Founded in 1929, La Liga, the professional soccer league in Spain, has flourished into one of the best, most expensive soccer leagues in the world. Of course, many will argue that you simply cannot beat the Premier League, but according to UEFA’s league coefficient, La Liga has been the top European league five years running, and are the only league in the history of the Champions League to qualify five teams for the tournament.
But is this really surprising, when you look at the exceptional history and winning culture found at the league’s two top clubs for the past century, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two clubs attract the biggest starts on the planet, and are currently starting the two greatest players in the world in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But unfortunately I’m not here to talk about greatness. I’m not here to talk about the crème de la crème of the Spanish League, but the worst of the worst. Because the great players in La Liga are too often talked about. We already know all about their successes. It’s time to get to know the little guy, and more importantly his story. Here are the 15 worst players currently signed with a team in La Liga.
15 Alessio Cerci
There was much promise for Cerci coming into La Liga after a great season in 2013-14 with Serie A side Torino. Coming into a well organized Atletico Madrid under the scrutiny of hungry and passionate manager Diego Simeone, Cerci was expected to be the striker for Atletico. In any case, the Italian footballer didn’t stay with Atletico very long despite the steep €20 million transfer fee to bring him over. After a few starts and some time with the club, it seems Simeone impressed enough, opting to send Cerci on a long-term loan to Milan, getting in return Fernando Torres. He must’ve been pretty bad to have been replaced by Torres, all things considered. The winger has zero goals in just six La Liga appearances.
14 Felipe Caicedo
We now move on to Felipe Caicedo, the Ecuadorian international with 19 goals for his country. The 27-year-old currently plays his club football in La Liga with Espanyol, where he has 15 goals in 59 appearances. In 24 games this year however, he’s only netted six league goals. He recently extended his contract until the 2019 season after teams in the Premier League showed much interest in the youngster, but not enough to get him away from Espanyol. However, Espanyol currently sits 14th in La Liga standings as of now, with the fifth lowest goals for in the league, sitting at a whooping minus-26. It’s clear that Caicedo’s production is simply not enough.
13 Asier Illarramendi
Asier Illarramendi was never really able to show the world, despite being on football's biggest stage at one point of his career, the type of footballer he really is. Currently playing a central defensive role for Real Sociedad, the Spaniard saw a real slip in his game this season. Real Sociedad currently sit in 10th in La Liga, with Illarramendi appearing in 15 games in that span. He’s also extremely uncritical, scoring just three goals in 128 La Liga appearances.
His best footballing years were probably with Madrid, where he had a chance to play in the middle with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria, and Ozil. However, his role was very limited for the club despite breaking the fee record for a Spanish player when he made his move to Madrid. His only only goal upon his return to Sociedad came in a 4-0 win against Levante.
12 Isaac Cuenca
At just 24 years old, Isaac Cuenca is one of the younger footballers featured on this list. Currently playing for Granada FC, the Spanish footballer has played for a few Spanish teams after leaving the Catalan giants, Barcelona. Coming in from football’s most prestigious academy, La Masia, Cuenca never lived up to expectations with Barcelona, or anywhere else he’s played for that matter. In 101 La Liga appearances, the winger has only 14 goals to show for it. He’s never managed to cement his spot on any team’s roster just yet, moving to Deportivo La Coruna for a year, and then Turkish side Busaspor, finally ending up in Granada.
11 Thomas Vermaelen
We move on to the 30-year-old central defender from Belgium, Thomas Vermaelen. Currently playing (although not much) for FC Barcelona in Spain’s top division, Vermaelen had the most success in his career during his years with Arsenal. For five years, he played defense with Arsenal. He scored on his debut, and was even affectionately nicknamed “The Verminator” by the fans. However, consecutive horrid performances in his last games with the Gunners meant he would lose the starting role at Arsenal.
He therefore opted for a move to Barcelona, where he already knew his role would be a more limited one, with Pique and Mascherano being the ultimate starters in his position. However, he’s been plagued with injury since coming to the Catalan football club, and it doesn’t look like a very promising end to Vermaelen’s career.
10 Guilherme Siqueira
Turning 30 at the end of this month, Siqueira is a Brazilian footballer, currently playing in La Liga for Valencia, on loan from Atletico Madrid. At left back, Siqueira came to Atletico Madrid from Granada in hopes of being a starting replacement for the other Brazilian defender Filipe Luis, but he’s been anything but. The Madrid giants have opted to ship the left back to Valencia for the season. He did start 26 games for Atletico since 2014, scoring just one goal. He was transferred to Atletico for a €10 million fee, a little steep considering what we’ve seen in the past year.
9 Iker Muniain
Iker Muniain is a Spanish footballer that currently plays in La Liga's Athletic Bilbao, who currently sit sixth in the La Liga standings, not in great part due to Iker Muniain. Due to his style of play and stature, Muniain was dubbed at a young age as “the Spanish Messi,” by the media. For our all sake, it’s lucky the media don’t scout players for the big clubs. Although Iker can play attractive, skillful football, he is nowhere close to being a Spanish Messi or any type of Messi, especially not with only two La Liga goals on the season.
Muniain is a product of Bilbao’s youth academy, and was actually the youngest player to make a first team debut in 2009. He’s now played over 200 games for the Club, scoring 25 goals in the process. There was so much promise for Muniain to develop into a class footballer, but unfortunately it seems his best football is already behind him.
