While the Premier League is known for its intensity, La Liga is known for the technical aspect of the game. The Spanish top-flight has long been known as a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid but this season, the story has been a bit different.
The Blaugrana and Los Blancos are undergoing a transitional phase. That has given Diego Simeone's Athletico Madrid a chance to run away with the La Liga title and so far, they have done really well.
Almost every team in La Liga plays a possession-heavy style, which means there aren't many players who look out of place with the ball at their feet. But ball carrying shouldn't be confused with passing or first touch. It is the ability of a player to carry the ball over large distances on a football pitch, without losing possession.
The obsession with building from the back has shone a light on the jobs of the so-called ball-carriers of the world and La Liga possesses its fair share of these talents. Here are the best ball-carriers in La Liga this season, ranked according to the total ball carrying distance they have racked up in meters (recorded from FBref).
#5 Raphael Varane (6103)
In a season full of inconsistencies, Raphael Varane hasn't had his best time with Real Madrid. The Los Blancos have been shipping goals for fun and Zinedine Zidane cannot seem to find a solution to stop it.
Individually, the 27-year-old Frenchman has endured an error-prone season and while there is still time to end the La Liga season on a strong note, Varane knows he has a lot to work on. But when it comes to the technical side of the game, the Frenchman has been one of the best.
Varane is Madrid's go-to man when it comes to smoothly playing out from the back and his ball carrying stats back that up.
#4 Lionel Messi (6827)
Lionel Messi is one of the best ball-carriers football has ever seen and at 33 years of age, he is still going strong. Although the Argentine started the season slowly when it comes to goal contributions, his playmaking was out of this world.
Averaging an incredible 2.3 key passes per game, Messi has created a total of 11 big chances in La Liga. His ball progression numbers are second only to Jack Grealish, while his shot-creating actions are some of the best in the league.
There were suggestions at the start of the season that Messi might be on a downward spiral when, in reality, he is simply adjusting his game. He is still one of the best footballers on the planet.