The Best Five Spanish Players in Premier League History

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The English top flight is now comfortably the most-watched domestic competition on the planet. There are many reasons why this is the case, but perhaps the biggest is the influx of overseas stars who have graced the turf since the league’s inception in 1992/93. The Premier League simply wouldn’t be where it is today without the brilliance displayed by the foreign talent.

Players from a league of nations have added to the box office value over the years, with European, South American, African, and Asian stars all enhancing the entertainment. Led by Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry, the French stars were the early flagbearers for overseas recruitment, but near neighbours Spain aren’t too far behind. An all-Spanish Premier League 11 would likely be more than a match for most sides, and the following five stars would be amongst the first on the team sheet.

5. David de Gea

David de Gea Playing for Manchester UnitedDavid de Gea has made the second most saves in Premier League history with 1,157. Image: vverve, Bigstock PhotoClubs – Manchester United
Premier League Appearances – 415
Honours – Premier League (2012/13), FA Cup (2015/16), EFL Cup (2016/17, 2022/23), FA Community Shield (2011, 2013, 2016)

An honourable mention goes to Pepe Reina, but former Atlético Madrid stopper David de Gea is the greatest Spanish goalkeeper in Premier League history. Old Trafford’s number 1 for a dozen years, De Gea’s time in England wasn’t without the odd howler, but to focus on those errors would be to ignore the qualities which made the 45-cap Spanish international one of the finest shot-stoppers in the game.

Boasting lightning-quick reflexes and a remarkable ability to pull off improbable saves with his legs, De Gea proved instrumental in keeping the Red Devils on the trophy trail during the turbulent post-Alex Ferguson era. Winner of the Premier League Golden Glove award in 2017/18 and 2022/23, De Gea was also a five-time winner of the Match Of The Day Save of the Season gong, included in the official Premier League Team of the Season on five occasions, and Manchester United’s Players’ Player of the Year four times.

4. Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres Playing for ChelseaFernando Torres broke the British transfer record when moving from Liverpool to Chelsea for £50m in January 2011. Image: sportsphotographer.eu, Bigstock PhotoClubs – Liverpool, Chelsea
Premier League Appearances – 212
Premier League Goals – 85
Honours – FA Cup (2011/12), UEFA Champions League (2012/13), UEFA Europa League (2012/13)

One of the most coveted strikers in the game when he joined Liverpool from Atletico Madrid in 2007 for a club record £20 million fee, Torres certainly had plenty of hype to live up to. And throughout that first 2007/08 season at Anfield, he looked worth every penny and more. Rattling in 33 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions, Torres’s pace, impeccable timing with his runs, and lethal finishing made him a threat to all Premier League defences. The good times continued to roll over the following three years as, despite injury issues, he reached 91 goals for the Reds before Roman Abramovich finally got his way and lured Torres to Stamford Bridge.

Little were they to know it at the time, but Chelsea were acquiring a player who was a mere shadow of his former self – persistent injuries taking a toll on his biggest weapon of his pace, which in turn seemed to affect his confidence in front of goal. Ironically enough, it was during this period that Torres enjoyed the most trophy-laden spell of his club career – culminating in a Champions League Final success over Bayern Munich in 2011/12. In addition to his club prowess, Torres was also a part of the all-conquering Spanish side, which lifted every European Championship and World Cup between 2008 and 2012.

3. Xabi Alonso

Clubs – Liverpool
Premier League Appearances – 143
Premier League Goals – 15
Honours – FA Cup (2005/06), UEFA Champions League (2004/05), UEFA Super Cup (2005), FA Community Shield (2006)

If high-class, deep-lying, ball-playing midfielders are your thing, Xabi Alonso may feature a little higher on this list. At his peak, there were few better exponents of midfield artistry than the Spaniard, who formed a devastating partnership with Steven Gerrard in the mid-2000s. Adept at knitting the play together in the centre of the park, Alonso’s standout attribute was his spectacular array of long passes, which could split the game open in the blink of an eye.

An immediate success, Alonso scored in the unforgettable Champions League Final comeback against AC Milan in his debut season – one of 19 goals in 210 games for the club. Hardly a prolific strike rate, but there were several crackers amongst that tally, including not one but two strikes from inside his own half. Alonso remained one of the most influential players at the club until he departed for Real Madrid in 2011. In a classic case of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” Liverpool’s form promptly nosedived in the absence of their midfield lynchpin. Alonso meanwhile went on to La Liga and Champions League success with Real and won three successive Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, to add to his European Championships and World Cup successes with the national side.

2. Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas Playing for Arsenal Against BarcelonaCesc Fabregas made over 200 appearances for Arsenal before switching to Barcelona in 2011, returning to the Premier League with Chelsea in 2014. Image: sportsphotographer.eu, Bigstock PhotoClubs – Arsenal, Chelsea
Premier League Appearances – 350
Goals – 50
Honours – Premier League (2014/15, 2016/17), FA Cup (2004/05, 2017/18), EFL Cup (2014/15)

Joining Alonso and Torres as a member of Spain’s golden generation is the supremely gifted Cesc Fabregas – throw in Xavi, Iniesta and the number one on our list, and it’s no wonder they proved so unstoppable. Fabregas, the youngest of the group, came through the Barcelona youth academy before joining Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2003. Appearing only in the League Cup during his debut season, the youngster missed out on a Premier League medal but did manage to become the club’s youngest-ever first-team player (since surpassed by Ethan Nwaneri) and youngest-ever goal scorer (still stands as of December 2023).

Opportunities in the coming seasons were more abundant as Fabregas’s deft touch, ability in small spaces, and incredible vision quickly made him an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s side. Early highlights included becoming the second youngest scorer in the history of the Champions League and throwing a slice of pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson. Ultimately becoming the club captain in 2008 – on his way to winning the PFA Young Player of the Year Award – such was the talent within the squad it is surprising that Fabregas departed for Barcelona in 2011 with only an FA Cup and Community Shield success to his name. Returning to the Premier League with Chelsea in 2014/15, Fabregas finally won his first title in his debut season before lifting the trophy for a second time in 2016/17. Departing the league for a final time in 2019, Fabregas’s tally of 111 assists sits behind only Ryan Giggs on the all-time list.

1. David Silva

David Silva Playing for Manchester CityDavid Silva played for Manchester City between 2010 and 2020, winning four Premier League titles. Image: katatonia82, Bigstock PhotoClubs – Manchester City
Games – 309
Goals – 60
Honours – Premier League (2011/12, 2013/14, 2017/18, 2018/19), FA Cup (2010/11, 2018/19), EFL Cup (2013/14, 2015/16, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20), FA Community Shield (2012, 2019)

When all were at their peak, there wasn’t too much to choose between the three midfielders on our list but, if using a combination of talent and achievement as our measure, there can only be one winner – Manchester City’s magician, David Silva. Light framed and all finesse, some doubted whether the former Valencia man could cut it in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. Only a few games into his City career, the doubters were quickly retracting their words. Ten years on, Silva was heading home to Real Sociedad as a bona fide Premier League legend.

You don’t earn the nicknames “Merlin” and “El Mago” (the magician) from a squad as talented as Manchester City’s without having something special about you, and, for Silva, spellbinding displays soon became the norm. Whether deployed out wide, in a free role, just off the striker or deeper into midfield, Silva’s close control, vision, and ability to find space where there was none proved instrumental in shredding Premier League defences time and time again. Amassing 13 trophies during his 10-year stay in Manchester, Silva was yet another member of that majestic dual European Championship and World Cup-winning squad.

Author: Raymond Sanchez