Football (fútbol) is one of the most popular recreational sports in Spain. As a football-loving nation, Spain has produced some of the soccer greats that have been known the world over for their skills and individual contribution to the sport. Some of these names have become synonymous with soccer itself.
The Spanish National Team, previously called the Royal Spanish Football Federation was formed in 1909, following in the footsteps of England and France. The national team was composed of players taken from a handful of local teams from different parts of Spain, taking outstanding players from local championships after the director of the Arenas Club de Roldan, Jose Maria Acha brought forth the idea of having a national league. The first La Liga tournament in Spain where ten teams participated was played in 1928, although the Copa del Rey was organized earlier than La Liga and some of the teams that participated in La Liga had been Copa del Rey champions. The clubs that were formed then were Real Union, Real Sociedad, Atletico Aviacion, later renamed Atletico Madrid, Racing Santander, CE Europa, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona. Athletic Bilbao, RCD Espanyol and Arenas Club de Getxo.
Spain had produced and continues to produce outstanding football talents that had played and are playing for their country as well as for outstanding European soccer clubs. Most of the players have created individual records, for themselves, for the teams they played for and for their country’s national team. The craze for football in Spain is so great that the national team is named La Furia Roja, literally translated to The Red Fury. Thus, Spain has the pick of the crop when it comes to selecting the members of the team to represent the country in international competitions.
Francesc Fabregas or Cesc is the youngest Spanish football player who was propelled to fame at the age of 23. He plays as central midfielder for Arsenal, the Premier English League team as well as for Spain’s national team. He began his career internationally during the FIFA under-17 world championship in 2003. This athlete is considered a player with vision, inventiveness and a maturity for the sport that is well beyond his years.
A highly productive scorer for the Liverpool Football Cup, Fernando Torres was born to score goals. Fast and remarkable in the air, Torres has an extraordinary technique while he carries a calm and cool disposition. Overall, this Spanish athlete has what it takes to be a first-rate striker.
Despite the fact that he is no longer with the Spanish team, Fernando Morientes at 34 years of age has imprinted his name in the realm of international soccer. Standing 6”1 in height, he is best remembered for his abilities in scoring goals in the air. Formerly a member of the Spanish squad in the FIFA World Cup in 1998 as well as the World Cup in 2002, he also played a role in the Euro Cup team of Spain. In February of 2010, he became a part of the attacking flank of Olympique de Marseilles.
Raul Gonzalez Blanco
At 33, this Spanish striker has a special ability of taking possession of the ball or playing it off. From 1996-2006, he played for the Spanish national team. Additionally, he played with Real Madrid together with David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, and Iker Casillas. He is without doubt a premier Spanish soccer player.
Jose Antonio Reyes
Born on the first of September1983, Jose Antonio Reyes plays for the Athletico Madrid. Primarily a left-winger but playing forward as well, he started his professional career for his hometown of Sevilla, at the young age of 16. He proceeded to sign up with the English team, Arsenal at the age of 20. Following a fairly successful profession abroad, he came back to Spain and continued as a representative for both Madrid Real as well as Athletico Madrid, while having a brief loan moment in Portugal. Reyes has gained 21 caps for his country and represented it at the World Cup in 2006.
Miguel Angel Nadal
Miguel has played a total of 279 games for Mallorca and 208 games for Barcelona. He scored 3 goals, playing 62 games for Spain. Among his winnings are 3 Spanish Cups and 3 Super Cups, 5 titles for the Spanish league, and 1 winner’s cup, to name a few.
Andoni Zubizarreta has made 126 appearances throughout 1985 to 1988 for Spain. Aside from this, he has appeared at 629 club tournaments for both the Barcelona team and Valencia. In 1987, he was given the title of Spanish player of the year. He has also won 6 titles for the Spanish League as well as the Champions League, among so many other accomplishments.
José Santiago Cañizares Ruiz
Santiago Cañizares, born on December 18, 1969 has already retired from club football. He was a backup goalkeeper for Real Madrid and transferred to Valencia CF where he ended his career. With Valencia he made 400 appearances since he started playing for the club in 1998. During his prime, Cañizares was one of the world’s best goalkeepers and had represented the Spanish national team in 3 FIFA World Cups and 3 UEFA European Football Championships. He was such a good goalkeeper that even a soccer great, fellow goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, a Danish soccer great who played for Manchester United and himself hailed as the World’s Best Goalkeeper for 1992 and 1993, called Cañizares the finest goalkeeper in the world.
