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Ben Hayward

Best La Liga players of the 2010s

A combination of two pictures showing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating during a 2-2 draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid in 2012, when they scored two goals each at Camp Nou.

Spanish football ruled Europe in the 2010s, with six Champions League wins for La Liga teams across the decade.

Barcelona won their fourth European Cup in 2011 and another in 2015 as part of a historic treble triumph, while dominating domestically with six La Liga titles in the 2010s.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid ended their long wait for a 10th European Cup and went on to win three more in an incredible run between 2016 and 2018. Los Blancos also added three La Liga titles to their trophy haul in the decade.

Atletico Madrid upset the big two by winning the title in 2013/2014 and the Rojiblancos came so close to a Champions League crown as well, losing in two finals to fierce rivals Real in 2014 and 2016.

Naturally, La Liga was home to many of the world's best players during that time and here, a look at the competition's standout stars in the 2010s...

32. Koke

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One of the finest midfielders of his generation, Koke made his Atletico Madrid debut in 2009 after coming through the club's youth ranks and went on to become one of their best-ever players.

Linked with Barcelona as a possible successor to Xavi, Koke stayed with Atletico throughout the 2010s and was key as the Rojiblancos won seven trophies in the 2010s – including La Liga in 2013/14.

31. Marc-Andre ter Stegen

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Marc-Andre ter Stegen was brought in along with Claudio Bravo after Victor Valdes left Barcelona in 2014 and after alternating initially with the Chilean, he soon went on to establish himself as the undisputed first choice.

A modern-day sweeper-keeper, Ter Stegen combines superb reflexes with excellent distribution and was consistently one of Barça's best performers in La Liga and in Europe in the second half of the 2010s.

30. Mesut Ozil

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Mesut Ozil spent three seasons at Real Madrid in the early 2010s and was a popular player with the fans, regularly earning ovations at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The German set up numerous goals in his time at Madrid, including the famous Cristiano Ronaldo effort at Camp Nou in 2012 which all but wrapped up the title. Played a big role as Real won La Liga with a record 100 points and was the competition's top assist provider in each of his three seasons in Spain.

29. David Villa

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David Villa scored five goals for Spain en route to their World Cup win in South Africa in 2010 and the striker signed for Barcelona that same summer.

The Asturian went on to score 23 goals in his debut season at Barcelona, including one in the Champions League final win over Manchester United. Injury interrupted his progress after that, but he won two La Liga titles for Barça and added another in a single season at Atletico Madrid in 2013/14.

28. Javier Mascherano

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Javier Mascherano joined Barcelona from Liverpool in the summer of 2010 and went on to spend seven-and-a-half seasons at the Catalan club in a hugely successful era.

The Argentine had previously played his entire career as a defensive midfielder, but was used as a central defender by Pep Guardiola and stayed in that position for the rest of his time at Camp Nou. Strong, intelligent and ultra-competitive, he won four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues at Barça in the 2010s.

27. Raphael Varane

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One of the most elegant defenders in modern times, Raphael Varane won it all in a decade at Real Madrid between 2011 and 2021.

Persuaded to sign by French legend Zinedine Zidane, Varane went on to form an excellent partnership with Sergio Ramos. A World Cup winner with France in 2018, Varane picked up three La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues before leaving for Manchester United in 2021.

26. Dani Carvajal

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Dani Carvajal came through the youth system at Real Madrid and at the age of 12, was chosen to lay the first brick at the club's new academy, alongside club legend Alfredo Di Stefano.

After a season at Bayer Leverkusen, Carvajal returned to Madrid in 2013 and became first-choice right-back for the rest of the decade, winning an array of silverware. One of the best full-backs of his generation.

25. Jan Oblak

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When Atletico Madrid signed Jan Oblak from Benfica for €16 million in 2014, it seemed like a lot of money for a goalkeeper.

It doesn't now. The Slovenian, widely considered one of the world's best, has kept more clean sheets than any goalkeeper in the club's history and was named La Liga's Player of the Season in 2021/22.

24. Angel Di Maria

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Angel Di Maria made almost 200 appearances for Real Madrid in four seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu between 2010 and 2014.

The Argentine winger was Man of the Match as Los Blancos beat Atletico in extra time to win the Champions League in 2013/14 and a key player in the team which won a record 100 points to claim La Liga in 2011/12.

