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A True Footballing Artist: But Is Iniesta’s Spain’s Greatest Ever Player?

July 04, 2016

- Grant Whittington

It is reported that when then-Barcelona captain Pep Guardiola first saw Andreas Iniesta, he remarked to a young Xavi that “you will retire me, but this kid will retire us both”. Few could have imagined just how prophetic this prediction would prove to be, with the twinkle-toed midfielder continuing to star for both Barcelona and Spain well into his 30’s.

Given his quality and the success that Spain has enjoyed with Iniesta at the heart of the midfield, the diminutive star can lay claim to being his nation’s greatest player of a generation and arguably of all-time. He faces some stiff competition for this accolade, however, both from recent times and previous generations.

With this is in mind, let’s take a look at the players who can compete with Iniesta as the best in Spanish history…

Xavi

As Iniesta’s long-time teammate for both Barcelona and Spain, the cultured Xavi is a natural choice in third place. He also participated in Spain’s golden era, for example, leading them to two European Championship triumphs and the famous World Cup win in 2010.

When you also consider the seven La Liga titles and three Champions League medals that he won with Barcelona, Xavi is clearly one of the stars of his generation. Much more than this, however, he is arguably the greatest technical footballer of all time and a metronomic presence that often empowered Iniesta to play further forward.

Raul

While Raul played for Spain at a time when the nation often flattered to deceive at international level, his individual quality is impossible to ignore. It was even evident when the player was a teenager at Real Madrid, when his form and quality led to the departure of fellow Los Blancos legend Emilio Butragueño in 1995.

Raul is also Spain’s second highest goalscorer of all-time, with his tally of 44 international goals bettered only by David Villa. Given that he also scored more than 400 career goals and remains the second-most prolific striker in Real Madrid’s history, he is more than worthy of second place in our list.

Alfredo Di Stéfano

This may be a controversial selection for some, especially with Di Stefano originally from Argentina and having represented his country of birth six times. The legendary forward earned Spanish citizenship in 1956, playing for the national side from the next year onwards.

Although he never got to appear on the biggest stage with Spain, he has the best strike-rate of his nation’s top 10 goalscorers with 23 strikes in 31 matches at a rate of 0.742 per game. Given this, his incredible ability and haul of five European Cups, Di Stefano can rightly challenge Iniesta as the greatest and most talented player in the history of Spanish football.

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