Chelsea Target Varane & The 20 Best Players in Spain Right Now, Part One
Despite the loss of some great talents like Mesut Ozil, Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas over the summer there is still plenty of quality left in Spain, here is a look at the La Liga’s top 20:
20. Benat Etxebarria (Athletic Bilbao)
Benat was one of the few money transfers in Spain that didn’t see the player move abroad or to one of the big two. A brilliant passer of the ball and deadly from set-pieces, he has been on the fringes of the Spain squad for the past couple of years.
19. Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad)
Yes, really Arsenal fans, whilst the Gunners went looking for a striker to aid the in-form Olivier Giroud in the window, their Mexican castoff has been a revelation for Sociedad since joining the Basques two years ago.
Vela was instrumental in getting Sociedad into fourth place last season and scored twice against Lyon in a comfortable 4-0 win in qualifying to secure Champions League football for the first time in a decade for La Real.
18. Sami Khedira (Real Madrid)
A seriously underrated figure in Madrid’s star-studded squad, Khedira is often left with doing the ugly work that allows the likes of Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso and Isco to get on the ball and create.
17. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
The 20-year-old was the best centre-back in the whole league in the second-half of last season as he produced stunning displays in particular against Barcelona and Manchester United to displace Pepe alongside Sergio Ramos at the heart of Madrid’s defence.
16. Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Based on longevity and consistency, Pique remains just ahead of Varane for now and the archetypal ball-playing centre-back. Although his form hasn’t been quite as good over the past 18 months as it was during Pep Guardiola’s golden period at the club, Pique remains one of Barca’s most important players given their lack of cover in central defence.
15. Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
A fully fit Alonso would find himself much higher up this list but a series of injuries have meant the former Liverpool man has barely featured since Madrid’s loss to Dortmund in the Champions League last season. However, come the most important stretch of the season after Christmas, his passing, creativity and organisation will still be key if Madrid are to finally claim their 10th European Cup and if Spain are to retain their title as world champions in Brazil.
14. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
After a difficult period when he was used more as a No.10 than his preferred deeper lying midfield role, Modric has started to show what he is capable of at Madrid in the last few months and his work-rate allied to his ball skills have seen him become a bit of a fans’ favourite too.
13. Isco (Real Madrid)
The depth and quality of Madrid’s midfield is why Ozil was let go on the final day of the transfer window and Isco is the man who has been backed to replace the German’s stupendous number of assists over the past three years.
More direct and with a great goal-threat than Ozil carries, Isco has already netted three times in just three games for Madrid and as his displays with Malaga in the Champions League and the Spanish U-21’s towards the end of last season showed, at just 21 he is likely to become the next big thing in the Spanish national team.
12. Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
Radamel who? Costa has taken to post Falcao life at Atleti so well that Los Colchoneros have barely noticed the absence of the Colombian as they have registered three comfortable league wins and very nearly pipped Barcelona to the Spanish Super Cup. The Brazilian born forward – who could yet play for Spain – is La Liga’s very own Luis Suarez; nasty, unpopular, horrible at times, but ultimately brilliant on the pitch.
11. Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
Valdes has definitively said this will be his final year at Barca with his contract up at the end of the season and his own desire to further his horizons. However, at 31 he is still well in his prime for a goalkeeper and his contribution to the Catalans success in recent times often gets lost in the wave of plaudits for Messi, Iniesta, Xavi et al.
On form Valdes in undoubtedly the best Spanish goalkeeper right now and should Iker Casillas remain on Real Madrid’s bench he may eventually get the chance he deserves at international level come the World Cup.