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Best Spanish Midfielders of All Time

Mon 25 October 2021 | 11:30

Spanish football is known for having some of the best midfield maestros in football history. So join us as we take a closer look at the best Spanish Midfielders of all time:

Over the last two decades, Spanish football has become synonymous with possession-based fluid football that seamlessly transitions from defense to attack. The famous Tiki-Taka football that became prominent with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and the Spanish national team at the end of the 2000s, depends heavily on midfielders who are capable of both taking on defenders as well as deliver inch-perfect passes. This style of football has led to Spain having some of the best midfielders in the world in the last two or 3 decades, some of which we are taking a look at here.

Although it is worth mentioning that despite Spain experiencing their golden age in the past two decade, Spanish football has always had exceptional midfielders. It’s just that these recent years have been so great that it’s easy to forget the magnificent midfielders that came before. But worry not as we are here to take a look at all those players to and name who are the absolutely

best Spanish midfielders of all time

:

Top 10 Best Spanish Midfielders of All Time

There was so much stiff competition here that we were bound to leave several world-class players like

Santi Cazorla

, Ruben Baraja and Gaizka Mendieta out of our top 10 best Spanish midfielders of all time. But here are the players that made the list:

Luis Enrique

We start our list of best Spanish Midfielders of all time with Spain’s current head coach, Luis Enrique. The former

AS Roma

and Barcelona manager who is considered to be one of the best in the world in the past decade, had a long and remarkable career as a player at both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Enrique also represented Spain more than 60 times, appearing in 3 World Cup tournaments as well as a European Championship.

After being a part of

Sporting Gijon

’s youth academy for almost a decade, Enrique broke out into the first team during the 1990-91 season where he incredibly scored 14 goals in the league and won La Liga’s Breakout Player of the Season award which then earned him a move to Spanish Giants’ Real Madrid in the summer of 1991. During his 5 seasons at Real Madrid, Enrique was able to win a La Liga title and a Copa Del Rey but he committed the ultimate betrayal when he joined Madrid’s sworn enemies, Barcelona, in the summer of 96 in a free transfer.

While according to Enrique himself, his attacking prowess and Enrique’s overall talent was never truly appreciated at Madrid, at Barcelona he was used in more advanced roles which led to him producing impressive goal tallies season after season, hitting 18 and 25 goals in his first two seasons respectively. His partnership with Pep Guardiola allowed that Barcelona team to win 2 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Reys and a Cup Winners’ Cup during the 8 seasons Enrique spent at the club before retiring from football in 2004 at the age of 34. 

Miguel Angel Nadal

The Nadal family name might now be famous because of Rafael Nadal, the 20 Grand Slam-winning tennis player, but there was once another Nadal who was also an incredible sportsman and that was Barcelona’s Miguel Angel Nadal. Nicknamed the Beast, Nadal was notorious for his hard-work and physical style of play which allowed him to excel at several defensive positions, both at the backline and also in midfield. Nadal is most famous for the big role he played at Cruyff’s Dream Team at Barcelona in the 90s where he became one of the best Spanish midfielders of all time.

Nadal’s 19 season of professional football is mostly divided between two clubs,

Mallorca

and Barcelona. After joining Mallorca in 1987, Nadal went on to help the club earn promotion to La Liga after which his impressive performances earned him a move to Barcelona in the Summer of 1991. At Barcelona and under the legendary Johan Cruyff, Nadal was utilized to the best of his abilities, usually in defensive roles in the back or as a defensive midfielder.

He went on to help Barcelona win numerous titles and was even at some point heavily linked with Manchester United. The departure of Cruyff and the arrival of Louis van Gaal saw Nadal’s playing time heavily reduced after which he decided to go back to his old club Mallorca where he spent another 6 years, helping them win the Copa del Rey in 2003 and then retiring in 2005.

