The Premier League has been a familiar hunting ground for some of Spain’s finest ever players. Here’s a top five of some super Spanish stars
This summer, Chelsea FC’s swift move to woo Álvaro Morata into its ranks (for over $94 million) has been one of the breakthroughs of the transfer market.
However, this isn’t the first Spaniard to land in UK with a superstar reputation and salary: over the last twenty years, La Liga has provided the Premier League some of the finest players in the game, who have had a tremendous impact both on their teams and in the competition. These are the top 5.
5) Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad to Liverpool, 2004)
Arguably, the player who started it all. After a couple of miraculous seasons with Valencia and two La Liga trophies and a UEFA Cup under his belt, manager Rafael Benitez landed in Merseyside with the mission of making Liverpool great again. In his planning, ‘Spaniardizing’ the Reds was a top priority, and very soon players such as Luis García and keeper Pepe Reina strengthened the squad.
However, none of them was as game-changing as the signing of Xabi Alonso. While Real Madrid hoped to seduce the player – they would, eventually, years later – Benitez surprised everyone with his transfer from Real Sociedad for $18 million, where Alonso had become a leader and an icon in the few years he had played as an elite player. Everyone knows the rest of the story: with legend Stephen Gerrard as his partner in the midfield, Alonso’s Liverpool was once of the best in recent history, with the amazing win in the 2004-2005 Champions League final as its most impressive feat.
4) David De Gea (Atlético Madrid to Manchester United, 2011)
Now 26-years-old, De Gea’s career has been a precocious one indeed. In 2011, with only two seasons as Atlético de Madrid’s starting goalkeeper – where he conquered a Europa League title and a European Supercup – the continent’s top sides began a bidding brawl in order to land the most promising young keeper in the football world.
Sir Alex Ferguson, sly fox and a veteran in these antics, was the quickest to close a deal with both the player and with the Spanish club, with a transfer that became the largest sum paid for a goalkeeper in the Premier League to date. United has gone through many changes since, but De Gea’s performance has been consistently outstanding, also granting him the starting place in the Spanish national team.
3) Fernando Torres (Atlético Madrid to Liverpool, 2007)
“We bought the lad from sunny Spain, he gets the ball, he scores again. Fernando Torres! Liverpool’s number 9!”
Only the cream of the crop gets honoured by a chant in Anfield, and ‘El Niño’ surely was special during his stint as a Red. Already a legend in Atlético de Madrid when he helped the Colchonero side bounce back from the second division when he was still underage, Rafael Benítez didn’t hold back when he placed $42 million to buy one of Spain’s finest ever strikers.
Torres hit the Premier League like a hurricane, scoring wonderful goals and beginning a love relationship with The Kop due to his sense of belonging, gratitude and effort on the pitch. After a great three-year run in Anfield, Liverpool had to let him go: Chelsea’s $68 million offer in 2010 made him the sixth largest transfer in Premier League history.
2) Juan Mata (Valencia to Chelsea, 2011)
In 2007, Mata arrived at Valencia for free: a young Asturian player who Real Madrid had rejected from its academy. In fact, manager Quique Sánchez Flores dismissed him as “too young, not man enough yet” and didn’t give him the chance to prove himself.
Ronald Koeman, in one of the few right choices he made in Valencia, offered him a shot. And Mata didn’t hesitate. Months later, he was key in Valencia’s 2007-2008 Copa del Rey title run. Next year, he was one of the three amazing pieces of Valencia’s wonderful vanguard alongside David Silva and David Villa.
The national team was his next stop. In 2010, only three years after being rejected by Real Madrid, Mata was champion of the world and the undisputed leader of a star-studded Valencia. Struggling due to economic problems, the player showed his gratitude by extending his contract months before leaving: this way, VCF was able to bag $35 million from Chelsea, in one of the biggest transfers that summer. His performance in the Premier League, even after moving to Manchester United, has showed that he is able to play anywhere, anytime and always be excellent.
1) David Silva (Valencia to Manchester City, 2010)
His sheer quality and skills skyrockets David Silva to our top choice in the ranking. What a player! Since early in his development, when he was still playing locally in Gran Canaria, the ‘Arguineguín Magician’ was something special to watch. His move to Valencia at a young age allowed him to grow and develop, using his loans to Eibar and Celta to toughen up and gain experience. In 2007 he was already one of Valencia’s biggest assets and wondered Europe with great goals such as the one he scored against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge.
Once again, Valencia’s delicate finances made Silva a precious asset in the market, and Manchester City didn’t blink when offering a cool $35 million for a Spanish international player, a consistent starter with the national team weeks before he would become a world champion. Since then, Silva has showed throughout seven spectacular seasons as a Citizen that he would be any team’s perfect number 10 both in passing, assisting and scoring. A true beauty of a player.