La Liga has hosted many of the modern day greats. Yet, many pundits in the United Kingdom are keen to criticise the apparent monopolization of resources by Barcelona and Real Madrid. Is this really any different to Manchester United and Liverpool until recently, anyway? Or in Germany where Bayern Munich essentially buy off the competition? Or about in Italy where Juventus appear to be on track for a fourth Serie A title?
Since 2000, five, yes five different teams in La Liga have won the league. This number is more than all the other major leagues, including England. Valencia, Deportivo, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico have all won the prestigious trophy, but you would never think that given the disproportionate criticism Spanish football receives.
Admittedly, Barcelona and Real Madrid receive substantially greater television money than their ‘rivals.’ Having said that, the standard of coaching in Spain is extremely high and home grown players are subsequently moulded into technical wizards. Hence, the superb youth coaching and tremendous facilities mean the gulf in television money is not as prevalent as many assume. If my point seem weak, one urges all to examine the Atletico Madrid team from last season. Koke, Raul Garcia, Juanfran and Mario Suarez were all vital in the team’s success. And all were developed completely in Spain.
In honour of the greats we have seen in La Liga during the last fifteen years, I have compiled my best xi. I truly believe the variety of sides represented is testament to the notion La Liga is the premier league in world football.
Goalkeeper– Santiago Canizares. An underdog story if there ever was one in football. Try making it as a top goalkepper at 5 ft 10! He certainly has the best reflexes ever seen in my lifetime. And his accomplishments exude greatness. A champions league winner and five time La Liga winner stand above the rest. Winning two league titles with Valencia as well as the UEFA cup outweigh Casillas’ triumphs because Santi had inferior defenders on his side.
Right back– Carles Puyol. Extremely tenacious, and his Champions League pedigree earns him this slot.
Centre back– Roberto Ayala. He captained Valencia to two league titles which remains a huge accomplishment.
Centre back– Fernando Hierro. He was the Tony Adams type defender, just a lot more successful
Left back– Roberto Carlos. He only had a bodyfat of 6% in his prime. Given his constant work-rate you can see why. I enjoyed his free-kick highlights too, even then he had to run!
CDM– Claude Makelele. He reinvented this position and consequently merits a slot. He was at his best for Celta Vigo, helping them reach the UEFA cup in consecutive campaigns.
CM– Xavi. A maestro and a leader of men. His longevity should be widely applauded. People compare him to Paul Scholes but Xavi’s silverware puts such a comparison to shame.
CM– Zidane. Possibly the greatest midfielder ever. He was easily Real Madrid’s premier player for four years running, somehow the team only won one league and one champions league during his career there.
RW– Lionel Messi- The best ever in my view, from 2008-2011 he was heads and shoulders above all foes.
False 9– Djalminha. He’s my wild card, Messi works better without a bona fide striker and given this guy’s skills and speed, he’d enjoy him as a team mate.
LW– Ronaldinho. An inspiration to Brazilians who fell in love with his mercurial style, he put on Barcelona back on the map with his exceptional performances in Europe. Barca’s subsequent success is largely dependent on him.