No Lionel Messi, no Sergio Ramos…
As we begin the first Spanish season without Lionel Messi in 17 years, the debate about who is the biggest star in LaLiga Santander has been thrown wide open.
Add to Messi‘s departure, that of his new teammate Sergio Ramos and LaLiga Santander has lost two of its biggest figures.
For years, LaLiga Santander had the privilege of being the home of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the top two players on the planet at the time and two of the best ever competing for the title on opposing sides of one of football’s biggest rivalries.
Now, with both players gone, there is no one standout candidate, so we ask: who is the star of LaLiga now?
Luckily, there are plenty of players in the frame as Spain’s top flight remains brimming with world-class talent, players who are a joy to watch and would be the envy of most teams the world over.
Let’s take a look at some of the candidates before you have your say…
LaLiga might not have the world’s top player anymore, but the best goalkeeper around is Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak. With five Zamora trophies to his name, the Slovenian has been key to the success of Diego Simeone’s Atleti.
The French striker has taken on a greater burden of goalscoring in the post-Cristiano era in Madrid and he has raised his all-around game as well, becoming a more complete player. At 33 years old, Benzema remains one of, if not the, best No.9 in world football.
Griezmann has so far failed to live up to expectations since his move from Atletico to Barcelona, but he might just thrive now that he can step out of Messi’s shadow. If the Blaugrana are to have any success this season, they will likely need the French forward to step up and prove his worth in a role with more freedom yet more responsibility.
The Uruguayan’s goals helped fire underdogs Atleti to the LaLiga Santander title last season and he will be keen to prove his quality once again as the Colchoneros look to defend their crown. Suarez made his doubters eat their words in 2020-21, showing he’s a no.9 worthy of the champions.
After Sergio Ramos’ departure for Paris Saint-Germain, the versatile Austrian will be Real Madrid’s no.4 this season. Alaba arrives with a big reputation and bags of big-stage experience. His task is to lead Los Blancos to success.
The teenage Canarian midfielder’s rise in the last year has been meteoric and while he is still only 18-years-old, there is a very real case to be made that Pedri is the best player in LaLiga Santander. The Spanish international is an incredible talent and has become a key piece for club and country in a short space of time. If he can continue his progress, he will be even more key to a Barcelona without Messi.
The Villarreal striker has won the Zarra Trophy for the top Spanish scorer in LaLiga Santander for the last two seasons. His performance also helped the Yellow Submarine win the Europa League in 2021 and secure Champions League qualification. Another top season from the best national goalscorer if Villarreal are to trouble the teams in the top four in 2021/22.
It’s hard to assign a single position to Llorente but easy to identify the versatile Spaniard as key part of Atletico’s title-winning side. The 26-year-old has a taste for the big occasion and pops up with vital goals. We’ll see if he takes another leap this season.
The Belgian winger is arguably one of the biggest names in LaLiga and that is what justifies his inclusion here; not what he has done, but what he might yet do in a white shirt. The former Chelsea man has been plagued by injury in the last two years, but it could finally be time for him to show LaLiga Santander what he can do. If he can rediscover his best, it could be devastating for the rest of LaLiga.
The expectation on the Dutch forward increased tenfold when Messi jetted off to Paris and the Blaugrana will need him to live up to that and deliver, particularly in terms of goals, if they are to transition somewhat smoothly into the post-Leo era.
The Croatian genius is the only player left in Spain who has a Ballon d’Or to his name. He may be 36 years old but over the last year has shown he is still one of the best midfield players in the world and Los Blancos will look to him to dictate the play once again.
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