Xavier Hernández i Creus
In the football world and in FC Barcelona, he is simply known as Xavi. He was born on January 25, 1980 in Barcelona. His position is a central midfielder and he plays for FC Barcelona. Xavi has 101 caps for the national team and had been part of the squad that went on to win the UEFA Euro in 2008 where he was names the Player of the Tournament. He was also part of the winning squad during the World Cup in 2010.
Considered as the best midfielders in the world, Xavi made his La Liga debut against Valencia CF where they won with a score of 3-1. Although he used to be part of the reserve team as well as the senior team, Xavi scored the only goal in Barcelona’s win over Real Valladolid when his team was still the La Liga’s tenth placer. His consistent work and with Pep Guardiola’s injury during the 1999-2000 season, Xavi became the main playmaker and has held that position since then. He’s scored several goals, created opportunities for his team mates and narrowly missed beating Lionel Messi for the title of World Soccer Magazine’s Player of the Year award in 2009, but he did win the title the following year.
David Villa Sánchez
David Villa plays as a winger or as a striker for FC Barcelona. Born on December 3, 1981, Villa is called El Guaje or The Kid when translated into English. He overcame a serious injury as a child and played for Real Zaragoza. In the two seasons that he was with the club and made his La Liga debut, he garnered the Supercopa de España and the Copa del Rey as a senior footballer. His transfer fee to join Valencia CF was €12 million. It was not for naught though because he was part of the Copa del Rey winning team in the 2007-2008 season. Villa’s transfer to FC Barcelona was worth €40 million and it was auspicious because his team won the UEFA Champions League and La Liga titles in 2010.
Spain won the Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010 when Villa was called up to represent his country in the international football tournament. He consistently produces his best whichever team he was playing for, scoring three goals during the World Cup in 2006, again top goal scorer in Euro 2008 while in the 2010 World Cup, he produced his best performance and garnered the Silver Boot award. Villa has already amassed 47 goals for Spain, making him his country’s top goal scorer. He also has the distinction of being Spain’s only football player to have the most scores in the World Cup. If his World Cup goal tally is to be computed on a goals-to-games ratio, he will surpass Ronaldo, all-time top goal scorer. When his stats are computed based on goals-to-games ratio for the national team, his record still remains unmatched by any player, after it was set by Alfredo Di Stefano, an Argentinian football player who played for Spain and scored 23 goals in the World Cup.
Telmo Zarraonandia Montoya
He is simply known as Zarra, a prolific goal scorer for his team Athletic Bilbao. Zarra was born on January 20, 1921 and played for Athletic Bilbao for 15 seasons between 1940 and 1955. He was a 6-time winner of The Pinichi Trophy, an award given to soccer players in the Spanish League who will score the most goals in a season. He had 252 goals in league games and had 20 World Cup goals. In his twenty international game appearances for Spain, the most memorable was the four-goal haul he did when Spain won against Switzerland. His best performance was in the World Cup in 1950 when he scored the game-winning goal against England and propelled Spain to the quarter finals. He retired in 1957 and died of a heart attack on February 24, 2006 at the age of 85. The Zarra Trophy was named after him. The trophy is given annually by Marca, a Spanish sports daily paper to a footballer playing for a domestic team with the highest number of goals in La Liga for one season. The first recipient of the trophy (2006) was David Villa.
Carles Puyol i Saforcada
Carles Puyol, born on April 13, 1978 started playing football by joining the youth team Pobla de Segur from 1993 to 1995 before moving to the youth team of FC Barcelona, where he stayed from 1995 to 1997. From 1997 Carles Puyol started his senior football career by signing up with FC Barcelona as a central midfielder, as his preferred position, although he can also be on the left or right flank. If he is assigned as a flanker, he prefers the right back position. Carles took over the position of team captain from August 2004 from Luis Enrique and appeared in more than 500 games as captain. They were able to win three UEFA Champions League titles, five La Liga titles and seven other championships.
Puyol also had been called up to play for the national tem and had represented Spain in 100 international games, including winning the Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010.He is nicknamed “The Wall” because of his strength, ruggedness and intense commitment when he plays. He is said to possess quick reactions and has explosive strength and knows where to position himself where he will have the most advantage. He has strong leadership and work ethic and continues to train alone after practice and will still be as aggressive even during the dying minutes of the game. He is not afraid to call on a teammate he finds slacking even if they are winning.
Puyol leads a quite life, saying that he does not like to go partying. He loves to read, practice Pilates and yoga and had even met the Dalai Lama. He is very interested in Tibetan Buddhism. He may seem very laid back and quiet but he warms up before a game by listening to Napalm Death, a hard-core punk and death metal band from Birmingham. His long shaggy hair is a trademark.