23. Diego Godin

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An aggressive and fiercely competitive central defender, Diego Godin was the ideal leader at the back for Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid.

The Uruguayan arrived before Simeone in 2010, but spent most of his nine seasons working with the Argentine and headed the goal which won La Liga for Rojiblancos in a title decider against Barcelona at Camp Nou in 2014.

22. Xabi Alonso

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After five seasons at Liverpool, Xabi Alonso returned to La Liga in the summer of 2009 as part of a big spending spree following the re-election of Florentino Perez as president.

Alonso quickly established himself as a fan favourite, excelling in a deeper role with his superb vision and range of passing. He helped Madrid win La Liga in 2011/12 and surprisingly left for Bayern Munich after Los Blancos' Champions League success two years later.

21. Pedro

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Pedro's big breakthrough at Barcelona came in the 2009/10 season and such was his impact that he found himself starting a World Cup final a few months later.

The Canarian winger eventually moved on after a lack of opportunities in 2016, but he contributed significantly to Barça's success in the first half of the decade, winning six La Liga titles and scoring in the 2011 Champions League final win over Manchester United at Wembley.

20. Ivan Rakitic

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Ivan Rakitic moved to La Liga in January 2011 and went on to become one of the most emblematic players in the competition over the next decade.

The Croatian midfielder spent three-and-a-half seasons at Sevilla, winning the Europa League in his final year. He then moved to Barcelona and was key in the Catalans' treble triumph in 2014/15. After winning four La Liga titles at Camp Nou, he returned to Sevilla in 2020.

19. Casemiro

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Casemiro was an underrated player during his time at Real Madrid – but not by fans of Los Blancos.

The Brazilian was key to Madrid's success in the Champions League in their three-peat under Zinedine Zidane, forming an exceptional trio in midfield alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. He also won three La Liga titles in the 2010s.

18. Radamel Falcao

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Radamel Falcao only spent two seasons in La Liga with Atletico Madrid – but the Colombian made an incredible impact in his time with the Rojiblancos.

In La Liga, he hit 52 goals in 68 appearances as the club enjoyed a revival under Diego Simeone and was instrumental as Atleti won a Europa League, a UEFA Super Cup and a Copa del Rey during his two years in Madrid. He left to join Monaco in 2013.

17. Gareth Bale

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Gareth Bale enjoyed massive highs at Real Madrid, helping Los Blancos win major trophies with some crucial goals in big finals, but his time at the Santiago Bernabeu was not always happy.

Blighted by injuries and severely criticised by the Madrid media, the Welsh winger was often made a scapegoat for the team's troubles. Nevertheless, he was key to Madrid's success in his early years at the club and won 15 trophies, including three La Liga titles.

16. Antoine Griezmann

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Antoine Griezmann helped Real Sociedad win promotion to La Liga in 2010 and quickly became one of the competition's most exciting players.

The French forward took his game to new heights in five seasons with Atletico Madrid, scoring 95 goals in La Liga in that time. His two years at Barcelona were less successful, but he will go down as one of the very best of his generation in La Liga. He returned to Atletico in 2021.

15. Dani Alves

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Dani Alves spent eight seasons at Barcelona between 2008 and 2016, before briefly returning to the Catalan club in 2022.

The Brazilian right-back was one of the most exciting players in the world during his first spell and linked up brilliantly with Lionel Messi on the right side. With Alves at the club, Barça won it all – including two trebles and six La Liga titles. Impossible to replace.

14. Gerard Pique

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Gerard Pique came through the youth ranks at Barcelona and returned to the Catalan club in 2008 from Manchester United.

A fixture at the back throughout the club's golden era, Pique was one of the best centre-backs in the world in the 2010s. He won 30 trophies with Barça, plus a World Cup and European Championship with Spain.

13. Jordi Alba

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Jordi Alba joined Barcelona after winning Euro 2012 with Spain and spent 11 years at the Catalan club, where he had started out as a youth player.

An attacking left-back with pace and excellent link-up play, he formed a great understanding with Lionel Messi at Barça and won six La Liga titles among a host of silverware at Camp Nou. One of the best left-backs ever.

12. Marcelo

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Marcelo won it all in 15-and-a-half seasons at Real Madrid and in the 2010s, the Brazilian was arguably the best left-back in the world. One of the best ever, in fact.

