TOs we start the first Spanish season without Lionel Messi in 17 years of controversy over who is the biggest star in LaLiga Santander was thrown wide open.
Add to Messithe departure of his new teammate Sergio Ramos and LaLiga Santander has lost two of its biggest figures.
For many years LaLiga Santander has had the privilege of being home to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the best players on the planet at the time and two of the best players ever to compete for the title on opposite sides of one of football’s biggest contenders.
Now that both players are gone, there is not a single outstanding candidate, so we ask: who is the star of La Liga now?
Fortunately, there are a lot of players in the frame as Spain’s top division is still full of world-class talent, players that are enjoyable to watch and the envy of most teams around the world.
Let’s take a look at some of the candidates before you have your say …
Jan Oblak, top # 1
The best player in the world may no longer be in La Liga, but the best goalkeeper is Jan Oblak from Atlético. With five Zamora trophies to his name, the Slovene has become the key to Athleti Diego Simeone’s success.
Karim Benzema, still deadly
The French striker took on a heavy scoring burden in the post-Cristiano era in Madrid, and he also improved his all-around game by becoming a more complete player. At 33 years old, Benzema remains one of, if not the best 9th number in world football.
Antoine Griezmann, without a shadow of Messi
Griezmann has yet to live up to expectations since his move from Atlético to Barcelona, but he can just thrive now that he can step out of Messi’s shadow. If Blaugrana wants to succeed this season, they will likely need a French striker who will step forward and prove his worth in a role with more freedom but more responsibility.
Luis Suarez, striker champion
The Uruguayan’s goals helped Atleti’s underdogs win the LaLiga Santander title last season and he will be looking to prove his prowess once again as Colchonero hopes to defend his crown. Suarez made the doubters eat their words in 2020/21 by showing that he is the No. 9 worthy of champions.
David Alaba, the new Ramos
With the departure of Sergio Ramos to Paris Saint-Germain, the versatile Austrian will be Real Madrid’s number four this season. Praise comes with a great reputation and great stage experience. His mission is to lead Los Blancos to success.
Pedri, there is no more perspective
The growth of the Canarian teenage midfielder over the past year has been meteoric, and although he is only 18 years old, there are very real reasons to believe that Pedri is the best player in La Liga Santander. The Spanish International is an incredible talent who, in a short time, has become a key player in the club and the country. If he can continue his progress, he will be an even bigger key to Barcelona without Messi.
Gerard Moreno, national team scorer
The Villarreal striker has won the Zarra trophy for Spain’s top scorer in La Liga Santander over the past two seasons. His performance also helped Yellow Submarine win the Europa League in 2021 and secure access to the Champions League. Another best season from the country’s top scorer, with Villarreal worrying about the top 4 teams of the 2021/22 season.
Marcos Llorente, full-fledged player
It is difficult to assign Llorente any one position, but it is easy to identify the versatile Spaniard as a key part of the Atletico team to win the title. The 26-year-old loves big events and gets up with vital goals. Let’s see if he makes another jump this season.
Eden Hazard, salon of the last chance
The Belgian striker is arguably one of the biggest names in La Liga, and that justifies his inclusion on this list; not what he did, but what else he could have done in a white shirt. The former Chelsea player has suffered from injuries over the past two years, but it may finally be time for him to show LaLiga Santander what he can do. If he can rediscover his best qualities, it could be devastating to the rest of LaLiga.
Memphis Depay, Barcelona’s Great Hope
Expectations for the Dutch striker were tenfold when Messi flew to Paris, and Blaugrana will need to keep up with this and deliver, especially in terms of goals if they want to move somewhat smoothly into the post-Leo era.
Luka Modric, the last Golden Ball
The Croatian genius is the only remaining player in Spain to have the Ballon d’Or. He may be 36, but over the past year he has shown that he is still one of the best midfielders in the world and Los Blancos will hope that he will dictate the rules of the game again.