Iker Casillas Fernández (captain)
Iker Casillas Fernandez, who goes by the nickname San Iker, was born in Mostoles, Spain in May 20, 1981. Casillas is one of those one-of-a-kind native talents among a throng of giants after joining the club at nine years of age. His first team appearance was under Vicente del Bosque, who is currently the national coach, back in 1998-1999. He made his mark the year after when he was able to beat Valencia in the finals of the Champion’s League, at a very young age of 19, as goalkeeper. He went through an unusual decline in form about 2 years later, dropped from an engagement with Bayer Leverkusen. However, he was able to make it as substitute in Glasgow’s second half, bringing home the trophy with a sequence of amazing saves.
Team captain Fernández, now a good thirty years of age, is the second oldest of the twenty four members of the Spain’s national football team, but with that age comes his rich experience and a very impressive list of achievements. Now recognized as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, in 2008 he led Spain’s team to its first UEFA European Football Championship in over four decades and was nominated as the European Footballer of the Year in 2008 and 2009, among other such awards and recognitions. Currently he serves as the team captain of Spain’s national team and of Real Madrid. Casillas is known to be quite superstitious, which is demonstrated each time a goal is scored by Real Madrid, where he instinctively touches his crossbar.
Víctor Valdés i Arribas
If there is perhaps one athlete who can rival Iker Casillas in skill, it would have to be fellow-teammate and goalkeeper, Víctor Valdés. The natural prowess and mastery in the sport which he has shown has earned him a number of La Liga and Championship League victories under his belt, and most likely led to the honor of representing Spain as part of their national team. Because of his endeavor, he has become widely popular and is now considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the business.
Victor Valdes was born in January 1, 1982 in Barcelona, Catalonia. He is considered to be the most successful of goalkeepers in the history of Barcelona, winning five titles at La Liga, three titles at the Championships League and a Copa del Rey Title as well. Additionally, Valdes was able to win the Zamora trophy 4 times.
His early career began as a member of the youth team with FC Barcelona in July of 1992. In September of the same year, he joined his family moving to Tenerife and left the club. Three years after, he was reunited with the club again and progressed quickly by way of the youth teams. During the earlier parts of 2002-2003 season, he played the role of deputy to Roberto Bonano of the Argentina national football team. In the season of 2003-2004, be became the first choice goalkeeper. During the 2004-2005 season, Valdez was able to play in practically all of the matches for Barcelona, helping them to gain the league title, a first after a period of 6 years. He was also able to bring home the Zamora Trophy as Spain’s best goalkeeper. From here on, it has been as series of success after success for this energetic Spanish athlete. On May 16 of 2010, he was able to win his 4th title, with Barcelona clinching the second successive title of the Spanish League at the side of Josep Guardiola, which ended the season at 99 points.
José Manuel “Pepe” Reina Páez
One of the Spanish national team’s goal keepers, Jose Reina currently plays for the English Premiere side Liverpool and is well-known for his uncanny ability to save penalties. He was recognized with the Premier League Golden Glove award for keeping “clean sheets” (i.e. not conceding a goal) for three of his five seasons, and on top of that is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the premier league and the world.
Having come up through the reputable Barcelona youth system, Pepe Reina belongs to a family of footballers, his father Miguel Reina having had an illustrious career as a player. Born in Madrid in August 31, 1982, Reina left for Barcelona at 13 years old with the hope of maturing as a player. At 18, he was obligated to search for better opportunities and moved to Villareal. Here, he was able to attain huge success. After acquiring his experience at the Champion’s League, Pepe Reina signed up in 2005 for Liverpool and ever since then, has earned his reputation as one of the finest goalkeepers of the Premier League. He has also become an icon at the field, setting a club record specifically for successive minutes with no intention of surrendering a goal, which has made him the most appropriate second to Casillas between posts. He made his debut for Barcelona in 2001.
Raúl Albiol Tortajada
One of the younger members of Spain’s national team, Albiol is also a player for Real Madrid. And although his career is not as star-studded as, say, Fernandez and Reina, he is still an impressive player, having won the Don Balon award in 2006. His main asset is his versatility, being able to play as a central defender or as a defensive midfielder.
Born in Villamarchante, Valencia in April 9, 1985, Albiol started his affair with football at a very young age. As A child, the sport was a favorite pastime for him, which was immediately coming to the attention of Valencia and got him enrolled in the academy. In September of 2003, Albiol made his debut in the UEFA Cup tournament with AIK Solna as center back although he was a defensive midfielder. Albiol is best known for his special ability to get the ball to move forward while playing safely with midfielders, something that he was able to develop back when he was a midfielder. He is also an expert at taking full control of aerial games, which makes him a real threat throughout set pieces, as well as a perfect player when it comes to clearing balls that are crossed towards the box.
