Goals are unarguably the most important aspect of football, as putting the ball into the back of the opposition net is primarily the reason why 22 men run around a field at the urging of thousands in the stands and millions around the globe.
While strikers might get the larger share of popularity and rewards owing to their job description of scoring goals on a regular basis, there is actually a lot of work done in the lead up to the goals.
Playmakers are the ones primarily tasked with creating goalscoring opportunities for their teammates, and these men/women have been highly revered throughout history due to their uncanny knack for seeing spaces and playing in teammates almost effortlessly.
One league which has perhaps placed priority on players’ creativity more than others is the Spanish league, as LaLiga’s emphasis on technique and possession play has seen players instilled with vision and ball distribution techniques from their developmental stages.
Over the years, some of the game’s greatest playmakers have graced LaLiga, from Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff and Gunter Netzer in the distant past to more recent legends of the game like Zinedine Zidane, Michael Laudrup, Andres Iniesta and Ronaldinho but to name a few.
The present generation are not left out, and LaLiga currently boasts of having some of the finest playmakers anywhere in the world.
In this piece, we shall be having a rundown of the 10 best playmakers who would be strutting their stuff in LaLiga this season.
#10 Portu (Real Sociedad)
Portu is a 27-year-old who stars for Real Sociedad as an attacking midfielder, after arriving the Anoeta from Girona in the summer.
He had earlier represented Valencia and Albacete in his younger years, but it was with the Catalans that Portu really came of age, making 41 appearances in 2016/2017 in the Segunda division to help Girona qualify to LaLiga and making a combined 61 appearances in Spain’s top tier over the next two seasons before their relegation at the end of the last campaign.
#9 Brais Mendez (Celta Vigo)
Brais Mendez is a 22-year-old winger who currently stars for Celta Vigo in the Primera Division (or LaLiga as it is more commonly known).
He made his debut for the senior team in September 2017, and has since then gone on to establish himself as an integral member of the team, making 20 appearances in his first full season with the club and 31 in his second season.
Mendez is primarily deployed on the right-wing, but his versatility means he can play almost anywhere in attack including attacking midfield, and he starred with seven goals and six assists last season as Celta Vigo narrowly avoided the drop.
#8 Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Koke has been with Atletico Madrid since 2000, having joined the side’s academy aged eight, and progressed through the ranks until making his senior debut in 2009.
He became a mainstay in the side in the 2011/2012 season upon the appointment of Diego Simeone, and played a major role in the club’s Europa League and UEFA Super Cup success that term.
Further accomplishments and accolades have followed since then, and the 27-year-old has gone on to become an established international with the Spanish national team.
Koke is acclaimed for his passing ability and has drawn praise from a lot of his peers including the legendary Xavi who called him the future of the Spanish national team.
Though his attacking outputs might be limited due to the ultra defensive nature of Simeone’s tactics, it takes nothing away from the brilliance Koke exudes in the middle of the park.
#7 Dani Parejo (Valencia)
Having started his professional career with Real Madrid (where he failed to break into their first team), Dani Parejo arrived Valencia in the summer of 2011 by way of a two-year spell with Getafe.
Since then, the 30-year-old has become arguably Los Che’s most important player, and was made club captain in 2014.
The Madrid-born Spanish international is extremely gifted with passing the ball, but unlike most traditional playmakers who function further up the field, Parejo plays much deeper where his excellent range of passing means he can influence games from a deep-lying playmaker position, similar to the regista role the great Andrea Pirlo made famous.
Dani Parejo is also a decent goal-threat, evidenced by the 54 goals he has scored in 334 appearances for Valencia in all competitions, while he is also very deadly from set-pieces with freekicks being his specialty.
#6 James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)
Five years ago, James Rodriguez had the world at his feet after impressing for Colombia at the World Cup, and a mega move to Real Madrid from Porto followed that summer.
Despite initially starring as a core member of the team for Carlo Ancelotti, the baby-faced Rodriguez soon fell out of favor in Real Madrid, as Zinedine Zidane froze him out of the first 11, effectively reducing him to a squad player and forcing a loan move to Bayern Munich.
It was a similar story in Bavaria, as fall-outs with coach Niko Kovac saw a previously guaranteed permanent stay squashed, and despite making it abundantly clear that he did not want him, Zinedine Zidane would be forced to have Roriguez in the squad this season.
Despite his struggles, the Colombian international is an extremely gifted midfielder, and there are few better than him in the art of threading through balls for teammates.
