Spanish players have made up some of the best in the Premier League history.
They’ve not been quite as dominant as French imports but, especially this century, the Spaniards have really left an incredible mark on the Premier League.
And with David Silva’s spell in England very close to its end, we thought we’d take stock of the very best of Spanish talent the Premier League has seen since its inception in 1992. So here are the top 10 Spaniards in Premier League history!
*10. Santi Cazorla*
Honours: FA Cup (2), Community Shield (2)
There are other Spaniards who had a good case to make this no. 10 spot: the incredibly consistent Mikel Arteta, the magically brief Michu, and then Pedro who is also good. But whilst they are all great players, they’re just not as special as Santi Cazorla.
Cazorla arrived at Arsenal and just took off from the start. He played every game in his debut campaign and was crucial in ensuring Arsenal stayed in the Champions League spots. He improved as time went on, being simultaneously an elegant passer and a tenacious tackler – he could also move with the ball if needed. In the end injuries (and the questionable standards of his team-mates) stopped him from reaching his full height as a Premier League player and potentially moving up this list. But we’ll always have the moments of magic; especially the delirious free-kick that started Arsenal‘s comeback in the 2014 FA Cup final, allowing them to end their trophy drought.
*9. Juan Mata*
Chelsea and Manchester United, 2011-present
Honours: FA Cup (2), 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League (2), 2016 Community Shield, 2016/17 EFL Cup
Juan Mata kept his place at Manchester United for the 2019/20 season basically because he’s a really nice guy. No seriously. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke highly of his ability to mentor young players rather than play good football himself when he contract was renewed last summer. Still, it wasn’t always like this. Before David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, Juan Mata was one of the most vibrant and exciting players in the division. He lit it up for Chelsea, less for United, but he nearly always performs when called upon.
*8. Pepe Reina*
Liverpool, 2005-2013 and Aston Villa 2020-present
Honours: 2005 UEFA Super Cup, 2005/06 FA Cup, 2006 Community Shield, 2011/12 League Cup
Pepe Reina joined Liverpool when they were European Champions thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of Jerzy Dudek… and then made the team better. Reina won the golden gloves award in his first season and went on to keep an incredible 134 clean sheets for Liverpool, with a ratio of 0.47 per game, higher than any other goalie with 100 or more clean sheets. The Spaniard returned to the Premier League in January, with Aston Villa, but has so far been unable to add to his clean sheet tally in six appearances.
*7. Diego Costa*
Honours: Premier League (2), 2014/15 League Cup
Suffice to say Diego Costa was a controversial figure when playing for Chelsea. He wound up opponents and sometimes even his own team-mates. He fell out with two different managers and came close to leaving multiple times. But when he was focused? He was deadly, a bully of a striker who defenders hated facing and a huge part of Chelsea‘s last two title wins, scoring 20 goals in each campaign.
Honours: UEFA Europa League (2), Premier League (2), 2014/15 League Cup, 2017/18 FA Cup
It’s easy to forget but César Azpilicueta was once a flying wing-back in La Liga at Osasuna. Injuries at Marseille clipped his wings, and then José Mourinho had the plan of turning him into a defensive left-back. It shouldn’t have worked, but in fact transformed Azpilicueta into an absolute beast of a defender. So much so that he was able to take his talents back to right-back, then right centre-back, and finally back to right wing-back. Azpilicueta is a master of the art of defending (and the clipped diagonal cross), challenge him at your peril.
*5. Xabi Alonso*
Honours: 2004/05 UEFA Champions League, 2005 UEFA Super Cup, 2005/06 FA Cup, 2006 Community Shield
It’s been a while but hopefully people still remember Xabi Alonso, the impossibly elegant deep-lying playmaker who brought a sense of the impossible to the Premier League. His first season ended with Liverpool lifting the Champions League and whilst they never reached that high again, the football they played with Alonso pulling the strings was breathtakingly brutal in its defensive resilience and attacking thrust. Xabi Alonso was a master craftsman with an array of spectacular long-range passes and shots that could fill a YouTube highlight reel to bursting. A gift and a treasure to watch.
*4. Fernando Torres*
Liverpool and Chelsea, 2007-2014
Honours: 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League
Fernando Torres won more as a bad player with Chelsea than he did as a great one with Liverpool, but that and the horrible form he displayed on the way out of the Premier League should not mask the way he came into the division swinging with the fury of a young Mike Tyson. Torres was an almost supernatural blend of pace, power and precision finishing that, when he was fit, recalled the likes of Gabriel Batistuta. He never even hit 30 goals in a single league season but when you think back, all you remember is him brutalising everything in sight – especially Manchester United – and leading the line for a truly phenomenal Liverpool side.
*3. De Gea*
Manchester United, 2011-present
Honours: Community Shield (3), 2012/13 Premier League, 2015/16 FA Cup, 2016/17 EFL Cup, 2016/17 UEFA Europa League
For a kid who came into the league thin as a pencil and got so easily buffeted about that even ex-Man Utd legends were calling him a waster on live TV (and he got dropped for Anders Lindegaard), it seems David de Gea knows how to bounce back. The Spaniard adapted, won the league in his second season and for the five years after that was the only thing keeping Manchester United afloat as a relevant footballing institution (well, he had a little help from Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the end), winning their player of the year four years in a row. Manchester United’s Mr. Wonderful.
*2. Cesc Fabregas*
Arsenal, 2003-2011 and Chelsea, 2014-2019
Honours: Community Shield (2), 2014/15, 2016/17 Premier League, 2004/05, 2017/18 FA Cup, 2014/15 EFL Cup, 2018/19 UEFA Europa League
The only Spaniard to dominate the Premier League, leave, then come back to dominate it even more. Cesc Fabregas is an absolute phenomenon with two very distinct phases in his career. For Arsenal he emerged as a teen sensation and played a scintillatingly direct variant of Spanish passing football. He thrilled us all even as he won nothing. Then he moved to Barcelona, a move which taught him5 his limits and how to win trophies (if nothing else).
Fabregas then brought that winning mentality back to the Premier Leaguegreatest clarity and maturity than he showed in the red of Arsenal, helped guide them to two league titles in his first three seasons. He has had a phenomenal career as a Premier League player and it was a shame that he left quietly mid-season last year with little commotion rather than at the end of a campaign to hysterical fanfare and much fawning in the media. He was incredible.
*1. David Silva*
*Manchester City,* 2010-2020*
Honours: FA Cup (2), Premier League (4), Community Shield (2), will League Cup (5) I
There are very few players who can have been said to mark an era in the Premier League, but David Silva is certainly one. From his arrival alongside Yaya Touré in the summer of 2010, Silva has consistently been one of the best midfielders in the division. A delightful blend of skill, balance, precision passes, timely goals and the odd nasty tackle that let people know he wasn’t for bullying.
Silva was always important, especially as Manchester City won their first two league titles – but the arrival of Pep Guardiola turned David Silva into an absolute colossus. The Spaniard was placed at the heart of Guardiola’s midfield and given license to control the game from deeper positions in a way he never had before. He took to this role superbly, fought through difficult personal circumstances to continue playing at an absurdly high level, and his reward was to be the first SpanPremiere League title.
Last summer he announced the 2019/20 campaign would be his final one in England, leaving after 10 years and while he was unable to leave with a fifth Premier League medal, “El Mago” is comfortably the best Spaniard in they competition’s history.