In October 13 of 2007, Albiol made his international debut against Denmark after his call up to the national team for the European Championship. Together with his teammates in Real Madrid, Iker Casillas along with Sergio Ramos they made it at the World Cup in 2010 held in South Africa by winning the title.
Gerard Piqué i Bernabéu
At only 24 years of age, Gerard has succeeded in numerous efforts to establish himself as a valuable player, having played integral roles in the wins of the teams of Barcelona and Spain in the EUFA Champions League for two years straight and in Spain’s win at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He has been receiving honors from different football clubs since 2005, and currently plays as a central defender in FC Barcelona along with goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Gerald Piqué Bernabéu was born in Barcelona, Catalonia in February 2, 1987. Carrying three nicknames, Principe Piqué, Geri, and Piquenbauer, this Spanish footballer started out his football career professionally in 2004 with the Manchester United. Here, he was able to score two goals within twelve matches. Following this, he was loaned to the Real Zaragoza during the 2006-07 season. In 2007, he returned to Manchester United. However, his heart was dictating that he return to Spain. Gerald realized his dream when he was able to sign a contract in 2008 with Barcelona, together with a buy-out clause of 50 million Euro.
Carlos Marchena López
One of the defenders in the star-studded cast of Spain’s national team, Carlos Marchena plays the role of an aggressive central defender who in his nine-year stint with Valencia CF helped them reach five major titles including two in the La Liga championships. Currently he is playing for the Villarreal CF.
More commonly known as Marchena, Carlos Marchena López was born in July 31, 1979 in Seville. Marchena began his career professionally at the young age of 18 in the Sevilla FC when the club still played in Spain’s Second (Segunda) Division. When he turned 20, he clinched his outstanding first appearance for the club during the 1999-2000 season opposite Real Sociedad. He went on loan for one year with SL Benfica where he impressed Valencia CF, which was looking for a successor for Miroslav Djudic.
For the 2003-2004 season, he performed a key position in the defense, a perfect team-up with Roberto Ayala, his fellow center-back, when Valencia captured a momentous league in addition to the UEFA Cup double. His performance got him a call up for the Spanish national team for Euro tournament of 2004 although Spain was not able to fare well during this tournament, bowing out during the initial stages.
Joan Capdevila i Méndez
Joan Capdevila i Mendez was born in Tarrega, Spain in February 2, 1987. He made his first appearance for the side of Catalan in 1998-199 at the Athletic Bilbao before joining Atletico Madrid in the succeeding season. Following the Colchoneros appointment, Capdevila however signed up with “Deportivo de La Coruña” of the Galician side in 2000, and became a regular mainstay as the team’s left-back. From 2007-2008, he joined Villareal for three years, playing in every league game with the exception of two, together with the side that ended as runner up. This led to the achievement of a direct “UEFA Champions League Qualification.” He was able to come up with similar numbers in the succeeding year, increasing his total goals to five league goals for the season.
He debuted in the Spanish national team I October 16, 2002 opposite Paraguay on a draw of 0-0. Subsequently, he was called for Spain’s squad at the Euro 2008. Here, he was able to feature in every match except one. He also proved himself at the tournament as first-choice. Along with Sergio Ramos (right-back), Carlos Puyol and Marchena (central defenders) he assisted in keeping clean sheets throughout all of the three matches during their knock-out stages, conceding to only two goals during the four matches. On the 20th of May 2010, Capdevila was chosen by Vicente del Bosque for the squad at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, playing all of the matches as well as the minutes for the eventual champions.
Along with fellow defender Carlos Marchena, Capdevila serves as a defender for Spain’s national team. He was also a recipient of a silver medal in the Summer Olympics back in 2000.
Sergio Ramos García
A player for Real Madrid and the national team of Spain alongside popular goalkeeper and team captain Casillas Fernandez, Sergio started off his career pretty young, winning his first cap at the age of 18. He has quite a track record, including recognition as an All-World Defensive Player of the Year in the UEFA 2005-2006 and the La Liga’s Don Balon award for Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2005.
Sergio Ramos Garcia was born in March 30, 1986 in Camas, Seville. He is considered to be the perfect right-sided defender but has easily adapted to any type of defensive position after gaining two years experience at the La Liga. He was signed up by Real Madrid for a 27 million Euro deal back in the summer of 2005. Ramos was able to score his first Champions League goal while with Real Madrid opposite Olympiakos. Real Madrid lost in this game eventually 2-1.
