A brilliant Xl of players who have left La Liga since 2017: Messi, Ronaldo, Ramos

Quick Reads

While La Liga has often been regarded as the best league in the world, they have seen a lot of their star names leave in recent years. 

Barcelona and Real Madrid are both struggling financially and teams from across Europe have looked to take advantage of the situation.

We’ve compiled an Xl of players that have left La Liga and joined other leagues in the last four years. Note: we’ve not included any players that have since returned to Spain.

GK: Keylor Navas

Despite lifting the Champions League in all three of his seasons as Real Madrid’s No.1, Navas didn’t always get the respect that he deserved. 

The Costa Rica international was replaced by Thibaut Courtois in 2018-19 and decided to join Paris Saint-Germain in a €15million deal that saw Alphonse Areola moving in the opposite direction on loan.

He has kept 38 clean sheets in 80 appearances for PSG to date, helping them win a Ligue 1 title and reach the 2020 Champions League final. 

“[Navas] was incredible, he had a fantastic night and he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world,” Mauricio Pochettino told Marca after PSG’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in March 2021;

READ: How the criminally underrated Keylor Navas became ‘The Messiah’ of Paris

RB: Achraf Hakimi

After failing to usurp Dani Carvajal at Real Madrid, Hakimi spent two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund before joining Inter Milan in a £36million deal in 2020.

He’s developed into one of the world’s best-attacking full-backs, scoring seven goals and providing eight more assists as Inter won their first Scudetto since 2010. 

The 22-year-old was linked with a move to Chelsea but has since joined PSG, who agreed to pay an initial £51.3million for his services. 

CB: Raphael Varane

Varane enjoyed a trophy-laden 10-year spell with Real Madrid, winning three La Liga titles, a Copa del Rey and four Champions Leagues.

The centre-back wanted to pursue a new challenge away from the Bernabeu and has joined Manchester United in a £34million deal.

“I am very happy and excited to get started here, it is a new journey for me,” Varane told United’s official website. “It was a very happy adventure with Real Madrid but it a new start for me here.”

CB: Sergio Ramos

One of the most successful defenders in the history of Real Madrid, Ramos left the club at the end of 2020-21 following a contract dispute with Florentino Perez. 

“The first thing I want to say is that I never wanted to leave,” Ramos said at a press conference. “I wanted to stay here. The club offered me the possibility of extending my contract, but because of Covid it was put on the back burner.

“The club made me a one-year offer with a salary reduction. I have to say that there was no economic problem. I wanted two years and peace of mind for me and my family.

“During the last talks, I accepted the one-year offer, but I was informed that it was no longer possible, that it had an expiration date and that I had not heard about it.”

The 35-year-old will now be taking his talent and experience to the Parc des Princes with PSG. And yes, the shithousery too.

READ: Where are they now? Real Madrid’s XI from Sergio Ramos’ debut in 2005

LB: Lucas Hernandez

Left-back was a difficult position to fill here. Lucas Digne has been brilliant for Everton, Tottenham’s Sergio Reguillon showed glimpses of his quality in 2020-21 and Theo Hernandez is a regular starter at AC Milan. 

But Lucas Hernandez, Theo’s older brother, takes the spot. The 25-year-old made over 100 appearances for Atletico Madrid before joining Bayern Munich in 2019 in an €80million deal. 

While the defender has been hampered by some knee injuries, he has still won seven major titles during his first two seasons at the club.

CM: Rodri

Having starred for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, Rodri was identified by Manchester City as Fernandinho’s long-term successor. 

The 25-year-old joined City for £62.8million in 2019 and has fitted seamlessly into that holding midfield role, helping dictate the game while mastering the art of tactical fouling.

We can’t help but think that if he had started the 2021 Champions League final against Chelsea, the outcome would’ve been different.

CM: Mateo Kovacic

After failing to break up Real Madrid’s iconic midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, Kovacic completed a permanent move to Chelsea in 2019. 

The Croatia international finally got a consistent run of games at Stamford Bridge and was rewarded with Chelsea’s Player of the Year Award in August 2020.

He has remained a key player under Thomas Tuchel and helped the Blues win the Champions League and the Super Cup in 2021.

CM: Andres Iniesta

Admittedly, Iniesta was in the twilight of his career when he decided to leave Barcelona in 2018, but we just had to include him here.

He won 32 major trophies at the Nou Camp, including nine La Liga titles, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.

The 37-year-old has been rolling back the years at Vissel Kobe and recently signed a new two-year contract with the Japanese side.

READ: 19 of the best quotes on Andres Iniesta: ‘It’s like he has a magic wand’

RW: Lionel Messi

Messi established himself as the face of La Liga over the years, winning 10 league titles and becoming their all-time leading goalscorer.

But Barcelona had to let the six-time Ballon d’Or winner go at the end of 2020-21 due to the financial restrictions imposed by La Liga.

“This year, my family and I were convinced we were going to stay at home, that’s what we all wanted more than anything,” Messi said at an emotional press conference.

“We’d always made this our own, we were at home. We thought we would be staying here in Barcelona. But today, we have to say goodbye to all of this.”

“I did everything possible and the club, Laporta, they couldn’t do it because of La Liga. I’ve heard things said about me, that I didn’t want to continue, but on my life, we did everything we could because I wanted to stay. Last year, I didn’t want to stay and I said it; this year, I wanted to stay and we couldn’t.”

La Liga’s loss has been Ligue 1’s gain as the 34-year-old joined PSG on a free transfer, where he will now link up with old nemesis Sergio Ramos.

ST: Cristiano Ronaldo

Having scored 311 goals in 292 La Liga appearances, Ronaldo ended his nine-year association with Real Madrid in the summer of 2018.

Critics suggested that €100million was a lot of money for a player who had just turned 33, but he’s since scored over 100 goals for the Bianconeri.

LW: Neymar

Neymar started this recent trend when he left Barcelona and joined PSG in 2017, becoming the world’s most expensive player in the process. 

He is yet to get his hands on the Ballon d’Or but has produced regular moments of magic for PSG, scoring 87 goals in 116 appearances at the time of writing. 

Despite receiving nearly £200million, Barcelona wasted most of that money and struggled to replace the Brazil international. 

Substitutes: Kepa, Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte, Thomas Partey, Fabian Ruiz, Diogo Jota, Ferran Torres.

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