Miguel Nadal managed to win 5 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Rey trophies, a European Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup by representing the club over 300 times. he also managed to represent Spain in 3 World Cup, last of which was the 2002 World Cup where he impressively played all 4 of Spain’s game at the age of 36 before retiring from international football. Miguel Angel Nadal’s sporting legacy may pale compared to his niece but he is one of the

top 10 best Spanish midfielders of all time

nonetheless.

Pep Guardiola

He might now be known for being one of the best managers of all time, possibly even the best, having won countless titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City but in his playing days Pep Guardiola was simply one of the

best midfielders in the world

. A product of Barca’s La Masia academy, Guardiola went on to become a prominent player for the Blaugrana and the famous Dream Team under the manager Johan Cruyff that brought the first European Cup to Barca.

As a player, Guardiola mainly occupied the central midfield or the defensive midfield role, a position Cruyff himself put Guardiola in after seeing his potential in a youth match. Widely considered to be one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the world, Guardiola built the foundation that players like, Pirlo, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas improved upon, all of whom cite him as their hero and idol.

Guardiola’s technique, exceptional passing ability and range, his ability to shoot from distance, his vision and not least of all, his ability to organize and lead the team made him one of the best midfielders of all time.

Pep represented Barcelona for over a decade, winning 6 La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey, a European Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in that period while also captaining the club from 1997 till 2001. He then went on to play for Roma, Brescia and Al Ahli. He represented Spain 47 times, scoring 5 times and setting the standard of what it means to be a deep-lying playmaker. His coaching career may always overshadow his playing career but he will always be remembered as one of the best Spanish midfielders of all time.

Cesc Fabregas

In his autobiography,

Arsene Wenger

claims that Cesc Fabregas is “vision personified”. That is high praise coming from a manager that has worked with so many wonderful players, midfielders included, and has discovered Fabregas himself but it’s no more than Cesc Fabregas deserves. Having been a part of La Masia academy till the age of 15, Fabregas joined the Gunners in 2003 and went on to become one of their best players as well as one of the best Premier League midfielders of all time, not to mention making history with Spain by becoming the Champion of Europe twice (2008 and 2012) with a World Cup title in between (2010).

Arriving at Arsenal when they were at the peak of their powers with players like

Henry

,

Bergkamp

and Vieira, Fabregas learned from the best and soon became a regular starter for the Gunners. Even as a teenager, Cesc had a vision like a playmaker at his prime as well as having he usual silky style of playing and technique that most Spanish midfielders are known for. After helping Arsenal reach a Champions League final and becoming the club’s captain at 21, he then moved to Guardiola’s Barcelona in the summer of 2011.

At Barcelona, Fabregas won a La Liga, A Copa Del Rey and a Club World Cup title before moving back to the Premier League in 2014 but this time to Chelsea. Where he immediately made an impact and made the Blues champions. He won another Premier League title as well as two cup trophies before moving to Monaco in 2019, where he is playing today.

Although for much of his career, Fabregas had to compete with world-class players like Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva, all of which were some of best midfielders in the world, he managed to made an impact in the Spanish national team as well and played a big role in Spain’s golden era between 2008 and 2012. Known for his assists, perhaps Fabregas’ most memorable came in 2010 World Cup final’s extra time where he assisted Iniesta’s game-winning goal.

Sergio Busquets

Barcelona’s silent assassin and one of the few players among our list of best Spanish midfielders of all time who is still playing at the highest level of European football is none other than Sergio Busquets. A product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, Busquets found his way to the first team when Pep Guardiola, who was his manager at the academy, was promoted to be Barcelona’s head coach. A defensive midfielder by trade, Busquets is also considered to be one of the best deep lying playmakers in the world in addition to being one of the most decorated players on this list.

Sergio Busquets, who is the son of the former Barcelona back-up goalkeeper Carles Busquets, found his way to Barca’s first team during the 2008-09 season. that very same season Barcelona were able to lift the Treble with the 20-year-old Busquets playing a huge role in that achievement by appearing in 41 matches and he has played even a bigger role in Barca’s success ever since. in fact, some would argue that Guardiola’s famous tiki-taka tactics would never have worked without a player like Busquets.

