La Liga has been the strongest league in Europe for the last five seasons according to UEFA's coefficients. This rating is based upon the performance of the top Spanish teams in European competitions. La Liga boasts arguably the two greatest teams in world soccer right now, and arguably the two greatest in the history of the game, in the form of Real Madrid and Barcelona. As such, it is unsurprising that some of the stars of the world game choose to ply their trade in Spain and in La Liga.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Neymar and Luis Suarez, arguably the five best players in the world right now, all play in La Liga. Despite the wealth of truly world class talent which has blessed the division since its inception back in 1929, there have also been some decidedly less impressive players. For every Cristiano Ronaldo there is a Royston Drenthe, and this list celebrates the truly terrible players of La Liga's past.
There are a few familiar faces and a few lesser known individuals. Some had very good careers outside of Spain and for whatever reason it just didn't work out for them in the country, whilst others were just simply not good enough and it showed. Furthermore, it took only a couple of games to spot the inadequacies of some, whilst others brought misery to the fans of their clubs for years. Here are the top 20 worst players in La Liga history.
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20 Jonathan Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate was, at one time, a fine center-half and I feel aggrieved to place him in any 'worst' list, hence why he is in 20th, but even I cannot deny that his time at Real Madrid was disastrous. He scored an own goal before being sent off on his debut, in what many regard as the worst debut in history, and that dire start rather set the tone for the Englishman. His time at Real was blighted by injuries, preventing him from ever really showing what he was capable of in the Spanish capital.
Real spent in excess of $20 million on Woodgate, and for their investment they got only 14 appearances, none of which were impressive. In 2007, Woodgate was voted the worst signing of the 21st century by Spanish magazine Marca.
19 Ben Sahar
Ben Sahar was at one time described as Israel's hottest prospect, as he rose through the ranks at Chelsea. However, like most promising youngsters at Chelsea, he was never really given a chance at the club. He played three times for the first team, before heading to Espanyol where he anticipated regular playing time and the opportunity to showcase his skills. Sahar is supposed to be a pacey and tricky striker, but at Espanyol he appeared to have very little movement or understanding of the game.
In 22 games he scored only once, being named in the La Liga worst team of the year that season. Sahar is now 25, and returned to Israel this summer, joining Hapoel Be'er Sheva.
18 Emilio Nsue
Emilio Nsue currently plays in the Championship, the second tier of English soccer, with Middlesbrough, where he almost achieved promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs last season, falling to Norwich at the final hurdle. Few players on this list have played more La Liga games than Nsue, who turned out almost 150 times for Mallorca, and over 30 times on loan at Real Sociedad. Nsue began his career as a striker, and spent the majority of his early career playing their; despite that, he managed just 13 goals in 142 La Liga games with Mallorca. His incompetence up front has seen him converted to playing as a wing-back. He was relegated with Mallorca and headed to Middlesbrough in 2014, although he is mainly used as back-up for the club.
17 Angel Dealbert
Angel Dealbert is a Spanish central defender who looked very solid in the Spanish lower leagues with fourth division side Castellon. His impressive form eventually saw him make the huge jump up to La Liga, when he signed for Valencia in 2009, aged 26. The jump proved too great for Dealbert, who looked completely out of his depth with one of Spain's top teams. He was used sparingly over three seasons with the club, as his playing time became more limited with the club fast realizing he wasn't cut out for top flight football. He left Valencia in 2012, and currently plays in the United Arab Emirates. In 2011, an independent Valencia website voted Dealbert the club's worst ever player.
Denilson certainly falls under the category of very talented players who simply didn't show it in Spain's top flight. The World Cup winner became the most expensive player in the world in 1998 when he joined Real Betis for a fee in the region of $40 million. Whilst his compatriots Ronaldo and Ronaldinho became La Liga legends with Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, Denilson failed to transform Betis into the Spanish superpower they had wished to become, following their considerable outlay.
He played 35 times in his first season scoring twice; in the following season his lacklustre performances continued and the club was relegated from La Liga in 2000. Denilson was loaned back to Brazil, joining Flamengo, but returned after Betis were promoted. He played a total of 186 La Liga games, scoring only 13 goals and being considered one of the greatest flops in soccer history. He won the World Cup in 2002 and later played in France and U.S., among others, before retiring in 2010.
15 Borja Gomez Perez
Borja Gomez Perez's time in La Liga was brief, and despite being only 27, one would be surprised if he ever got another chance in Spain's premier football league. The Spanish defender played for Rayo Vallecano is the Spanish second tier before heading to Ukraine, but he returned to Spain for his first taste of La Liga football in 2012. Perez jumped at the opportunity, but in his first few games for Granada it was clear that Perez was simply not cut out to play against world class forwards.
He was brutally exposed and played only 12 times. After only three months at the club there were calls for his departure, and he was loaned out for the next two seasons to Hercules and Lugo in the second tier, and joined Real Oviedo this summer, who have just been promoted from the third tier.
