Some of the world’s best footballers of the past decade are from Spain. Let’s take a closer look at some of the country’s biggest sporting superstars.
Spain is famous for a lot of things, but football is something that’s a key part of the national culture. After enjoying a very successful few years from 2008 to 2012, Spanish football exploded with a wealth of talent. Now, some of the best players in the world come from this magnificent country.
If you take a look at the major leagues across Europe, you’ll find some Spanish footballers standing out as the best in their position. So, here’s our pick of the best footballers from Spain plying their trade right now:
David De Gea
De Gea first burst onto the scene as a youthful goalkeeper playing for Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league. He made his debut at just 18 years of age back in September 2009.
After enjoying a few successful seasons with the Madrid giants, he made his move across to the English Premier League where he’s been with Manchester United since 2011.
Blessed with incredible reflexes and impressive shot-stopping abilities, much was expected of young De Gea when he made his move. Unfortunately, he suffered a few high-profile errors in his early time at United, prompting many to claim him a flop.
But, the Spaniard pressed on and worked hard at his game to become a more physical presence. Now, he’s built a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
David De Gea made his senior debut for the Spanish national team in 2014 and has gone on to earn over 30 caps for his country. He’s now the first choice keeper, and many believe the number one jersey is his for a long while yet.
He continues to amaze spectators with his gravity-defying saves, and is widely regarded as one of the top Spanish footballers of this generation.
David Silva has made a name for himself as one of the most gifted footballers from Spain the world has ever seen. His professional career started in Spain with Valencia, after graduating from their impressive youth academy.
However, he made his debut for Eibar in the Segunda Division while on loan. He spent the next season of his professional career on loan again – this time at Celta Vigo. Eventually, he made his first appearance for Valencia in 2006, aged 20.
Silva’s time at his boyhood club was incredibly successful, both individually and as a team. In 2008 he won the Copa Del Rey with Valencia and went on to bag plenty of goals and assists during his stint with them. In 2010, Silva agreed to a big-money deal with Manchester City and has been there ever since.
Blessed with a wand of a left foot and an eye for a killer through ball, David Silva has become a cult hero at the Manchester club. He’s captained the team in recent times and won multiple trophies during his spell there – including various Premier League titles.
He’s currently played over 350 times for City and has become an integral part of the Spanish national team. His preferred position is the number 10 role just behind the central striker, but he’s played out wide on the right and left before.
He scored during Spain’s victorious Euro 2008 campaign, was a regular starter in their 2010 World Cup victory, and started all six matches when they won the Euros again in 2012. Silva is someone who’s getting better with age, and there aren’t many Spanish footballers that even come close to his talents and achievements in the game.
To say Sergio Ramos divides opinions is the understatement of the century. This tough tackling defender is known for his aggressive playing style and a win-at-all-costs attitude.
It’s an approach to the game that’s led to rival fans hating him, and Spanish/Real Madrid fans adoring him. As captain of both Real Madrid and the national team, it’s fair to say he’s recognised as one of the top footballers from Spain, and possibly the best defender of his generation.
His senior career began back in 2003 where he spent a year playing for the Sevilla B team before getting moved into the main Sevilla side. After a brilliant season playing at right back, he was bought in 2005 by Real Madrid. 13 years on, and he’s still playing for this club, with well over 400 league appearances to his name, plus dozens in European and cup competitions.
He started out on the right side of defence as a fullback but was moved into the centre back role after a few years at Real Madrid. Sergio Ramos has been nominated in the FIFPro World XI nine times – which is a record for any defender – and he’s also been in the UEFA Team of the Year seven times – another record! There are few footballers in the world, let alone footballers from Spain, with the same individual accolades as this man.
Ramos was the captain for Real Madrid during their recent triumph of three Champions League titles in a row – something no other team has ever done. He also featured heavily as a starting player in Spain’s double Euro triumph and world cup win from 2008 – 2012. Even though he’s known for his defensive qualities and physical presence, Ramos has also scored in 14 consecutive La Liga seasons – a feat no other Spanish footballer has ever achieved!
When it comes to footballers from Spain with legendary status, Iker Casillas is right up there with the best of all time. He’s one of the most decorated players of all time, with an honours list that boasts 5 La Liga titles, 3 Uefa Champions Leagues, 2 UEFA Super Cups, the FIFA Club World Cup, 2 Copa Del Rays, and 4 Spanish Super Cups. All of these trophies were won during his time with Real Madrid, not to mention the additional Portuguese League and Cup titles he won with his current club, Porto. Internationally, he was the Spanish captain when they lifted the European Cups in 2008/2012, and the World Cup in 2010.
His career began back in 1998 as a graduate from the Real Madrid youth team. From here, he played for both the B and C teams before making his first-team debut as a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 1999. Casillas’s incredibly successful time at Real Madrid ended in 2015, with one of the highlights being a nomination for the coveted Ballon d’Or in 2008. He moved to Porto at the start of the 2015-16 season and has been plying his trade there ever since.
