Spain's elite division — La Liga, has produced unmatchable quality across Europe. Not just in terms of players but also in the football culture imbibed throughout the country.
Even though the English Premier League is considered to be the toughest league in Europe, they have often succumbed to their La Liga counterparts in the recent history of continent-level tournaments.
Since 2000, the Spanish teams have won ten Champions League and eleven Europa League titles. Also in the history of the competition (Champions League), La Liga teams have grabbed 18 titles and 11 runners-up positions as opposed to the Premier League's 14 and 10.
So the question is, what makes La Liga better? Well, we can't say for sure if it's better or not but the playing style and footballing culture in Spain seems to be giving them the edge.
Spanish teams opt for a composed end-to-end football, depending massively on creative midfielders as opposed to English teams' fast paced gameplay. In the wake of dominating Europe, La Liga has also yielded some of the best the sport has ever seen. Without further ado, presenting to you;
Top Five La Liga Players in the 21st Century
#5 Iker Casillas
Real Madrid's long-term number one, who is lovingly called Saint Iker by his fans, is considered to be one of the best ever players/leaders in the history of the game.
Iker Casillas guarded Real Madrid's goalpost for sixteen years!
The former Spanish captain was the youngest ever goalkeeper to feature and win the Champions League. He achieved this feat in 2000, just four days after he turned 19.
Earning a national call-up at the tender age of 16, Iker wore his gloves for Spain in a total of 167 games, making him the second most capped Spaniard.
La Liga saw Iker's brilliance as he guided the star-studded Los Blancos to numerous accolades. He has made 725 appearances in the Madrid shirt and won 19 titles with the club.
#4 Xavi Hernandez
One of the most appreciated football brainiacs of the game, Xavi Hernandez, occupies the fourth spot on our list.
The former Catalan player completely re-established the midfield position alongside his club and country partner — Andres Iniesta.
Xavi was instrumental in Barcelona's two-time treble victory and the centerpiece of Pep's tiki-taka football. The former Blaugrana number six has been lauded as one of the best deep-lying midfielders ever. Pundits and fans have equally adored Xavi's space-finding ability.
Xavi retired from Barcelona in 2015 to join Al Sadd after a trophy-laden career at Camp Nou.
#3 Andrés Iniesta
The role of a midfielder in La Liga has always been crucial. It is one of the major reasons why La Liga has produced one of the best playmakers ever. And the name that can be placed atop is — Andres Iniesta.
Iniesta, alongside Xavi, kept Barcelona and Spain's midfield ticking. He even had the ability to control the entire pace of the game from the center of the turf.
Iniesta's Eagle vision is second to none and his goal-scoring abilities have aided Messi and other forwards on numerous occasions. Iniesta ended up on the Ballon d'Or podium twice (2010, 2012), finishing second and third respectively.
#2 Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is probably the only player in the history of football to have established himself as one of the best in two leagues in the same century.
Following a scintillating stint with Manchester United in the EPL, Cristiano made a leap during the summer window of 2009, to Santiago Bernabeu, his home until 2018.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner broke numerous records in subsequent years to establish himself as one of the greatest La Liga players ever.
Cristiano Ronaldo won four Ballon d'Ors and became Real Madrid's all-time top goalscorer in his nine years in La Liga. At the time of his departure from Spain's top division, Cristiano was the player with the most hat-tricks (34) in La Liga history despite having played five seasons less than second-placed Leo Messi.
The Portuguese captain is also the second-most goal getter in La Liga history (behind Lionel Messi), and the only player with a goal ratio above one.
#1 Lionel Messi
A prolific goal-scorer, gamemaker, player and captain, the G.O.A.T. in a man's skin as lovingly called by his admirers — Lionel Messi, undoubtedly grabs the top-spot on our list.
Leo Messi stands atop almost every domestic league record. Messi grabbed the scouts' eyeballs at a very young age of twelve and got himself signed him for the Catalan side on a paper napkin.
After establishing himself as a prominent member of La Masia, Messi moved up the ranks to earn a spot with the senior team. He wore the 19 number shirt before taking on the iconic number 10 following Ronaldinho's retirement.
Ever since, there has been no looking back for the Argentine. He has won six Ballon d'Ors (most by any player), eight Pichichi Trophy (most by any player), six European Golden Shoes (most by any player). The list just goes on.
This concludes our list of top 5 La Liga players of the 21st century. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.