La Liga has always been a breeding ground for foreign talent, with players from all over the world flocking to Spain’s top flight to showcase their abilities. Apart from European players, players from Africa and South America travel to La Liga for the exposure it offers.
La Liga, on the other hand, has strict rules regarding non-EU (European Union) players. Each club can have no more than five of them, and only three non-EU players can be named to a matchday squad.
The majority of the players claim citizenship through ancestors or relatives, making it easier for La Liga clubs to have more ‘foreign’ players on their rosters. Furthermore, due to the Kolpak ruling, players from ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group) countries who signed the Cotonou Agreement are not considered non-EU.
Some La Liga teams have more foreign players than local players.
In comparison to the Premier League, La Liga has fewer foreign players. However, there is still a plethora of outside talent currently plying their trade in La Liga. Players like Marcelo and Luis Suarez have been league mainstays, and several new foreign stars have joined the competition this season.
On that note, here are the five La Liga teams with the most foreign players right now:
Number 5: FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi, one of Barcelona’s best players and one of the greatest imports in La Liga history, left the club this summer. Due to financial constraints, the Blaugrana were unable to offer Messi a new contract. As a result, they had no choice but to let him leave on a free transfer in the summer.
Last season, the La Liga giants had the league’s joint-highest number of foreign players. However, due to their precarious financial situation, they were forced to release several players, including Messi. Aside from the Argentine, Antoine Griezmann and Miralem Pjanic were also loaned out.
The club signed the Dutch duo of Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong this season. Sergio Aguero, a striker from Argentina, also joined the La Liga club on a free transfer.
Frenkie de Jong completes the Dutch contingent in Barcelona. Ronaldo Araujo and Yusuf Demir, both La Masia graduates from Uruguay and Austria, also play for the club.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the club’s goalkeeper, is the club’s most experienced foreign player. Since joining the Blaugrana in 2014, he has made 289 appearances.
Barcelona’s 2021-22 La Liga season has been abysmal. They have only won four of their first ten games, leaving them in ninth place. As a result, head coach Ronald Koeman is under pressure to resign, with Barcelona legend Xavi tipped to take his place.
Number 4: Valencia CF
Valencia has had two disappointing La Liga seasons, finishing 13th and ninth in the table, respectively. However, the club is not far behind in terms of having foreign talent on its roster.
The two most valuable foreign players in their squad are Goncalo Guedes from Portugal and Maxi Gomez from Uruguay. They are an important part of their attack. Denis Cheryshev, a Russian winger, and Helder Costa, a Portuguese winger on loan from Leeds, are also part of the Los Murcielagos attack.
The La Liga club signed Paraguayan centre-back Omar Alderete to partner Gabriel Paulista in defense. Valencia has experienced Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who joined Barcelona in the summer of 2019. Daniel Wass, a Danish midfielder, has been a regular for Valencia since joining the club in 2018.
Valencia has had a season that has been similar to their previous two. With three wins in 11 league games, they are in the bottom half of the La Liga table.
Number 3: Real Madrid
Real Madrid is arguably the most well-known La Liga club in attracting foreign talent. In the twenty-first century, Los Blancos have signed several ‘galacticos.’ Even though Real Madrid did not make any Galactico signings this summer, they still have 18 foreigners on their roster, which is the third-highest in the competition.
Thibaut Courtois has been Los Blancos’ first-choice goalkeeper, with Ukrainian Andriy Lunin filling in for the Belgian. Following the departures of club legends Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, the La Liga club signed David Alaba on a free transfer from Bayern Munich. Along with Alaba, the club’s foreign contingent in defense includes Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao, and the ever-present Marcelo.
The Madrid midfield trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos has been a mainstay for many years. They have a total of 1023 appearances for the club. This summer, Madrid also signed French prodigy Eduardo Camavinga. Meanwhile, Uruguay international Federico Valverde has been a first-team regular since breaking into the squad.
Karim Benzema, the French forward, has been arguably La Liga’s most in-form player this season. In just ten league games, he has nine goals and seven assists. Along with him, Vinicius Jr., a 21-year-old Brazilian winger, has been on fire. This season, the youngster has five goals in La Liga for Real Madrid.
Eden Hazard, Los Blancos’ most recent Galactico signing, has had a dreadful start to his career in Spain. Since joining the club in the summer of 2019, the winger has been plagued by injuries, making only 52 appearances across all competitions.
Real Madrid has made a solid start to their 2021-22 season. They are currently second in La Liga as they attempt to reclaim the title this season.
Number 2: Sevilla FC
Since Julen Lopetegui took over as manager of Sevilla in 2019, the club has arguably been one of the best in La Liga. In the last two seasons, they have finished in the top four. Sevilla has also performed admirably on the European stage, winning the 2019-20 Europa League.
Their success can be attributed to club director Monchi, who is known for his talent-spotting abilities. He has brought in several potential stars from around the world for the club. Los Nervionenses currently have 19 foreign players on their roster, which is tied for the most in La Liga this season.
Since joining Sevilla in 2019, Moroccan international Bono has played an important role in the posts. Jules Kounde, a French center-back heavily linked with Chelsea, teams up with Brazilian Diego Carlos to form a strong backline for the La Liga club. Marcus Acuna, an Argentina international, joined the club last summer. He has been a regular starter at left-back for Lopetegui’s team since then.
This summer, Sevilla signed Danish international Thomas Delaney to bolster their midfield. Meanwhile, the Spanish side’s attack is led by Argentine duo Papu Gomez and Erik Lamela, as well as Moroccan center-forward Youssef En-Neysri.
Sevilla has made a strong start to the new season. They sit third in La Liga, level on points with Real Madrid.
Number 1: Atletico de Madrid
Along with Sevilla, La Liga champions Atletico Madrid have the most foreign players in their lineup. Surprisingly, Los Rojblancos only have three Spanish players on their roster. The rest of their team is made up of foreign players.
Without a doubt, Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in La Liga right now. He was instrumental in Atletico Madrid’s title-winning season last year, keeping 18 clean sheets. At center-back, the club has Uruguay international Jose Gimenez and Montenegro’s Stefan Savic, who has formed a solid defensive partnership.
Atletico Madrid’s only English player, Kieran Trippier, has been outstanding at right-back. Meanwhile, Simeone’s side is covered by Brazilian international Renan Lodi on the left flank.
With Geoffrey Kondogbia and Thomas Lemar, the reigning La Liga champions also have a formidable midfield. This summer, they added Argentina’s Copa America 2021 star, Rodrigo de Paul, to that list.
Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid’s most expensive player, is Portuguese. He was signed for a whopping €130 million from Benfica. To complement him in attack, the club re-signed French international Antoine Griezmann on loan from Barcelona.
The Rojiblancos also have Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who joined them from Barcelona last season. He was instrumental in Atletico Madrid’s La Liga title win, scoring 21 goals for the club.