew to become a true club legend. Xavi joined the youth academy of FC Barcelona (‘La Masia’) at 11 years old. After nine years in the youth academy, Xavi made his debut for the first team in 1998. Since then Barcelona without Xavi was unimaginable. He is seen as the embodiment of the famous tiki-taka football from Barcelona.
In the end, Xavi played for the first team of Barcelona for about 17 years. In this time, the midfielder played 769 games for the Catalans, to this day a record. In the 769 games, Xavi scored 85 times and gave 183 assists. Xavi won countless prizes during his career, both as an individual and with the team. Xavi was crowned best player in the world in 2005, won the Champions League four times and won the national title 8 times.
In addition to a great club career at Barcelona, Xavi was also a part of the Spanish national team for a long time. He made his debut in 2000 and played a total of 133 international games. This makes Xavi one of the record international players in Spain.
4. Emilio Butragueno
Over the years Spain has had plenty of world class strikers. Emilio Butragueno was surely one of them. The small attacking leader was known for his phenomenal dribbling and scoring ability. Butragueno, known by the fans as El Buitre (the vulture), played nearly his entire career at Real Madrid. In 1981 Butragueno joined Real Madrid at 18 years old. He scored his first goal on the 5th of February against FC Cádiz. Alfredo di Stéfano was the coach of Real Madrid at the time.
Butragueno was part of the famous five players that had all passed from the youth academy to the first team squad. These five players were known as ‘La Quinta del Buitre’ (the vultures cohort). The famous five, consisting of Michel, Manolo Sanchis, Rafael Martín, Miguel Pardeza and Burtragueno, made for one of the most successful periods in the history of Real Madrid. Together they won 6 league titles, 2 Copa del Reys,2 Super Cups and 2 UEFA Cups.
After 11 years at Real Madrid, the striker decided to end his career in Mexico. In total, Butragueno played a total of 425 games for Real Madrid. In these 425 games, the striker scored 154 times. Butragueno also played in the Spanish national team for 8 years. He played 69 games and scored 26 times for Spain.
5. Pep Guardiola
Josep Guardiola, better known as Pep, is 5th on the list of the best Spanish footballers of all time. Currently Pep Guardiola is the coach of Manchester City, the team with which he won the Premier League last year. Before becoming a successful coach, Pep was one of the best midfielders of his generation. Pep Guardiola’s typical position was just in front of the defence. He functioned as a play maker with his fantastic understanding of the game and technique. Pep played most of his career in Catalonia for FC Barcelona. He joined the club in 1984 as a youth player and after passing through Barcelona’s C and B team, he was called up to the first team in 1990.
At 19 Pep made his debut for Barca under Johan Cruyff. In his second season, Pep became a rock in the Cruyff team, the so called “Dream Team”. In the Dream Team Guardiola played with Ronald Koeman, Eusebio, Laudrup, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov. As part of this team, Guardiola became national champion four times in a row and won the European Cup 1.
In total Guardiola played in 378 games for FC Barcelona. In this time, he won an enormous amount of trophies (including 6 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Reys and 4 Super cups). Guardiola also played quite a few international matches, 46 in total. However, Pep never really won a big prize with the national team. The only prize he won with Spain was that of Olympic gold in 1992.
6. David Villa
David Villa is known as one of the best Spanish attackers ever. Villa, who now plays for New York City, played most of his career as a centre striker. In addition, the versatile Spaniard can also play on the outer positions quite well. The professional football career of David Villa began in the Segunda División A (second Spanish league) with Sporting Gijón. After two seasons, Villa switched to Real Zaragoza and began playing in the Premier League. At Real Zaragoza he made his La Liga debut in 2003 at 21 years old. In his first season, Villa was immediately successful and won both the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup. After two seasons at Zaragoza, Villa left for Valencia. In 2005 Valencia paid £12,000,000 for the top scorer. Villa remained in good form. His time in east-Spain was probably the best period of his career. Villa scored 108 goals in 166 games, won the title of Footballer of the Year in Spain in 2006 and was named in the FIFA Team of the Year in 2010.
In 2010 the top scorer of Valencia was rewarded with a transfer to FC Barcelona. Here, David Villa won his first La Liga and Champions League title. After 3 seasons for Barca, Villa played for Atletico Madrid, until he made his move to the United States in 2014.
Besides a successful club career, Villa also celebrated success in the Spanish national team. Between 2005 and now Villa has played 98 international games for Spain, scoring in 59 of these. In the 13 years that Villa played for the Spanish team, he won the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 World Cup. He was crowned top scorer during the 2008 tournament with four goals.