As a defensive midfielder, Busquets is great at recovering the ball and sniffing out attacks before they happen after which his composure on the ball as well as his considerable amount of technique allows him to progress the ball where his exceptional passing ability and vision creates various attacking opportunities for any team he plays for. He has been called a defensive midfielder, deep-lying playmaker or a regista but the truth is that Busquets has added a bit of all these roles to his playing style and therefore has revolutionized the way a defensive-midfielder is viewed in an attacking side.

Aside from the impact that Busquets had on the position he plays, with 8 La Liga titles, 7 Copa del Reys, 3 Champions League trophies, 3 Club World Cups on the club level as well as a World Cup and a European Championship on international front, Sergio Busquets is easily one of the most decorated players on this list as well as being one of the best midfielders in the world.

Luis Suarez

The oldest player on our list of

best Spanish midfielders of all time

is the Barcelona and

Internazionale

legend, Luis Suarez. Although his namesake, the Uruguayan Luis Suarez, might now be more famous, in the 1950s and 60s you would’ve been hard pressed to find a better attacking midfielder than Luis Suarez. nicknamed the Architect for the way he controlled the game with his passes, Luis Suarez has the honor of being the only Ballon d’Or winner on this list and being the only Spanish-born player to ever win the award, something that his namesake has never achieved!

Having started his professional career with the local club Deportivo La Coruna, Suarez then joined Barcelona in 1954 where he played for the reserve side for a year before moving to the first team. Under the management of the legendary Helenio Herrera, Suarez played a significant role in Barcelona’s success in the late 50s where he was deployed as an attacking midfielder or an inside-forward. He helped Barca win 2 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Rey trophies and 2 Inter-Cities Fair Cup, earning him the Ballon d’Or in 1960.

He then moved to Internazionale alongside his manager Herrera and there, Suarez once again proved exceptional as he became part of the Grande Inter era, which saw the Milanese club 3 Serie A titles as well as 2 back-to-back European Cups. Suarez also represented Spain in two World Cups (1962 and 1966) but he made history by helping Spain win the European Championship in 1964 thus becoming one of the best Spanish player of all time.

Xabi Alonso

One of the top 10 best Spanish midfielders of all time and best Liverpool midfielders ever, Xabi Alonso is the next player on our list. A product of Real Sociedad’s youth academy, Alonso made a name for himself by captaining and helping them to their highest finish in La Liga (2nd) in the 21st century before moving to Liverpool a year later in 2004. Having played at the top level for European giants like Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Xabi Alonso won everything with club and country and became of Spain’s best ever.

As a midfielder, Alonso’s great range of pass, long distance shots, vision, tackling and composure on the ball made him perfect to play alongside players like Steven Gerrard, Ozil and Andres Iniesta, all of whom had attacking roles and were freed by the defensive responsibilities that Alonso took. A complete midfielder who was as capable of attacking as he was defending, Alonso was not one to shy away from taking shots at goal too, which resulted in some of the most outrageous goals from the halfway line or from the outside the box volleys.

Xabi Alonso won the Fa Cup and a Historic Champions League with Liverpool, before moving on to Real Madrid where he won a La Liga title, 2 Copa del Reys and a Champions League. he then moved to Bayern Munich where he stayed for 3 seasons, winning the Bundesliga in all of those in addition to a DFB-Pokal before retiring in 2017.

At International level though, Alonso represented his country in 114 matches, scoring 16 times and helping Spain make history by winning 2 European Championships back to back as well as the 2010 World Cup in between. All of which makes him one of the best Spanish midfielders of all time.

David Silva

David Silva is the very image of a Spanish midfielder, possessing great technique, vision and the ability to score goals. possibly one of the best midfielders of all time, David Silva is now known for his time at Manchester City but it was at Valencia that he was turned into the player he is today. A native of Canary Islands, Silva was a prominent figure in the resurgence and the dominance of Spanish football in the past two decade.