A mainstay in the back four and always a threat going forward, Marcelo left Madrid with more trophies than any other player in the club's history and contributed to six La Liga titles – three of those in the 2010s.

11. Sergio Ramos

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Sergio Ramos started life at Real Madrid as a right-back, but moved to central defence under Jose Mourinho and became one of the all-time greats.

An inspirational leader and captain, Ramos won three La Liga titles in the 2010s – and five overall – in a memorable 16-year stint at the Santiago Bernabeu before leaving to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2021.

10. Neymar

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Neymar was a wonderful player for Barcelona between 2013 and 2017 – but the Brazilian's time at Camp Nou ended on a somewhat sour note following his controversial move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Neymar enjoyed spectacular success at Barça and scored 105 goals in 186 appearances. He won two La Liga titles in eight trophies overall, but left under a cloud when PSG paid his €222 million release clause in 2017.

9. Toni Kroos

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One of the finest midfielders of his generation, Toni Kroos is best known for his distribution. The German hardly ever misses a pass.

Kroos joined Real Madrid from Bayern Munich after the 2014 World Cup and was key as Los Blancos won three successive Champions League under Zinedine Zidane. Won his first La Liga title in 2016/17 and consistently led the competition's passing stats in a long career at the Santiago Bernabeu.

8. Luis Suarez

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In six seasons at Barcelona, Luis Suarez scored an incredible 198 goals in 283 games – including 147 in 191 La Liga appearances.

Alongside Lionel Messi, the Uruguayan striker was part of Barça's famous forward line described by their coach Luis Enrique as the greatest in the history of football. He won four La Liga titles as a Barça player, later adding another at Atletico Madrid, and was the competition's top scorer with 40 goals in 2015/16.

7. Luka Modric

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Luka Modric arrived at Real Madrid from Tottenham in the summer of 2012, but had to wait five years for his first La Liga title.

Modric formed a formidable midfield trio along with Toni Kroos and Casemiro and became a hugely popular player at the Santiago Bernabeu. One of the most elegant players to grace La Liga and a huge part of Madrid's success in Europe and at home in the 2010s.

6. Sergio Busquets

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Sergio Busquets made his Barcelona debut in 2008/09 under Pep Guardiola and was a mainstay in midfield for the Catalan club until his departure in 2023.

A defensive midfielder who redefined the role with his tactical intelligence and precision passing, Busquets played a pivotal part in Barça's success during his time at Camp Nou and won La Liga nine times overall.

5. Karim Benzema

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Karim Benzema was at Real Madrid from 2009 to 2023 and the French forward hit double figures in La Liga in all but two of his 14 seasons.

A four-time La Liga winner, Benzema spent much of his time at the Santiago Bernabeu operating in a deeper role to provide for Cristiano Ronaldo but was the team's main outlet for goals after the Portuguese left in 2018 and went on to become Los Blancos' second-highest scorer of all time.

4. Xavi

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Xavi's Barcelona career began way back in 1998 and the midfielder was named La Liga's Breakthrough Player of the Year.

By the time he left in 2015, Xavi had won eight league titles and for much of that time, he had been the heartbeat of the team as a deep-lying playmaker, expertly exploiting spaces. A treble winner in his final season in 2014/15, Barça were never quite the same after his departure.

3. Andres Iniesta

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Andres Iniesta formed part of perhaps the greatest midfield in history alongside Xavi and Sergio Busquets and the World Cup winner left Barcelona as a nine-time La Liga winner.

One of the best ever, the elegant midfielder helped Barça to six La Liga titles in the 2010s and also featured in two trebles before his emotional farewell in 2018. He also scored Spain's winner in the 2010 World Cup final. Not bad.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored an unbelievable 311 goals in 292 appearances in La Liga between 2009 and 2018 and was the competition's top scorer on three occasions.

Despite all of those goals, the Portuguese only won La Liga twice, with Barcelona dominant for most of his time in Spain. He did win the Champions League four times as a Real Madrid player, though, and his numbers are legendary.

1. Lionel Messi

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Lionel Messi rewrote the history books during his time in Spain and is, without doubt, the greatest player in the history of La Liga.

The Argentine scored 474 goals in La Liga for Barcelona, won the competition 10 times and was top scorer on six occasions. His most productive season came in 2012-13 with a record 50 goals in LaLiga and 73 in all competitions. The best ever.

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