La Liga has been graced by some of the greatest football players of all time since its inception in 1929. Most of these legends are remembered for their goal-scoring exploits. But how well do we know the players who do all the hard work in finding the perfect pass and set up a goal-scoring opportunity with an assist?
We are all guilty of giving too much credit to goal-scorers because after all, games are decided by goals. Anyone can pass the ball forward, but it requires a special talent and vision to slice open defences with perfectly weighted passes.
In its nine decades of existence, there have only a been couple of players in the La Liga who have reached a century of assists. Interestingly, both these players are the only ones to provide as many as 20 assists in a season.
We all know Lionel Messi has scored the most goals in a La Liga season, but where does he stand among the top assist providers in a season? Here we take a look at the top five players who have provided the most assists in a La Liga season.
Top five players with the most assists in a La Liga season
#5: Angel Di Maria - 17 assists (2013-14)
There is a long list of Argentine players who have made it big in the La Liga. At the beginning of the last decade, Angel Di Maria started to rise up on that list with his impressive performances for Real Madrid.
Di Maria spent four seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu where he won the Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana and a European Super Cup.
The left-footed versatile attacker made a name for himself with his excellent dribbling skills, great pace and ball control. But it was his superb vision that remained his defining quality at the Spanish capital club.
In just four seasons at Real Madrid, he registered 50 assists in the La Liga. Di Maria's best return came in his last season with the club in 2013-14 when he emerged the La Liga's top assist provider with 17.
He would later go on to better his assists tally with Paris Saint-Germain in 2015-16, when he notched up 18 assists in his second Ligue 1 season.
T3: Mesut Ozil - 18 assists (2011-12)
There was a time when Mesut Ozil reigned as the undisputed assist-king not only in La Liga but across Europe's top five leagues. He managed double-digit assist figures five seasons in a row, doing so between 2008 to 2013; two of these occasions were with Werder Bremen and three were with Real Madrid.
At the Spanish club, Ozil notched up a staggering 47 assists for his teammates in just three seasons in La Liga. 20 of these assists came the way of Cristiano Ronaldo alone. 2011-12 season was Ozil's best display in the famed white jersey as he registered 18 assists that term to top the assist charts in La Liga.
Interestingly, it is not Ozil's highest return of assists in a top-flight campaign. He bettered that tally with a career-high of 19 assists with Arsenal in 2015-16. Ozil is the only player to achieve the feat to top the assists chart in a season in both the La Liga and the Premier League.
T3: Luis Figo - 18 assists (2000-01)
Luis Figo was one of the best players of his generation and rose to fame with Barcelona.
The Portuguese winger became an integral part of the Barcelona squad through the late 1990s with his ability to create goal-scoring opportunities in tight situations. For his performances in the 1999-00 season, Figo bagged the coveted Ballon d'Or in November 2000. However, by the time he received the honour, he had already moved to Barcelona's bitter rivals Real Madrid.
His best season in terms of goals and assists came with Los Blancos in the 2000-01 La Liga season, where he scored ten goals and set up 18 more for his teammates to top the assist chart for the campaign.
After spending time at two of the biggest clubs in the world, Figo moved to Serie A where he enjoyed further success with Inter Milan.
T1: Xavi - 20 assists (2008-09)
There are very few players who can control the ball in the middle of the pitch as well as Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi did. He was a master in picking up spaces between opposition players with his exquisite distribution and a wide array of passes up his sleeves.
Xavi's supreme passing ability and vision helped him conjure goal-scoring chances aplenty for his team, doing so often in conjunction with his midfield partner Andres Iniesta.
He also displayed his passing ability in Spain's victorious 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign where he provided the most number of accurate passes (599) and notched up a passing success rate of 91%.
The midfield maestro currently sits second in the list of La Liga's all-time assist providers. Xavi managed to hit double-digit assist figures five times during his illustrious La Liga career.
His best output came in Barcelona's famous treble-winning 2008-09 season, when he provided a record 20 assists in the La Liga. That season, he also had seven assists in the Champions League.
T1: Lionel Messi - 20 assists (2019-20)
It seems when it comes to records in the attacking department in La Liga, all roads lead to one man - Lionel Messi. He is the leading goal-scorer and assist-provider in La Liga history. He also holds the record for most goals scored in a Spanish top-flight campaign, scoring 50 in the 2011-12 season.
Since 2006-07, Messi has made ten or more assists in every La Liga season except 2016/17 when he ended up with nine. But Xavi's record of 20 assists in a La Liga season had eluded him all these years. Messi twice came close to that tally, registering 18 assists apiece in the 2010-11 and 2014-15 La Liga seasons.
This season, Messi finally reached the 20-assist mark in a La Liga season, as Barcelona have grown more and more dependent on their talisman for inspiration in the final third.
With his assist in Barcelona' win over Real Valladolid, Messi joined former Blaugrana star and teammate Thierry Henry as the only other player to record 20 goals and as many assists in a season across Europe's top five leagues.
What's next for Messi? Well, he just needs one more assist in two games to break Xavi's La Liga record for most assists in a La Liga season.
Earlier this season, Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller posted a tally of 21 assists in the Bundesliga, making him the player with the most assists across Europe's top five leagues since Opta began tracking this stat.
So, can Messi break Muller's record with just two games left to play in the La Liga? We'll have to wait and see.Published 12 Jul 2020, 18:00 IST