bundesliga

Thiago Alcantara and the top 5 Spanish players in Bundesliga history

Thiago Alcantara played a starring role as Bayern Munich wrapped up their second continental treble, but the midfield metronome is in good company among the Spanish players to have lit up the Bundesliga over the years.

Ahead of Die Mannschaft's meeting with Spain on Thursday, bundesliga.com takes a look at five of the best Iberians to have graced German football…

1) Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich)
Games: 150
Goals: 17
Honours: 7x Bundesliga, 4x DFB Cup, 3x Supercup, 1x UEFA Champions League, 1x FIFA Club World Cup

Watch: How Thiago pulls Bayern's strings

A midfield pass-master with few if any equals, Thiago joined Bayern in 2013 with then coach Pep Guardiola telling his board it was "Thiago or nothing" for his first summer of shopping at the Allianz Arena. The Barcelona academy graduate was ultimately joined by Mario Götze and Jan Kirchhoff in that transfer window, but he has since left that pair, and almost every opponent since, standing in his wake.

Sixteen major honours in the seven years since is an incredible haul, and Thiago was central to many of those successes; especially the most recent one - the 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League final. Thiago completed a team-high 92 percent of his passes, leaving the French champions chasing shadows.

"In the centre of the pitch, you don't have the time to identify which player it is on your team," Thiago told Miguel Delaney in the Independent recently. But nobody does precisely that better, and Thiago may just be the finest of his countrymen to have plied his trade in Germany.

2) Javi Martinez (Bayern)
Games: 146
Goals: 9
Honours: 8x Bundesliga, 5x DFB Cup, 3x Supercup, 2x UEFA Champions League, 1x UEFA Supercup, 1x FIFA Club World Cup

Javi Martinez was central to Bayern Munich's continental treble success in 2013, starting all 11 games on their march to that year's UEFA Champions League. - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Thiago is not the most decorated Spaniard in the history of German football, though. That honour goes to Bayern teammate Javi Martinez, whose mantlepiece must surely be straining under the weight of the 20 major honours he has won since swapping the Basque country for Bavaria in 2012.

Recent seasons have been less kind to the former Atheltic Bilbao man, and he only featured in 16 Bundesliga games last season, but in his pomp, he was a defensive midfielder par excellence; the steel to Thiago's silk despite his gentle off-field disposition.

"I can still remember when Franz Beckenbauer said 'Javi Martinez - who's that?'" recounted Guardiola's predecessor Jupp Heynckes on telling the Bayern and Germany legend whom he thought the missing cog in his system. Eight years on and it's a question nobody needs to ask.

3) Raul (Schalke)
Games: 66
Goals: 28
Honours: 1x DFB Cup, 1x Supercup

Watch: Raul's Top 5 Schalke goals!

The best of Raul's career may have been behind him by the time he left Real Madrid for Schalke in 2010, but the forward's star still shone brightly in his two seasons with the Royals Blues. Only Cristiano Ronaldo boasts more goals for Real than Raul's 323, and the left footer's flair for the big occasion was firmly intact as a 33-year-old at the Veltins Arena.

Raul scored 40 goals and assisted a further 21 in all competitions across his two seasons with Schalke. Aside from the DFB Cup and DFL Supercup double in 2011, highlights included scoring home and away against Inter Milan as Schalke secured a first-ever Champions League semi-final as well as winning Sportschau's Goal of the Year in Germany in 2011 and 2013.

"It's great news for Schalke," die Knappen coach Felix Magath had said on Raul's arrival. "I'm pleased that we've succeeded in signing such an exceptional footballer and world-class striker switching to the Bundesliga for Schalke." By the time he left, fans of the Royal Blues and beyond were in full agreement.

4) Thomas Christiansen (Bochum, Hannover)
Games: 101
Goals: 34
Honours: 1x Torjägerkanone

Bayern legend Giovane Elber (l.) had to share the Torjägerkanone award with Thomas Christiansen in 2003, the latter scoring just as many goals for a side who finished 30 points behind the champions. - imago images / HJS

Another left-footed attacker on this list, Denmark-born Christiansen represented his mother's native Spain, scoring one goal in two international outings back in 1993. It was at club level in Germany where he did his best work, though, in particular with Schalke's Ruhr neighbours Bochum.

Nicknamed die Unabsteigbaren (roughly: the un-relegatables), Bochum lived up to their nickname until 2010 when they first dropped down to Bundesliga 2. Whilst they were a solid ninth back in the 2002/03 season, that Christiansen managed to match Bayern striker Giovane Elber's goal-haul of 21 that year speaks volumes to his attacking potency during his peak years.

5) Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund)
Games: 37
Goals: 23
Honours: 1x Supercup

Watch: All 18 of Alcacer's goals in 2018/19

Completing this Spanish quintet is Paco Alcacer. While his time in the Bundesliga was brief, it dazzled just as brightly as the yellow on his Borussia Dortmund jersey. Alcacer's 24 goals across two seasons with BVB came in at a barely fathomable rate of one every 75 minutes he played, and he won the Supercup in 2019 for good measure. He also scored a record 10 goals off the bench in his maiden campaign.

The former Barcelona and Valencia striker returned to Spain with Villarreal in 2020 with Erling Haaland ready to lead the line. The Norwegian looks like the best young striker on the planet, but Paco is fondly remembered by the ranks of the Yellow Wall.