Spanish football league LaLiga has been home to many football talents from all over the world, including our continent. International audiences have had a front-row seat as LaLiga players with roots in Africa have developed their skills and talents with the help of the league.
To celebrate African talent within the Spanish league, let’s take a look at some renowned players of African descent who have played for LaLiga over the years.
Born in Bilbao, in Biscay – one of the most prosperous and important provinces of Spain due to its massive industrialization – to Ghanaian father and Liberian mother Williams spent most of his childhood living in Pamplona, playing for the local side until he got recruited by Athletic Bilbao.
Having been part of the Athletic setup since 2012, Williams has gone on to make appearances for the Spanish U21 national side and the Basque Country. Although the attacker made his international debut for La Furia Roja in 2016, he is still legible to play for Ghana’s Black Stars.
A record the player holds currently, is that he overtakes Spanish and Athletic legend Andoni Zubizarreta to become the third player with most consecutive appearances – 185 games – in LaLiga history.
French born Zinedine Zidane, or Zizou as he’s known, has strong ties to his parents’ home country of Algeria.
He’s still a household name in the world of football as he is currently the manager of the club he previously played for, Real Madrid. He joined Real Madrid in 2001 and won several trophies for Los Merengues during his time with the club. After leading France to victory in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, he was hailed as a national hero and continued to excel, winning the UEFA Euro 2000, and being named Player of the Tournament. In 2006, he received the Golden Ball for Player of the Tournament at the World Cup. Shortly thereafter he announced his retirement, leaving the national team as the fourth-most-capped player in French history.
Ilaix was born in Guinea and is one of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy’s success stories. In 2019, at the age of 16, he signed his first professional contract after receiving offers from Juventus, Chelsea, and Manchester City. In the end, he signed a deal worth around £1.7m per year with Barcelona. He made his first-team debut during the 2020–21 season on 21 January against Cornellà in the Copa del Rey round of 32. 2021’s been a big year for him having scored his first LaLiga goal on 6 March.
French pro footballer Nabil Fekir – who is of Algerian descent – started his football career at the Lyon football academy, making it to the senior squad in 2013. In the second season he became a first-team regular, eventually being named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. Not only has be played for and captained Les Gones, but he was also part of the French squad that played in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Since 2019, Nabil has been a forward for Real Betis. He has two years left on his contract, and so far he’s scored nine goals for the team.
Born in Guinea-Bissau to a footballing family, Anssumane Fati Vieira moved to Seville in Spain at the age of six and started playing in the youth team at Sevilla shortly afterwards. In 2012, at just 10 years old, he joined the FC Barcelona youth team and made his debut with the first team in the 2019/20 season. He was named the LaLiga player of the month in September 2020, and he’s already got a few records under his belt, including being the second-youngest player to make his debut at the age of 16 years and 298 days.
As LaLiga becomes synonymous with player development and growth in Africa, we can expect to see even more talented players with ties to our continent join the league. Most of the teams in the Spanish league already feature African footballers who are exciting to watch and follow on and off the field. We can’t wait to see who joins the league next!