Striker Borja Iglesias has made the switch from Real Betis to Bayer Leverkusen. - © Fran Santiago
Striker Borja Iglesias has made the switch from Real Betis to Bayer Leverkusen. - © Fran Santiago

Who is Borja Iglesias, Bayer Leverkusen's new Spanish striker that goes by the moniker of Panda?


Known as Panda among his teammates, Borja Iglesias brings big quality to Bayer Leverkusen's front line, with the on-loan Spain international striker keen to add more goals to the Werkself's title push. has the inside story on the one-time Copa del Rey winner.

Borja Iglesias

Age: 31 (born 17 January 1993)
Club: Bayer Leverkusen (on loan from Real Betis)
Position: forward
Country: Spain (2 caps)

Key stats

Hailing from the Galician capital of Santiago in northwestern Spain, the 6'2" forward took his initial steps in the game with local side SD Compostela before going on to fine tune his young footballing know-how at the Valencia, CD Roda and Villarreal academies. 

Initially joining Celta Vigo's reserves as a 21-year-old, Iglesias stepped up to the senior pros to make his Spanish top-flight bow against Sevilla in January 2015. His reputation continued to flourish with Celta's second team during that time and he enjoyed an immensely encouraging return of 76 goals in 146 games for the Sky Blues' B team across four seasons, culminating in a play-off berth for the Spanish second tier.  

Iglesias enjoyed a productive season in the colours of Espanyol in 2018/19. - David Ramos

Real Zaragoza - then playing in the second division -  made a successful loan move for Iglesias ahead of their 2017-18 campaign. The striker excelled in his new surroundings and helped coach Natxo González's side to reach the play-offs for the top-flight, contributing a joint third-best 22 goals in the division along the way.   

The striker was on the move again in 9 July 2018 when Primera Liga side Espanyol came calling. Iglesias maintained his goal-scoring consistency with Los Periquitos, netting 23 times in 46 outings across all competitions with the Barcelona-based side eventually making the qualification places for European competition.    

Borja Iglesias was a key member of Real Betis's 2022 Copa del Rey winning side. - CRISTINA QUICLER

Yet Iglesias's crowning glory was still ahead and it came in the form of an unforgettable year for the player while at Real Betis in 2022.

The 31-year-old first joined the Andalusian side on a long-term deal three years previously but initially found it difficult to find his groove during a tricky first season with The Green-and-Whites.

Things improved dramatically for the player in the following campaign, however, with Iglesias scoring 11 goals in 28 top-flight games to help Betis qualify for a Europa League place thanks to a sixth-placed league finish. 

A run to the Copa del Rey final followed in 2021/22, with Iglesias not only top-scoring in the tournament with five goals, but also netting the crucial injury-time goal that took Betis past Rayo Vallecano in the semi-finals and into the showpiece. His subsequent man-of-the-match performance against Valencia ensured that Betis won their third Copa on penalty kicks. 

Iglesias has expressed his admiration for ex-Spain striker Fernando Torres (c.) - Laurence Griffiths

The following September, the forward was called up to the senior Spanish side and he made his international bow with La Roja in a 2-1 loss against Switzerland in the Nations League. He has since won one further senior cap in a UEFA EURO qualifier against Scotland in March 2023.   

Plays a bit like: Fernando Torres 

"Fernado has always been a reference point for me," Iglesias once said, and there are hints of the multi-title winning striker's game in Leverkusen's new forward. With a strong build, excellent turn of pace and the ability to combine clever, delicate finishes with net-busting strikes, Iglesias's all-round game in attack should very much suit the Werkself's style.     

Did you know?

A big hip-hop fan, Iglesias is known as Panda - and even has a tattoo of a panda on his ankle - after a song of the same name from rapper Desiigner. It was during his time with Celta's B team that the song became popular in the dressing roon and the side became known as the Panda team, with Iglesias carrying the nickname from that period throughout his career to date.  

What they're saying ...

"Borja Iglesias, with his footballing profile, can fill the gap left by Victor (Boniface's) absence (through injury). He is physically strong, is good at winning the ball, is confident in moves, does not shirk any challenges and is good at finishing. He gives us a necessary option in attack to continue our successful season." Bayer's sporting managing director Simon Rolfes. 

"I feel so proud to have been able to give absolutely everything to help my team. I really wanted to experience seomthing like this; it's a beautiful thing." - Iglesias speaks immediately after his man-of-the-match performance in Betis's 2022 Copa del Rey final win. 

"I fully appreciate what I have every second. Obviously it's fantastic to win and to enjoy the great moments, but I've always tried to take advantage of the not so great times too. I try to learn from those and to make sure they bring things that I can incorporate into my life, and not just my football career." - Iglesias in an interview with el Periódico de España.