Álvaro Arbeloa Coca
Alvaro Arbeloa Coca was born in January 17, 1983 and currently plays for the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, predominantly as a right back but is able to play as central defender as well. He had his training as youth player with Real Madrid and debuted during the 2004-05 season in the first team. However, Arbeloa played mostly for the team of Real Madrid B.
In July of 2006, he signed up for the Deportivo La Coruña to play more football. January of 2007 saw Arbeloa signing up for Liverpool’s English Premier League club, for a 4 million euro deal, 50% of which went to Real Madrid. He was able to score his very first goal competing against Reading in April of 2007. He assisted Liverpool towards the UEFA Champions League Final of 2007, coming in as substitute while the team went down to Milan 2-1. During the later part of the 2007-08 season, he established the first team place on Liverpool’s team after a series of great performances throughout the victories of Liverpool over tough opponents, Manchester United as well as Chelsea.
Arbeloa returned to Real Madrid for the ridiculously large and jaw-dropping fee of 3.5 million Euros, but considering his remarkable record one cannot blame the kind of money that was put into getting him back. A Spanish World Cup winning football player, he made his senior debut on the international stage in 2008 at the UEFA Euro 2008 and the UEFA FIFA Confederations Cup with Spain’s national team. He married his childhood sweetheart Carlota last 2009, and were blessed with a daughter the year after.
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Andres Iniesta Lujan was born in Albacete in May 11, 1984. When he was 12, Iniesta joined Barca and was especially selected for his talent at a very young age by Pep Guardiola. However, Iniesta’s humble approach and his readiness to play different positions were overlooked during the earlier stages. He has been a consistent performer of Barca and hailed widely as one of the best players in the world, performing a key role in the historic season where Barca gained six trophies. He was also able to cap a magnificent rise by kicking the goal at the World Cup Final in 2010, taking the Spanish national team to the title.
As midfielder for the FC Barcelona as a well as a midfielder for Spain’s national team, Iniesta was observed to have enormous potential ever since he made his debut at the age of 18. He helped Spain’s team qualify for the Euro 2008 and was also called the Man of the Match in the Euro 2008 and in the FIFA World Cup 2010.
Bruno Soriano Llido
Bruno, as he is normally called is a player not just of the national team of Spain but also for the Villarreal CF, from whose youth system he is also a product of, operating as a midfielder in the team.
Bruno Soriano Llido was born in the 12th of June, 1984. He debuted on October of 2006 for first team on a La Liga 2-1 win opposite RCD Mallorca. From the 2009-2010 season, he became undisputed starter of Villareal and finally won the battle with starting duties against Sebastian Eguren of Uruguay. Bruno missed only one game among 38 in the La Liga season from 2010-2011, finishing fourth and being able to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Because he is left-footed, Bruno is also capable of operating as left-back, aside from being a superb mid-fielder in his team.
Borja Valero Iglesias
Borja is a midfielder for the national team of Spain and the Villarreal CF, alongside fellow national team players Bruno Soriano and Carlos Marchena Lopez. Borja is notable for being a recipient of the 2010 Don Balon Spanish Player of the Year award.
Borja Valero Iglesias was born in Madrid in January 12, 1985. Growing through Real Madrid’s ranks, Valero spent the first two seasons of his professional career in Spain’s second division with Real Madrid B. In August of 2007, he signed up for a contract of 5 years with the RCD Mallorca after he was released from the Real Madrid team scoring his first goals at La Liga 7-1home win against Recreativo de Huelva in March 2008.
Xabier “Xabi” Alonso Olano
Also a Spanish World Cup winning football player like fellow national team player Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabier holds the record for the longest-range goal ever scored in open play in the Premier League.
Alonso was born in Tolosa, Spain in November 25, 1981. His career began with Real Sociedad, which was his home’s main team. In August of 2004, he transferred to Liverpool for 10.5 million euro, winning in the UEFA Champions league during the first season he spent with the club. He also won the FA Cup in the following season and consequently the FA Community Shield as well.
In the beginning of the 2009-2010 season, Alonso transferred to Real Madrid with a deal of about 30 million euro, which made him one of the costliest midfielders. He has represented his country at the tournaments in Euro 2004 and 2008, as well as the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. He debuted internationally in April of 2003, achieving 4-0 victory over Ecuador. He also won at the Euro 2008 as well as the World Cup in 2010 with Spain.