7. Iker Casillas
Iker Casillas is the only goalkeeper on the list of the most successful Spanish footballers, but there is no doubt that he belongs here. Casillas is known for his cat-like reflexes and his acrobatic saves. He is considered one of the best goalkeepers of all times. For most of his career, Casillas was in goal for Real Madrid. He joined Real in 1990 and after passing through the youth academy and teams he was called up to the first team for the first time in 1999. The then 18 year old Casillas played 27 games in the Primera Division during his first season and 12 games in the Champions League (which Real Madrid won that year). From the 1999/2000 season onwards Casillas was indispensable from ‘Los Blancos’.
In total, Casillas played for Real Madrid for 16 years. In this time he played in 725 matches. Only club legend Raúl has played more games for Real Madrid. In his 16 years at Real, Casillas collected quite a few trophies. In total Casillas won 5 league titles, 3 Champions Leagues and 2 Copa del Reys. To his own sorrow and that of the fans, Casillas left Real for Porto in 2015.
In the years that Casillas played for the Spanish national team, he celebrated the same successes as Xabi Alonso: one World Cup and two European Championships.
8. Xabi Alonso
Xabier Alonso takes spot 8 in our list of best Spanish football players. Xabi Alonso played his entire career as a central midfielder. Alonso was known for his fantastic control of the ball, his flawless passing and being a real play maker.
Xabi grew up in the province of Gipuzkoa and began his professional career at the largest club in the province: Real Sociedad. In 2001 Xabi was given a chance with the first squad of the club. After a short loan period to Eidbar the coach at the time, John Toshack, decided to make him captain of the team. This turned out not to be a bad decision as Xabi helped the club become second in the Primera Division in the 2002/2003 season, and that at only 19 years of age.
Rafa Benitez was charmed by his countryman and brought him to Liverpool in 2004. Alonso remained a golden boy. In his first season with The Reds, he won the Champions League. In the final between Liverpool and AC Milan, Xabi played an important role, scoring the equaliser. Alonso also won the FA Cup and the Community Shield whilst at Liverpool. After his successful stint in England, Alonso felt pulled back to his home country and signed for Real Madrid. Ultimately, he finished his career in Germany, playing for Bayern Munich. With this move, Alonso has played at a top club in almost every top competition.
Xabi Alonso also had a very successful international career, winning two European Championships (2006 and 2008) and the World Cup in 2010.
9. Fernando Torres
Fernando José Torres Sanz is a Spanish striker that has played at various top European clubs during his career. The now 34 year old currently plays at Sagan Tosu, in the Japanese league. Torres began his professional career at Atletico Madrid. The striker impressed here by scoring 82 times in just over 241 games. Liverpool took notice of the goal scoring machine. In 2007 the English club knocked on Torres’ door and offered £28,000,000 for him. Atletico let him go and Torres continued scoring at Liverpool.
His time at Liverpool was probably one of the best in his entire footballing career. The top scorer scored 65 goals in 102 games. Much to the dismay of the Liverpool fans, Torres switched to a different top English club: Chelsea. Chelsea paid around £57,000,000 for him. This price made him the most expensive player in England. However, he never met the high expectations Chelsea had for him and only scored 20 goals in 110 games for The Blues. After that, Chelsea decided to loan him out; first to AC Milan and then to Atletico Madrid. At the end, the striker signed a contract with his childhood club Atletico.
Torres also had a very successful career in the national team. In 2003 ‘El Nino’ was called up to the national team for the first time. In total he played 110 international games and won 3 international trophies (2 European Championships and 1 World Cup) and scored 30 goals.
10. David Silva
David José Jiménez Silva, better known as David Silva, is a Spanish midfielder. Silva is known for his excellent passing and insight of the game. David Silva began his professional career at Valencia but after only one season in the second team, the midfielder was loaned to Eidbar. At Eidbar Silva played in 35 matches and scored 4 goals. After that loan period he was again loaned out, this time to Celta Vigo. After his season at Celta was over, Silva was included in the first team squad of Valencia. He played there as a fixed player for four years, until in 2010 he swapped the Primera Division for the Premier League. Manchester City decided to sign the Spaniard and paid a transfer fee of about £29,000,000. Until now Silva has played around 300 games for The Citizens, during which he has scored 57 times and given 90 assists.
Silva also has a very impressive international career. Silva played for the Spanish national team from 2006 until August of 2018. In that time, the midfielder played 125 games, scored 35 goals and won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012.