8 Xavi Torres
Xavi Torres is a Spanish footballer currently playing a central defensive role for Real Betis. The 29-year-old had his first league debut with Barcelona when they were already crowned, grateful to Pep Guardiola for giving him his shot. Pep had coached in Barcelona’s reserve team, where Pep had first started as well, and had seen promise in the youngster. The lad has been a disappointment however since leaving Barcelona, never truly finding form, and currently playing a minimal role on his new team. At 29 years old, things seem to have hit a low for Torres this year, and I think his best football is way behind him.
7 Fernando Torres
Alas, we finally come to Fernando Torres, El Nino. Once electrifying with Atletico Madrid, his second bout with the club is not as successful. On a long-term loan from Milan, Torres has made 40 appearances for Atletico in La Liga, scoring eight goals. Not bad from a striker many had thought had completely lost his game. Torres made waves when he transferred to Liverpool in 2007, marking the beginning of a remarkable goal scoring spree for the Spanish striker. He was for many people the greatest striker in the world at the time. But just when things go so well, they can just as quickly turn sour.
It was his enormous transfer to Chelsea that marked the beginning of the end for Torres. He looked like a different player on the pitch; slower, less control, and less of the fiery passion that made Fernando Torres so unique. After being transferred between the English giants, Torres went 903 minutes without scoring a goal. Today he has the role of back-up striker at most with a very good Atletico team. Manager Simeone hoped bringing El Nino back to Atletico might fire up his career again, but the Torres of old seems to be gone for good.
6 Guillermo Ochoa
Commonly referred to as Memo, many of you probably got your first glimpse of Ochoa in the 2014 World Cup, where he represented Mexico as their first goalkeeper. He was phenomenal in that tournament, carrying Mexico until they were eliminated by Holland, all while making highlight saves in the meantime. In that tournament he was named Man of the Match twice. His performance in the World Cup earned him his first big signing with La Liga club Malaga, who he joined right after the tournament was over. However, in almost two years, the Mexican keeper has made only two league appearances, and is still second keeper in Malaga. He did play a handful of Copa Del Rey games, until they were embarrassingly knocked out of contention by second division side Mirandes. His career has certainly stalled after such a hopeful World Cup.
5 Douglas Pereira dos Santos
More commonly known simply as Douglas, dos Santos is a Brazilian footballer currently playing right back for FC Barcelona. The number one right back for FC Barcelona is still his fellow Brazillian Dani Alves. When they decide to give Alves a break, Aleix Vidal has taken up the right back position a few times in place of Alves. This means that for Douglas, his time has been very limited, and when he does appear he fails to make much of an impression. He made his Barcelona debut in 2014. He was limited to a yellow card and some heavy criticism after the match.
Since then, his playing time has been solely reserved for somewhat unimportant or easy Copa Del Rey matches. He made the transfer to La Liga Barcelona from Sao Paulo, in what was to this day a shocking transfer, with Sao Paulo media themselves questioning what in the world Barcelona, the greatest club in the world, wanted with Douglas. Until this day, we still do not know.
4 Tomas Pina
Pina is a tall central midfielder currently playing with fourth place La Liga side Villareal. He has an unfortunate seven goals for Villareal overall three seasons, including an incredible zero goals scored in 17 appearances this season. Villareal spent an outstanding €5 million for the midfielder when they brought home over from Mallorca, prompting many to turn around and say, “but who is this Tomas Pina.”
He’s never been a truly mesmerizing player in his career thus far, filling up space on the pitch, playing a classic midfielder role, nothing less, nothing more, and nothing very impressive about it whatsoever. Whether his services are worth €5 million for a club like Villareal remains to be seen.
3 Álvaro Arbeloa
Arbeloa has had a fairly successful career, and many consider the man to be a top notch defender in La Liga. But in my opinion, and especially at 33 years old, Arbeloa is nothing but a liability at right back, and his minutes should be limited to the bare minimum. He had successful career mostly with Read Madrid, but he also spent two seasons with Liverpool in the English league. He is now under contract with Madrid until June 2016, and I don’t think he’ll be back. As mentioned, at 33 years old, Arbeloa has nothing to offer a cub like Madrid anymore, especially after a 2015-16 season where he was imited to just 4 appearances.
2 Pedro Leon
Moving to Leon, a Spanish footballer currently playing for Getafe, who sit 18th in the league and on the brink of relegation. He’s been particularly bad for Getafe in the past two seasons, netting only three league goals so far, a probable huge contributor to his teams lack of success. At just 29 years old and with a good footballing background, he was expected to be a big time player with Getafe, but it simply has not panned out for either parties, and the result is a pitiful season for both parties.
Leon’s peak was reached when he was signed by Read Madrid in 2010. However, Leon rarely played for Madrid. There was an incident, in which he was abruptly left off a match that he was supposed to start in, in which a journalist asked Jose Mourinho why he hadn’t started him. Mourinho replied by mocking the Spaniard, saying "You [journalists] talk of Pedro Leon as if he was Zidane or Maradona or di Stefano," Mourinho said. "I don't have to justify his absence." Well right you were Jose, right you were.
1 Enrique “Kike” Sola
At 30 years old, it seems “Kike’s” best football is far behind him, and It seems his manager at Athletic Bilbao knows it as well, opting to loan the striker to second division English team Middlesbrough instead of having him start for Bilbao. He made his way to Bilbao from Osasuna for €4 million transfer fee, although it should’ve been for less than half in my opinion. His time with Bilbao was very unsuccessful, scoring just five goals in two and a half years with the club. In Bilbao’s defense, they purchased the Spanish forward after he netted nine goals with Osasuna the previous seasons, but lack of form and injury will likeky never see him be a threat in La Liga again.