Ballon d’Or recipients, World Cup winners and Champions League icons feature among the best midfielders in La Liga history
Unsurprisingly, all have featured for Real Madrid or Barcelona
Who are the best midfielders in La Liga history?
There are a lot of players to choose from when picking the greatest La Liga midfielders of all-time.
Many of these players can swing La Liga odds without scoring. They are architects, sometimes starved of praise.
Others were lauded throughout their careers, scoring pivotal goals and providing moments of magic. Here are our 10 best La Liga midfielders of all-time.
Not many can match Pirri’s longevity. Signing for Real Madrid at 19, he won 10 La Liga titles at the Bernabeu, and lifted the European Cup in 1966.
Primarily a central midfielder, Pirri possessed versatility that would ironically have been perfect for Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona decades later. He ended up as a sweeper and even played up front on occasion.
A ferocious leader and fierce competitor, the Spaniard was unafraid of the pain barrier, playing in multiple key matches with broken bones.
9) Luka Modric
The midfield maestro as Real Madrid won four Champions Leagues, Luka Modric is a Ballon d’Or winner, two-time La Liga champion and was included in the FIFPro World XI in five straight years.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos garnered the majority of attention.
Those who regularly place a football bet know how important Modric was to Madrid’s success in the 2010s, however, with an underrated knack for breaking up play and elite passing range.
There is worldwide admiration for Modric’s game, an understated star of a glorious era for Real Madrid.
8) Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane’s move from Juventus to Real Madrid remains among the biggest La Liga transfers. It was the largest transfer fee ever at the time, of course, but Los Blancos got great value for it.
He played just 155 La Liga matches, and only won the league once. In his time in Madrid, though, the Frenchman scored one of the best goals in Champions League final history, and continued to collect individual accolades.
7) Michael Laudrup
Michael Laudrup is not only great by La Liga midfielder standards. Laudrup is simply one of the best players of all-time, and he was acknowledged as such when he was included in the FIFA 100 in 2004.
Laudrup was a key man in Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team at Barcelona, his majestic playmaking aiding Barca’s push for four straight league titles and their first ever Champions League crown.
An acrimonious move to Real Madrid followed, but it worked out for the Dane, as he took Los Blancos back to the top to become the first player in La Liga history to win five consecutive titles playing for two different clubs.
The Prince of Denmark was among the most elegant players in modern history. He remains adored in Barcelona and Madrid to this day.
6) Pep Guardiola
Before Pep Guardiola managed Barcelona to dominance, he was integral on the field during Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team supremacy in La Liga predictions.
Guardiola was often the deepest midfielder in Cruyff’s all-conquering Barca teams, which won four league titles and the Champions League.
Without physical advantages, Guardiola relied on high-level anticipation and technical ability. He could read the game better than anyone, snuffing out opposition attacks and picking pinpoint passes.
5) Luis Figo
Another who made the brave (or perhaps reckless) decision to cross the Clásico rivalry, Luis Figo was a Ballon d’Or winner and, for a short time, the most expensive footballer of all-time.
Figo’s La Liga spell began with Barcelona in the mid-1990s. His two-footed brilliance aided Barca’s pursuit of silverware, with the club winning consecutive La Liga titles.
Named Best Foreign Player in La Liga in 1999, 2000 and 2001, it was in the middle of this run that the Portuguese winger made the controversial decision to join Real Madrid.
Figo was the subject of vitriol from the Barcelona fans throughout his time with Real, with the rivalry simmering as Florentino Perez constructed the Galaticos. He won two more La Liga crowns in Madrid and lifted the 2001-02 Champions League.
4) Bernd Schuster
Playing for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico is a good way to make enemies. Bernd Schuster may not be adored by at the Camp Nou or Bernabeu, but he’s unquestionably one of the best midfielders in La Liga history.
The Blonde Angel arrived in Catalunya as a young player, spending eight seasons with Barca, and picking up a La Liga title. He then won consecutive La Liga crowns with Real Madrid before swapping the Bernabeu for the Vicente Calderón.
Schuster notched a trio of top three Ballon d’Or finishes while in Spain and was twice named La Liga’s best foreign player.
3) Sergio Busquets
It became cliché to say Sergio Busquets was underrated. Perhaps he isn’t any longer, but the Spanish holding midfielder was long overlooked in the brilliant Barcelona teams overseen by Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.
Busquets is an eight-time La Liga winner and three-time Champions League winner.
Without crunching interventions often associated with defensive midfielders, Busquets’ interceptions, tackles and timely fouls were the safety blanket for those silverware-collecting Barca sides.
He might have been a bad pick to score in La Liga betting tips – having found the net just 18 times in his club career to date – but Busquets was as integral as anyone to Barcelona’s success.
Xavi was an important player for Barcelona in the early years of his career, but it was under Pep Guardiola that he took another step up.
The La Masia graduate was Barcelona’s heartbeat through the late-2000s and early-2010s; he found space, he recycled possession, and kept Guardiola’s possession machine running smoothly.
The collection of Champions League and La Liga medals is only part of Xavi’s legacy. Just as Guardiola was the successor to Johan Cruyff, Xavi’s play was the embodiment of 21st century Barcelona.
Winner of World Soccer Player of the Year in 2010 and five times included in UEFA Team of the Year, Xavi’s CV can only be rivalled by a handful of midfielders over the last three decades.
1) Andres Iniesta
Sitting 25th all-time in La Liga appearances, statistics cannot do Andres Iniesta justice. The Spaniard was neither a prolific goal scorer nor assister, yet he’s unquestionably one of the greatest players of the 21st century.
A graduate of La Masia, Iniesta was utilised in various roles at Barcelona. His best football came as the most attacking in a midfield three, however, with his threaded passes and mazy dribbling leaving defences bamboozled.
El Ilusionista might not have the numbers, but the honours speak for themselves. He was named to the FIFPro World XI on nine occasions, and was included in IFFHS’ Team of the Decade.