Having established himself at Valencia as one of the most talented young players in the world, Silva then moved to Manchester City in 2010 who were gearing up for their first Premier League title. with the likes of Silva and Aguero spearheading their attack, Manchester City went on to achieve an unprecedented league win in 2011, which was their first league title in 44 years. Silva became the top assist provider that season, helping them immensely on their way to glory. He then proceeded to win 3 more Premier League titles, as well as 5 League Cups and 2 FA Cups with Manchester City before moving to Real Sociedad in 2020.

Having scored 35 goals and made 29 assists in 125 appearances for his country, Silva has helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro. His partnership with Xavi and Iniesta led Spain to 3 consecutive international tournament victories between 2008 and 2012, making David Silva one of the

best Spanish midfielders of all time

.

Known for his ability to dribble past many opponents as well as his brilliant playmaking qualities and his knack for scoring goals, Silva has undoubtedly become one of the

best Manchester City player of all time

and because of that the club have erected a statue of David Silva outside the Etihad Stadium. An honor that none of the players on this have experienced as of yet!

Andres Iniesta

We are down to the last two spots and they couldn’t be filled by anyone other than the legendary midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta. First let’s start off with Andres Iniesta, who is yet another product of La Masia academy and spent the majority of his career at Barcelona where he helped restore their status as one of Europe’s best clubs by helping them win 35 major trophies, making him the most decorated Spanish player of all time. He did the same with Spain too by being a pillar of the team that won two Euros as well as a World Cup in which he scored the winning goal in the final.

Originally a defensive midfielder at youth level, Iniesta was moved up the pitch due to his immense technique and pace. He made his senior debut for Barcelona in 2002 and overtime became one of the best dribblers, playmakers and passers in football, linking up with the fellow La Masia-graduate, Xavi. 

There could be books written about Iniesta’s qualities as a player and also the telepathic relationship that he had with Xavi which was the driving force for so much of Barcelona and Spain’s success in the past two decades but unfortunately we have only a few paragraphs to describe the two.

Andres Iniesta is the most decorated Spanish player of all time and is considered by many to be one of the

best midfielders of all time

. 9 La Ligas, 4 UEFA Champions League titles and 6 Copa del Reys as well as 2 European Championships with Spain and a World Cup medal is only a part of his achievements as a player, making him a living legend who is still playing today (in Japan’s Vissel Kobe). Though what he left behind was not only the titles he won but the way he changed the way a midfielder was viewed and for the impact he had on the game of football.

Xavi

Last but certainly not the least is Xavier Hernández Creus, simply known as Xavi. Considered to be one of the best midfielders ever, Xavi came through the academy ranks at Barcelona and made his debut for the club in 1998, going on to represent the club for 17 seasons before leaving for Al Sadd in 2015. During that period Xavi who grew up watching the infamous Dream Team, helped revitalize Barcelona, with the help of players like Messi, Ronaldinho, Iniesta and Puyol and in the process became one of the best midfielders that the footballing world has ever seen.

Xavi Hernandez was perhaps the quintessential playmaker, capable of both taking on defenders himself or bypassing them with his pinpoint-accurate passes. His vision for finding space and creating chances for his teammates were almost unmatched by midfielders from his era and his relationship on the pitch with players like Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta was something that any coach could only dream of. He was the beating heart of Barcelona and the Spain national team for so many years as anything good that happened for those teams went through Xavi first.

An icon of the sport of football, Xavi Hernandez helped Barcelona win 8 La Liga titles, 4 Champions League trophies and 3 Copa del Reys as well as being the main creative force and the glue that held that World Cup-winning Spain team together. With numerous individual awards to his name, it was a shame that neither Xavi nor Iniesta ever won the Ballon d’Or. However, Xavi was selected in Ballon d’Or Dream Team above midfielders like Zidane, Rijkaard or Platini which shows his elite stature among the world of football!

 

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