La Liga has played host to some of the world’s greatest ever players over the years, thanks largely to being the home of two of the biggest clubs on the planet – Real Madrid and Barcelona.

With the La Liga season now back in full swing, we’ve taken a look at five of the greatest players in history to grace the division.

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Lionel Messi

Where else to start than with Lionel Messi? Barcelona’s iconic former talisman who came to be a symbol for all that was great about the Blaugrana over the last decade-and-a-half.

Messi made his Barcelona debut in 2004, going on to be part of Frank Rijkaard’s Barca side that secured a first La Liga title in six years in his first season. From then, the Argentine never looked back, going on inspire the Catalan club to a total of 10 La Liga titles, as well as four Champions Leagues and a stack of other trophies.

One of the greatest players to ever play the game, let alone in La Liga, Messi was a challenge to pretty much every defence he came across, with his record La Liga total haul of 474 goals coming in just 520 appearances, at a rate of 89 minutes per goal. Just stunning.

How Barcelona fans would love to have him back following his move to Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo

You can’t talk about Lionel Messi and La Liga without mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo. Although now back at Manchester United via a move to Juventus, Ronaldo enjoyed nine hugely successful years at Madrid in which he and Messi pushed each other to the limit, week-in, week-out.

During his time in La Liga, Ronaldo went from being an exceptional wide man to becoming one of the most destructive forwards in any position in attack. The Portugal international helped himself to two La Liga titles during his time in Spain, while helping to lead Madrid to an incredible four Champions Leagues in five years.

Ronaldo ended his time in Spain with 311 La Liga goals in just 292 appearances – a rate of a goal every 81 minutes. An incredible feat.

Xavi Hernandez

Messi is quite rightly the headline act when it comes to Barcelona’s success in the 21st century, but just as important to the cause was Xavi Hernandez – the beating heart of Barca’s tiki-taka style that defeated many and won over the hearts of even more.

His pinpoint passing and vision made him a masterful midfielder and complimented the talents perfectly of team-mates including Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.

Often talked about as Spain’s greatest ever player, Xavi helped Barca to eight La Liga titles, while racking up 505 league appearances and 126 assists. The Blaugrana’s heart and soul who will surely return to the Camp Nou in the dugout at some point in the future.

Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo Di Stefano’s name is synonymous with Real Madrid. If you talk about past successes for the club, Di Stefano is as integral as any player, helping to redefine Madrid in the 1950s and 1960s as one of the greatest teams in the world.

One of the most influential players the Spanish top flight has ever seen, Di Stefano hit 227 goals in 329 appearances for Madrid and Espanyol, inspiring the former to eight La Liga titles in 11 years, as well as the first five European Cups in history from 1956 to 1960.

Without Di Stefano, Madrid would not be the club they are today. A true legend of the game.

Francisco Gento

There have been some incredible talents to play in La Liga unlucky to miss out on this list, including the likes of Johan Cruyff, Zinedine Zidane and Diego Maradona. But while Francisco Gento may not be remembered today as having been in that particular trio’s bracket, it’s hard to find a player who had more of a winning impact in La Liga than him.

Gento, who made a total of 438 appearances in Spain’s top flight for Racing Santander and Madrid between 1952 and 1971, helped the latter to a whopping 12 La Liga titles during his career – a record that still stands today.

His remarkable pace made him one of Spain and Madrid’s greatest ever wingers, and if holding the record for most ever La Liga title wins wasn’t quite enough, he also boasts a record six European Cups triumphs. When it comes to longevity and pure success, Gento has few rivals.