The Primera Division of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), officially named Liga BBVA and commonly known as La Liga was founded in 1929. With respect to UEFA’s League coefficient system, it has been the strongest league in Europe for the past five years. 20 teams participate in this division, the lowest three being relegated at the end of the season. It is the second most watched football league in the world after Barclays Premier League.
La Liga has always been lauded for its technique, flair and visibly nonexistent physicality. It has also been criticized for its predictability and hyped as a ‘Two Horse Race’; rightly so after only two teams have won the Spanish first division in the past nine years. But due to the rise of a certain Atlético Madrid, the equations of Liga champions may be changing in Spain.
La Liga has always produced amazing players. From the 90s’ Landrup, Guardiola and Romário, to the 2000s' Ronaldinho, Zidane and Beckham, to present stars like Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta, La Liga has produced some fine footballers. And quality players mean quality salaries for those brilliant individuals. So lets take a look at the highest-paid soccer players currently playing in La Liga.
10 Xavi Hernandez – $9.36 Million Per Year
The master of passes, Xavi Hernandez plays for the Spanish national team and Spanish champions Barcelona. Xavi joined through the youth ranks of La Masia, rising to the first team of Barcelona, with his professional debut coming in 1997. Xavi was a regular of Spain's U17, U18, U20, U21 and U23 and made it to the senior side in 2000. He also represents Catalonia's national team. He is the first player to register assists in 2 separate Euro finals, having set up the lone goal in the 2008 final and having 2 assists in the final 4 years later. He has won more trophies (25) than any other Spanish player in history and creates countless goals with genius ball handling while virtually never relinquishing possession. Xavi’s abnormally good vision, pinpoint accurate passing and world-class ball control allow him to dictate the flow of play. The assist king currently earns €6.9 million a year at Barcelona.
9 Marcelo - $9.45 Million Per Year
Likened to Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos for his technical ability, fierce shot and good passing, Marcelo plays for Spanish Capital Club Real Madrid. He started playing with Fluminense and was sold to Real Madrid in January 2007. He represented Brazil in different youth levels: U-17, 20 and 23, and made his senior national team debut in 2006. A perfect example of a traditional Brazilian left-back with great offensive play, Marcelo has outstanding dribbling skills and tricks. Regularly terrorizing oppositions' right-back and right-mid and making overlapping runs to Cristiano Ronaldo who always cuts in, Marcelo currently earns €6.98 million a year.
8 Dani Alves - $9.5 Million Per Year
Another Brazilian defender who loves to attack, Daniel Alves plays for FC Barcelona and the Brazilian National team. Dani started his professional career at Esporte Clube Bahia. He moved to Sevilla in 2002, first on a temporary basis and then permanently. After a six-year stay at Seville, Dani joined Barcaelona in the summer of 2008 for €32.5 million. He made his international debut in 2006. Tormenting opposition’s left flank with his right winger seems to be his hobby. An indispensible member of Barca’s starting XI, Alves currently earns €7 million a year.
7 David Villa – $9.5 Million Per Year
All-time top goal scorer for his national side, David Villa plays for Spanish capital club Atlético Madrid. Villa started his professional career at Sporting Gijón. Real Zaragoza signed him for approximately €3 million. Two years' stay at Zaragoza lead to a move to Valencia for €12 million. Villa has had a very successful spell at Valencia scoring 108 goals in 166 appearances. In the summer of 2010 Villa signed with Barcelona for a fee of €40 million. After three trophy-laden years at Barcelona, he was sold to Atlético Madrid for a cut-price deal €5.1 million. Villa made his international debut in 2005 and has scored 56 goals for Spain making him the first Spanish player to ever reach 50 international goals. A fantastic finisher and a European and World champion with Spain, Villa is paid €7 Million a year from Atlético Madrid.
