El Centrocampista

La Liga products lighting up Europe

In 1992, when the English FA and UEFA decided to rebrand their competitions into the money spinning machines that they’ve become today, Spanish players weren’t in demand. Prior to the Bosman ruling, clubs were limited to three foreigners per team and even then, the registered foreigners at Europe’s biggest clubs weren’t Spanish.

During that period, the Italian teams were dominant with AC Milan boasting their ‘Dutch trinity’ in Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard, while Inter Milan had three Germans in Brehme, Matthaus and Klinsmann.

Back in Spain, while Barcelona dominated with four straight titles (1991-1994), the success of the team was based primarily on Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov and Romario. Without a doubt, Spain has always been a major football nation, albeit a once underperforming one, but something was missing as Spanish players weren’t coveted by European clubs like their Dutch, German, French or Eastern European peers.

This however was all to change. One could argue that the Bosman ruling, which opened up playing opportunities for all Europeans within the continent, had a part to play. Spain, led by Luis Aragones, conquered Europe at EURO 2008 with a new generation of La Roja players. The signs of a Spanish resurgence were already evident prior to the tournament.

Rafa Benitez led Liverpool to European glory in 2005 with Xabi Alonso as one of the most consistent players in his team. Eleswhere in the Premier League, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina had already established themselves as world class players in England, while Gerard Pique was understudy to Vidic and Ferdinand at Manchester United.

After the triumph in Austria and Switzerland, the whole world took notice and major European clubs moved to Spain to recruit young talented players. Barcelona’s dominance of the European game also played its part as other teams tried to model themselves after the Catalans. A mix of skill, guile and nimbleness was suddenly preferred to graft and brawn. The English Premier League has been the highest beneficiary of the new wave of talents emanating from the ‘Canteras’ and ‘La Masias’ of Spanish football.

All major clubs in England have Spanish players at the heart of their success. Manchester United (they tried but failed to sign Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara or Anders Hererra) have David de Gea in goal while Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta are firmly entrenched at Chelsea. Manchester City have David Silva, Kun Aguero and recently, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo to thank for their title push and Arsenal can count on Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla as the Gunners try to win a title for the first time in nine years.

Some of the less prominent teams also have a significant Spanish influence. Swansea’s starting line-up features several Spaniards. The most notable are Michu,Pablo Hernandez and Chico Flores. Ex Atletico Bilbao centre half Amorebieta regularly starts at Fulham while Roberto Soldado leads the line for Tottenham Hotspur.

Elsewhere in Europe, Javi Martinez was crucial as Bayern Munich crushed all opposition as they secured the treble last season while Fernando Llorente, after a difficult start in Italy, now leads the line for Juventus.

But despite the impact of La Roja abroad, the best players still play in Spain. Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta,Sergio Ramos, Carlos Puyol, Victor Valdes and Sergio Busquets are some of the best players to ever grace the game and they haven’t had to leave the shores of Spain to prove it.

With the likes of Isco, Christian Tello, Illaramendi, Iker Munian, Anders Herrera, Marc Bartra, Sergio Canales, Alvaro Morata, Montoya and Gerald Deuloflu still coming through the ranks, the future remains very bright for Spain and their dominance of the European game doesn’t look like ending any time soon.

Tony Eboh

Follow on Twitter     ……….@fansturf

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