Trying to come up with a team of the last decade in La Liga was no easy task. Especially when you consider that I’ve left out the likes of Victor Valdes, Iker Casillas, Diego Godin, Carles Puyol, Raphael Varane, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Luis Suarez, Diego Costa, Santi Cazorla, Neymar… the list is practically endless.
In fact, I could easily make a second or even a third XI, and each and every player would be of the highest quality.
The XI I’ve settled on is populated, in the main, by Barcelona and Real Madrid players. Not because it’s an easy get out for me, but because between 2010-2020, the players from those two teams have dominated the football landscape, both domestically and in Europe. See if you agree with my choices…
Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak
It was always going to take a world-class exponent to keep Valdes/Casillas/Courtois etc. out of this line-up, but there can’t be too many arguments against Jan Oblak.
The Slovenian has won four ‘Zamora’ trophies in a row, given to the goalkeeper in La Liga who lets in the least amount of goals, and he’s odds on to make it a nap hand in this campaign.
A shot-stopper of renown, Oblak commands his area with aplomb. A worthy inclusion.
Right-Back: Dani Alves
Played a key role in Barcelona’s Champions League triumphs in 2011 and 2015, and was the player who provided most assists to Leo Messi during his tenure at the Camp Nou.
More like a wing-back than a full-back, Alves’ energy in shuttling down his channel was legendary. As committed in the last minute as he would be in the first, his only weakness, if you can call it that, was over-exuberance.
We have another Brazilian in the other full-back slot, and Real Madrid’s Marcelo, at this best, mirrored Alves’ marauding runs down the flank.
Occasionally found wanting defensively, he wasn’t as bad as some in the media portrayed him. Disciplined in his role, he just happened to enjoy the freedom that playing for Los Blancos gave him in many games.
His passing was always accurate, and his combative streak showed his penchant for not cowering away from the darker side of the game when necessary.
Centre-Back: Gerard Pique
Really came into his own once Carles Puyol hung up his boots for good. Until that point, Pique was very much his captain’s understudy and would occasionally play the clown, much to Puyol’s chagrin.
When Pique had to step up, however, he did just that. A calming presence in the centre of defence at Barca, his touch remains sublime and there’s no finer centre-back when it comes to bringing the ball out of defence.
Centre-Back: Sergio Ramos
At the opposite end of the defensive spectrum is Sergio Ramos. Whilst he may not have the defensive skill set of Pique, Ramos would always be one of the first names down on the team sheet.
This is a player that you would gladly go to war for and with, even if his disciplinary record leaves a lot to be desired. Always leading by example, putting in a shift and coming up with goals when needed, he has been Mr. Real Madrid for years now.
Where Ramos goes, his team-mates follow, and he’s arguably their most imfluential player. Struck up an exemplary partnership with Pique at national team level.
Barcelona’s record appearance holder (767) and the glue that held club and country together during his playing years. It’s hard to believe that in June 2020 it will already have been five years since his retirement.
Has there ever been a more complete midfielder in European football? Xavi truly had it all, and he seemed to play every game with consummate ease. The metronome that kept Barca ticking along.
Midfield: Andres Iniesta
Where Xavi went, Iniesta followed. Another player whose sheer level of consistency at the top level was mind-blowing. A scorer of some fabulous goals, his World Cup winner for Spain is the one that saw him continue to get standing ovations from away fans until his retirement in 2018.
Embodied everything that Barcelona stood for, both on and off the pitch, and was loved by everyone, both at Barca and beyond. Skilful, unassuming, brilliant.
Midfield: Sergio Busquets
“If you watch the game, you won’t see Busquets. But if you watch Busquets, you’ll see the whole game.” So said Vicente Del Bosque when asked about the defensive midfielder. Every bit as important as Xavi and Iniesta, Busquets’ influence is now being understood as the years advance and he’s not as sharp as he once was.
A player who is happy to do the donkey work and allow others to shine, he is a rare commodity in the modern game. Embodies the Cruyff ethos of keeping the game simple perfectly.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
La Liga’s loss has been Serie A’s gain, and the Spanish top-flight doesn’t seem the same without Cristiano Ronaldo in it. Always the main man for Los Blancos, he is the club’s all-time top scorer and in the modern era at the club, he was in a class of his own. Unstoppable and untouchable.
Free-kicks, towering headers, shots from way out, tap-ins… you name it, the former Manchester United striker scored them all. A machine in every sense and an example for any young player to follow.
Forward: Lionel Messi
There aren’t any words to adequately describe what Lionel Messi has brought to La Liga over the last decade. It’s not far-fetched at all to suggest that Barcelona wouldn’t have been as successful without him in their side. His name has been writ large across all of their successes. Who can forget that mesmeric goal in the 2015 Spanish Cup final against Athletic Club?!
There has never been, and there will never be another player like Messi. A gift from the footballing gods, he is the one player that can do absolutely everything on a football pitch… and he does it better than everyone else.
Forward: Karim Benzema
A hugely underrated centre-forward talent, who has only really begun to shine in the limelight thanks to Ronaldo’s move to Italy. Can play the target man role with aplomb, evidenced by his goalscoring output both domestically and in Europe, where he remains one of the Champions League’s best marksman.
And what about the rest of his game? An extraordinary amount of assists for a supposed ‘big man,’ he has two good feet, can play centrally or out wide and has an acute grasp of how his role dovetails with those of his team-mates, thus making him a great all-rounder.
Who would win between my La Liga Team of the Decade and Liam Canning’s Premier League Team of the Decade?