6 Alexis Sánchez – $9.5 Million Per Year
A footballer capable of playing anywhere in the front three, Alexis Sánchez plays for Spanish Champions Barcelona and Chile's National Team. Alexis joined Italian side Udinese in 2006. After couple of loan spells he was finally able to cement his place in Udinese's starting lineup in 2008. He had a successful season with the club in 2010-11 which propelled his move to Barcelona. Sanchez had been in and out of Barcelona’s staring line up in last two seasons but after the arrival of new coach Gerardo Martino he has gone on to become a very important member of Barcelona’s setup. The team pays him €7 million annually.
5 Neymar – $9.5 Million Per Year
An electric and explosive player, Neymar plays for Spanish side Barcelona and the Brazilian national team. He joined Santos youth academy in 2003 and rose through the ranks to the first team, making his professional debut in 2009. In the summer of 2013, Barca paid €57 million to sign him. Neymar represented Brazil in U17, U20 and U23 levels and made his senior national team debut in 2010. A complete package of acceleration, dribbling, finishing and the ability to use both feet, Neymar is an important member of FC Barcelona. He currently earns €7 million a year.
4 Iker Casillas – $10.17 Million Per Year
One of the finest goalkeepers of all time, Iker Casillas plays for and captains both La Liga club Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. He joined Real Madrid at youth level, rising to the first team where he made his debut in 1998-99 and had been first choice keeper until the January arrival of Diego Lopéz last year. Casillas represented Spain at U15, U16, U17, U18, U20 and U21 levels. The most capped player of all time for the Spanish national team, he made his senior debut in 2000. Casillas captained the Spanish national team to two Euro Cups and a World Cup. Despite not being a natural starter with Madrid currently, and limited only to Cup and Champions League matches, Casillas still remains one of the top goalkeepers in world and earns €7.5 million a year.
3 Lionel Messi – $21.7 Million Per Year
What more is there to say about a four-time Ballon d’Or winner? Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, plays for FC Barcelona and is skipper of the Argentina national team. He is a one-club man having joined Barca’s youth academy La Masia as a young player from Newell’s Old Boys. After rising through the ranks, Messi became an indispensible member of Barca’s first team. He had represented Argentina in U20 and U23 action and made his senior debut in 2005. Intially a left winger, Messi was moved to right wing by then Barca Manager Frank Rijkaard so he could cut in and finish using his left foot, which turned out to be a very effective move as his goal tally increased tremendously. After Pep Guardiola arrived, he gave Messi a free role, namely ‘false 9’. The whole team was built around him and the period that followed, as they say, is history. A record-breaking and history-making football phenom, Messi currently earns €16 million a year at the Catalan club.
2 Gareth Bale – $25.7 Million Per Year
One of the most expensive footballers in history, Gareth Bale plays for Welsh National side and Spanish Capital Club Real Madrid. He was a regular of Wales' U17, U19 and U21 sides and made it onto the national team in 2006. After starting out his professional career at Southampton in 2006, Tottenham Hotspur signed him for an eventual £7 million in 2007. His Spurs career is highlighted by the two exhibitions Bale turned in against Inter in 2010-11. A left-back in his early days, Bale was moved further forward to utilize his speed and crossing ability. After a prolific goal-scoring season in 2012-13, Bale got his dream move to Real Madrid, who paid €100 million for him. A footballer with tremendous speed, a great left foot and exceptional physical qualities, Gareth Bale is making £15.6 million annually at Real Madrid.
1 Cristiano Ronaldo – $28.5 Million Per Year
One of the most prolific goal scorers of his generation, Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Spanish giants Real Madrid and captains the national team of his country Portugal. After starting out as a youth player with Andorinha and joining C.D. Nacional, he began his professional career at Sporting Club de Portugal. In 2003, English powerhouse Manchester United signed him for €15 million. Real Madrid then made him the most expensive footballer in history at the time when they bought him for €94 million in summer of 2009. Ronaldo has represented Portugal at U17, U20, U21, U23 and senior levels. He made his national team debut in 2003 and has captained Portugual since July, 2008. He has more than a goal per game for his current club and is joint top goal scorer of his country. Lauded for his finishing, pace, dribbling, positioning and his passing and crossing ability, Cristiano Rolando, The Commander In Chief at Real Madrid, earns €21 million a year.