On his day, Rodriguez can hold it down with the best in the world in terms of creativity, and in his first season with Los Blancos and Bayern Munich, the 28-year-old created 13 and 11 assists from 33 and 23 league matches respectively.
#5 Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)
Nabil Fekir starred for Lyon for six seasons having been promoted from the side’s academy, and his performances with the Ligue 1 side attracted the attention of a host of European top clubs.
The 26-year-old is a direct runner with the ball and possesses considerable passing ability, and a transfer was reportedly agreed with Liverpool in the summer of 2018, but the move fell through over fitness concerns.
With just one year left on his contract with Lyon, the World Cup winner made the shock decision to sign for Real Betis, and he has hit the ground running, scoring a goal against Barcelona in his second game for the club.
#4 Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Luka Modric is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, in addition to being the FIFA and UEFA Best Men’s Player, but it seems like eons ago since the Croatian broke the decade long duopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 34-year-old arrived Spain with Real Madrid in the summer of 2012, and has gone on to help the club achieve its most successful period in modern history, with the capital team benefiting immensely from his wide array of abilities.
Luka Modric is a pristine passer of the ball, and has the ability to dictate the tempo of matches from midfield, and Zinedine Zidane would once again be counting on his expertise to help Real Madrid rise back to the top.
#3 Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Having blossomed in the Ligue 1 with Lille, Eden Hazard went on to achieve global superstardom with Chelsea when he joined the Londoners in 2012.
For the next seven seasons, the Belgian starred, and was a crucial contributor to all the successes enjoyed by The Blues in this period.
Eden Hazard is blessed with close control, speed and a dribbling ability which sees him beat markers effortlessly even in tight spaces.
Though his primary position is out wide where he plays as a left-wing forward, Eden Hazard is extremely creative, evidenced by the fact that he laid on a league high 15 assists in the Premier League last season to win the second edition of the Playmaker award.
In his seven seasons with Chelsea, Hazard created a total of 67 big chances in the league for his teammates, while also setting them up for goals with 54 assists.
He departed Stamford Bridge over the summer as a bonafide Chelsea legend, and he would begin the next chapter of his illustrious career in the famous colors of Real Madrid.
#2 Santi Cazorla (Villareal)
Football is a beautiful game which every now and again throws up emotional stories of players or teams surmounting impossible odds to achieve greatness.
Last season, Santo Cazorla had one of the most remarkable fairytale comeback stories memory when he defied expectations to return to the game he loves.
The 34-year-old had initially starred in LaLiga for Villareal and then Malaga (who he helped qualify for the Champions League for the first time ever in 2012), before completing a move to Arsenal in the Premier League.
Under Wenger’s tutelage, Cazorla was soon catapulted into one of the most effective players in the league, and was the provider of numerous assists, including the unique feat of assisting all four goals in Arsenal’s 4-1 victory over Wigan Athletic in 2013.
He is one of the truly ambipedal players in the game and grew from strength to strength at Arsenal, and was widely lauded for his passing ability and creativity, with his 35 assists and 129 through balls from 129 appearances serving as proof of this.
However, an injury sustained to his right Achilles tendon in October 2016 severely hampered his progress, with the injury turning out to be more serious than first feared.
The muscle tear would degenerate into gangrene (a medical condition where tissue becomes infected and ‘eats’ into the tendon) and Cazorla ended up having eight operations on the ankle, while also having skin graft to repair the damaged tendon.
At a point, it was feared that he would lose the leg to amputation and it was widely believed that he would never walk again, with the thought of ever returning to football virtually impossible and it came as no surprise when Arsenal released him upon the expiration of his contract in 2018.
However, against all odds, Cazorla returned to his boyhood club Villareal, and despite being out of competitive action for over three years, he still starred, and ended the campaign as one of the bets performers in the league.
He finished the season with 10 assist, behind only Messi, Sarabia and Jony, and his form with the Yellow Submarines led to a recall to the Spanish national team, while he was also named Villareal Player of the Season.
#1 Lionel Messi
There really was only going to be one clear winner to top this list, as Lionel Messi over the course of his career has proved to be not only one of the best players or goalscorers, but also arguably the greatest playmaker the game has ever seen.
With a whopping 169 assists from just 452 matches, the Rosario native is by far the most prolific player when it comes to assists in the history of LaLiga, while he has topped the assists charts in all but one of the last five seasons.
Messi is blessed with an excellent vision to see spaces no one else sees, while also possessing the requisite technique to pick out the most difficult of passes, and despite his immense goal threat, a constant feature of Barcelona’s game is Messi dropping back into midfield to control proceedings.