Alonso began his career at Real Sociedad, the main team of his home province Gipuzkoa. After a brief loan period at Eibar, he was appointed as team captain of Real Sociedad by then-manager John Toshack. He succeeded in the role, taking the club to second place in the 2002–03 season. He moved to Liverpool in August 2004 for £10.5 million and won the UEFA Champions League in his first season, under manager Rafael Benítez, scoring the equalising goal in the Final against Milan.
The following season, he won the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield. He moved to Real Madrid for the start of the 2009–10 season in a deal worth around £30 million. After winning honours including a league title in 2012 and the Champions League in 2014 during five seasons in Madrid, he was signed by German club Bayern Munich on a two-year contract. This was extended by a further year, and he eventually retired from playing in summer 2017, aged 35, having won the Bundesliga in each of his three seasons with Bayern. He made his international debut for Spain in April 2003 in a 4–0 victory against Ecuador.
While playing for Spain, Alonso won Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup, and he also represented his country at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. On 23 June 2012, Alonso won his 100th cap for Spain in the quarter-final of Euro 2012 against France; he celebrated the occasion by scoring both of Spain's goals to send them into the semi-finals. Following Spain's failure to progress out of the group stages at the 2014 World Cup, Alonso retired from international football on 27 August 2014. His 114 caps make him the seventh-most capped player in the nation's history.
Gerard Pique is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for Barcelona. Originally one of the most promising students at La Masia, Piqué joined the Manchester United academy in 2004. He returned to Barcelona in 2008 under Pep Guardiola's leadership and helped the club win trebles in 2008–09 and 2014–15. He is one of only four players to have won the UEFA Champions League two years in a row with different teams, the others being Marcel Desailly, Paulo Sousa and Samuel Eto'o. Piqué has also represented Spain 102 times, making his debut on 11 February 2009. He played an integral role in the Spain teams that won the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012. He retired from the national team after the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Andres Iniesta is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder and is the captain of J1 League club Vissel Kobe. He spent most of his career at Barcelona, where he served as the captain for three seasons.
Iniesta is widely considered to be one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Iniesta came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, after an early migration from his birthplace, and impressed from an early age. He made his first-team debut aged 18 in 2002. He began playing regularly during the 2004–05 season and remained in the team until 2018. Iniesta was an integral part of the Barcelona sides that won two historic trebles in 2009 and 2015, and his 35 trophies, which includes nine La Ligas and four UEFA Champions League titles, make him the most decorated Spanish footballer of all time.
After twenty-two years at Barcelona, Iniesta signed for Japanese club Vissel Kobe in 2018. Iniesta played for Spain at the Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 levels before making his international debut in 2006. He helped Spain win UEFA Euro 2008, playing every game and being selected in the Team of the Tournament. Iniesta was also a key member of the victorious Spanish team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup; he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands, for which he was named the Man of the Match, and was selected to the tournament's All-Star Team. At UEFA Euro 2012, Iniesta led Spain to their second consecutive continental crown, again being chosen as the Man of the Match of the final against Italy, and was named the Player of the Tournament.
Iniesta has been named in the FIFA FIFPro World XI nine times and was chosen in the UEFA Team of the Year on six occasions. He was named in the All-time UEFA Euro XI. He won the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award in 2012 and was named the IFFHS World's Best Playmaker in 2012 and 2013. Iniesta was runner-up to Lionel Messi for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or and achieved third place in 2012.
Carles Puyol is a Spanish retired professional footballer who played his entire career for Barcelona. He mainly played as a central defender, but he could also play in either full-back position, mostly as a right-back.
Praised for his leadership and defensive qualities, he is widely regarded as one of the best captains and defenders in the history of football. He was Barcelona's captain from August 2004 until his retirement in 2014, and appeared in 593 competitive matches for the club. He won 18 major club titles, including six La Liga trophies and three Champions Leagues.
Puyol won 100 caps for Spain, and was part of the squads that won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. In the 2010 World Cup semi-final, he scored the only goal of the game against Germany.
Xavi is widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, renowned for his passing, ball retention and positioning. Xavi joined La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, at age 11, and made his first-team debut against Mallorca in August 1998. In all, he played 767 official matches, a former club record, and scored 85 goals. Xavi is the first player in the club's history to play 150 European and FIFA Club World Cup matches combined.
With Barcelona, Xavi won eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles. Xavi came third in the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year, followed by third place for its successor award, the FIFA Ballon d'Or, in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, he was runner up to Lionel Messi for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. In 2015, he departed Barcelona for Al Sadd, where he won four trophies before retiring in 2019. With Spain, Xavi won the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999, and the Olympic silver medal at the 2000 Olympics.
After making his senior team debut in 2000, he was capped 133 times for his country, and was an influential figure in the team's successes. He played an integral role in Spain's victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as their wins at UEFA Euro 2008 and UEFA Euro 2012. He was named Player of the Tournament at UEFA Euro 2008, and was named in the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament in 2008 and 2012. With two assists in the UEFA Euro 2012 Final, Xavi became the first player to register assists in two separate European finals, after setting up the only goal in the final four years earlier. After the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Xavi announced his retirement from international football.