14 Julien Faubert
There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Real Madrid signed Julien Faubert on-loan from West Ham United, not least from Real Madrid and West Ham fans. Faubert was a steady but never stunning player who was a regular but not a star at the Boleyn Ground. He moved on-loan to Real in the summer of 2009 after playing less than 30 games in two years at West Ham. Unsurprisingly, Faubert didn't set the world alight in Madrid. He looked completely out of place alongside the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Arjen Robben, Sergio Ramos and Raul, and only played two games in a season at the Bernabeu and still stands as one of the most baffling transfer deals in memory.
13 Jose Manuel Pinto
Jose Manuel Pinto, or simply 'Pinto', as he is better known to you and I, has won four La Liga titles and two Champions League titles, as well as an array of other trophies of which he played virtually no part in winning. In much the same respect as Anderson has Premier League and Champions League titles without contributing almost anything, so too does Pinto.
It is a wonder that the Spanish goalkeeper was ever seen as a Barcelona player, and despite only ever being considered back-up, he still isn't good enough. Pinto had, it must be said, a very good 2005/06 season with Celta Vigo, but for the vast majority of his career he has looked shaky, and has probably put more effort into his DJ'ing than his goalkeeping, knowing he was never likely to become Barcelona's number 1. He left the club in 2014, to the relief of many Barca supporters no doubt.
12 Inigo Lopez Montana
Inigo Lopez Montana had a torrid time as Cordoba had a dreadful campaign last season. The Spaniard had limited top flight experience, despite being in his 30s, and it showed. Montana had spent most of his career in Spain but outside La Liga, as well as a brief spell in Greece, before being recruited by Cordoba for their La Liga campaign following promotion. Cordoba had hoped for an experienced no-nonsense central defender; they got a chaotic, slow and incapable one. Montana played just 21 times as Cordoba went crashing down in last place, and Montana was unsurprisingly named in the 2014/15 worst La Liga XI by Marca.
11 Shunsuke Nakamura
Shunsuke Nakamura may be remembered as one of Japan's greatest ever players, but that hasn't stopped his going down as one of La Liga's worst. Upon his signing for Espanyol on a free transfer from Celtic, the Espanyol club president claimed that it was "a more important signing than Cristiano Ronaldo". You probably don't need me to tell you that things didn't pan out for Nakamura at Espanyol quite as well as they did for Ronaldo at Real Madrid. The attacking midfielder played only 13 games for the club, struggling to adapt to life in Spain, and left after just a year, returning to his hometown club Yokohama F. Marinos.
10 Jozy Altidore
He may have been a starlet of the U.S. game but Jozy Altidore's name is more than likely to crop up upon lists of the worst Premier League or La Liga players, and for good reason too. The powerful striker has been prolific in both Holland and the U.S., but in England and Spain, he has been anything but. Villareal and La Liga provided Altidore with his first taste of European soccer, and it was a most forgettable one. It took a fee of $10 million, at the time a record for an American, to take Atidore from the New York Red Bulls to Villareal, and there was much hope surrounding him. He scored just once, becoming the first American to score in La Liga but not doing enough to impress. He played only nine games, in three years, looking out of his depth in almost all, before heading to AZ in 2011.
9 Jermaine Pennant
The second Englishman to make this list, Jermaine Pennant swapped the Premier League for La Liga in 2009, in an attempt to rescue his career. The uncapped England international has played for both Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League, but had a number of run-ins with the law for domestic and driving offences, among others, and needed a positive spell in Spain to give some life to his stuttering career. Instead, he had probably the most miserable spell of his career.
Struggling Real Zaragoza gave him a number of chances, with 25 appearances, but he did not repay them and the club was relegated, Pennant's next move was to Stoke. The winger currently plays in the third tier of English football with Wigan Athletic.
8 Thomas Gravesen
Thomas Gravesen played as a combative midfielder at Everton, where he played over 150 games for the Toffees. He looked a very capable midfielder for the Merseyside club, but there was still shock when Madrid came calling in 2005 and took the Danish international to the Bernabeu. Real deployed Graveson as a holding midfielder, a new position for him, but he started brightly in his first few games.
As he was just beginning to find his feet, Real sacked the manager and managing director who had signed Gravesen and he was soon cast aside. Once he was re-introduced to the side, a number of dreadful performances put pay to his time at Real. The fans themselves led the campaign to get rid of Graveson, after he had a run in with Robinho in training following a strong tackle; Graveson moved to Celtic after just a year and only 34 games.
7 Jose Suarez Japan
Real Betis are a team with a mixed past, at their best they have won titles, at their worst, they have been perhaps the worst team to grace the Spanish top flight. The best example of this is their La Liga title win in 1935, which was followed up by an appalling season in 1942/43, when the team were relegated with only two wins and only 10 points. This Betis team fell apart that season, despite still having a number of talented players, but one man who you couldn't say that about was Jose Suarez Japan.