As far as goalkeepers go, he’s regarded as one of the best to ever play football. It was his impressive performances that kept David De Gea out of the national side for so long, and his longevity shows as he still performs week after week at the ripe old age of 37.
Speaking of legends, Andres Iniesta is possibly the greatest Spanish footballer of all time. It’s no coincidence that during Iniesta’s prime years as a footballer both Barcelona and Spain dominated everything.
A humble player blessed with a technical ability that the footballing world has rarely ever seen. Were it not for the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, most people are in firm agreement that Iniesta would’ve won World Player of the Year multiple seasons in a row.
He graduated from the fabled Barcelona Youth Academy in 2001 and made his first-team debut in 2002 at just 18 years old. From here, he enjoyed 16 years at the Catalan club, becoming one of the teams most precious stars, and helping them achieve so much success.
He was a vital part of the treble-winning sides of 2009 and 2015, bagging 4 Champions League titles and 9 La Ligas during his time there. His partnership with Xavi is universally applauded as the best centre midfield partnership the world has ever seen.
While goals weren’t his speciality, Iniesta still pitched in year after year with crucial goals for both club and country. But, it was his goal in the 2010 World Cup Final that will be remembered above all. Here, Iniesta scored the only goal of the match (in Extra Time) to secure Spain’s first ever World Cup.
After playing key roles in all of Spain’s dominance from 2008 – 2012, Iniesta retired from international football in 2018. In the same year, he finally moved away from boyhood club Barcelona to play in Japan for Vissel Kobe. He’s still playing there now, and is by far and away the best player in the league.
Such is his talents that many believe he could still walk into the starting 11 at any big club side and slot back into his starting role with the national team as well.
Known by many as just ‘Xavi,’ this talented Spanish footballer spent most of his career alongside the man we just spoke about; Andres Iniesta.
At 38, he’s slightly older than his ex-teammate, and he started his professional career back in 1997 for Barcelona B. After two seasons with the B team, he made the cut for the first-team in 1998, and never looked back. A massive 17 seasons with Barca came to an end in 2015 when he moved to Saudi Arabia to play for Al Sadd.
His many years at Barcelona were iconic, with some of the top footballing experts saying he’s the reason that the tiki-taka passing style of play worked so well for both his club and Spanish team. One of the best passers the game has ever seen, Xavi is a gifted Spanish footballer that raised the bar for how people perceive modern central midfielders.
His personal and team honours are too long to list, but the highlights include 8 La Ligas, 4 Champions Leagues 2 Club World Cups, 1 World Cup, and 2 European Championships. Personally, he enjoyed a 3rd place finish on the World Player of the Year award three seasons in a row, and won multiple awards for being the top assist provider in certain competitions.
Xavi was a vital member of the Spanish national team throughout his time and captained them when Iker Casillas didn’t play. He also wore the captain’s armband for Barcelona during his final season, capping things off with a Champions League Final victory where he got to lift the trophy.
There aren’t many footballers from Spain who don’t look up to Xavi as their player inspiration, such is the legacy this man brings to the sport. It’s hard to think of a time he ever put in a bad performance, and despite the fact he won many awards, many believe he still didn’t get the high praise he deserved.
While the majority of players on this list are winding down their careers, Isco is at the other end of the spectrum. At just 26 years of age, he still has at least 5 or 6 years at the top level ahead of him.
He’s worked his way into a starting role for Real Madrid, featuring in all of the Champions League wins from 2016 to 2018. As of right now, he’s considered one of the most talented footballers from Spain, with many claiming he could be the next Iniesta.
His career started off very early on, with a professional debut at 17 for Valencia B. After making a handful of appearances for the first team, he moved to Malaga in 2011. Here, his class really started to show as he helped the team punch well above their weight in the Spanish League.
Such was his class that he won the prestigious Golden Boy award in 2012 – a trophy given to the best young player in the world. At age 21 he moved to Real Madrid, where he’s now one of the first names on the team sheet. Since 2013, Isco has won the La Liga title, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, 4 Champions Leagues, 3 UEFA Super Cups, and 3 Club World Cups – all with Real Madrid.
Internationally, he’s been playing for Spain since 2013 but has only really established himself as a starting player in the last two years. He scored a hat-trick against Argentina earlier in 2018, which showcased his immense goal scoring ability.
As an attacking midfielder, Isco has excellent vision and a broad range of passing. But, it’s his dribbling ability and precision in the final third of the pitch that’s most impressive. With dazzling footwork and a keen urge to attack, Isco has become one of the most exciting Spanish players in modern memory.
Spain possesses a large group of immensely talented football players. All the ones on this list are currently still active, and plenty didn’t make the cut! When you look back through the years at retired players, then there are so many incredible Spanish football players that deserve to be mentioned as well.