The Sevilla-born midfielder spent only a single season with Betis, and only a single season in La Liga, that season was the disastrous 1942/43 campaign. He played 25 times, looking calamitous in all and was sent off once; the Betis fans were probably glad for it.
6 Roberto Trotta
Roberto Trotta may have only played 18 games in La Liga, but that hasn't stopped him gaining a reputation as one of the league's most terrible players. He was a part of the 1997/98 Sporting Gijon team which is on record as the worst in La Liga history. Gijon were relegated with just 13 points, the next closest team to them had 39. It is a remarkable feat and one which may never be beaten. In 38 games, they won just two, drew 7 and lost 29; conceding 89 goals in the process. Clearly, you would have to be pretty dreadful to stand out as not good enough in this team, yet Trotta did just that. Trotta has some talent, as he has been capped five times by the Argentina team, yet in Spain he was only ever seconds away from capitulation. As well as being one of La Liga's worst ever players, Trotta also holds the record for the most red cards in the Argentine league, with 17.
5 Alexander Hleb
Barcelona have signed a number of players from Arsenal in recent years, with Thomas Vermaelen recently joining the likes of Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Marc Overmars but none have failed as spectacularly as Alexander Hleb. The Belarus international is a tidy and clever player, but not quite up to the standard one would expect of a Barcelona attacking midfielder or winger. Hleb had to compete with the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Yaya Toure for his place in the team, and to put it kindly, he struggled.
Having not stood out with the Gunners, Hleb was picked up by Barca for over $20 million. He made 36 appearances in his first season, the vast majority coming off the bench, where he looked horrifically out of his depth. He was soon shipped out on loan to Stuttgart, Birmingham and Wolfsburg, before leaving in 2012, having made 19 starts in four years; Hleb now plays in Turkey.
4 Angel Trujillo
Angel Trujillo has the impressive feat of having scored a goal against Barcelona, which is his only goal in professional football, and it came last year, with Trujillo aged 26. If there is one position where Spain have struggled to produce world class talent in recent years it is central defense, and it should come as no surprise that there are a few on this list. Trujillo has been with Almeria since 2007, but was only deemed good enough to play for the B team, up until 2012, when he made his debut for the main team. At 24, the defender was quite old for a debutant, and he has struggled in Spain's top flight.
He was named in the 2014/15 La Liga Worst XI, as the lowest ranking defender, as 'Goal' cited his inability to anticipate danger and prevent the opposition from creating chances as a major factor behind Almeria's relegation last term.
3 Royston Drenthe
Royston Drenthe joined Real Madrid as a very highly-rated winger, he left regarded by many as the worst player to ever play for the club. Drenthe began his career at Feyenoord, one of the great production lines for footballers in the world, and made a name for himself after scoring a hat-trick against the great Ajax academy in 2005. His hard work was rewarded, as he was given his debut that year, aged 18. In 2007, Drenthe was named as the player of the tournament as the Netherlands lifted the U21 European Championships, and a $16 million bid from Real Madrid followed.
Drenthe threatened to take Feyenoord to court if they didn't accept and he duly joined Los Blancos aged 20. He had a great debut at Real, scoring a 40-yard screamer on his debut. He would score once more in his next 45 appearances for the club, before Real finally conceded he simply wasn't good enough and he moved to Russia. Drenthe has since played in the English lower leagues and moved to Turkey this summer.
2 Iago Bouzon
Iago Bouzon has proved himself as a decent Spanish lower league defender over the last decade, but he was brutally exposed when he made the step up to the Spanish top flight last season. Promoted with Cordoba, it was always likely to be a tricky season for Los Califas in La Liga, but few could predict just how dreadful a season they were to have. Cordoba finished bottom of the table, 15 points off safety and 12 points behind the also relegated Almeria. They conceded a massive 68 goals, and Bouzon was often the suspect man as the team were torn apart time and time again. It was Bouzon's first full season it the top flight, and its probably fair to say it will be his last. Despite relegation, Cordoba still released Bouzon who joined Gimnastic this summer.
1 Benjamin Telechea
You could be forgiven for not knowing who Benjamin Telechea is, but you will do well to find a worse La Liga player than him. The Spanish defender spent only a single season in the Spanish top flight, the 1950/51 campaign, and it was eventful to say the least. It was not only his but also his team, UE Lleida, first in the top flight, and it made Cordoba's performance last season look impressive. The minnows lost 23 of their 30 games, conceding an incredible 134 goals in those 30 games.
That means they conceded, on average, around 4.5 goals a game. Telechea featured in 25 of those 30 games and was noted for his calamitous displays, and despite scoring twice from the back, he was responsible for conceding a very many more than that. Lleida were sent crashing down and they didn't return to La Liga until 1994.
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