A few years ago I was at a pub quiz where a question asked teams to list famous Finns. With little knowledge of Finland beyond some its most famous sports stars I was only able to come up with two footballers (Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen) and two racing drivers (Kimi Raikkonen and Hannu Mikkola). This got me wondering how people would generally get on if the questions asked for famous Spaniards. Of course everyone will have different answers depending on their own knowledge and interests (history, sport, music, art, literature) so let’s narrow the question and ask who do you think are the top ten most famous living Spaniards? Give it some thought before you move on.
Personally I’m a big sports fan so I couldn’t contemplate such a list without including numerous sports stars and football is the number one sport in Spain. So I have to ask myself who are the most famous Spanish footballers at the moment playing in Spain and abroad. In Spain I reckon Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona will most likely make my list as football fans worldwide will know them. In England Fernando Torres has long been in the headlines whilst David Silva and Pepe Reina have made their mark on the English game. Cesc Fabregas is an interesting option as he made his name with Arsenal and is now a key member of the FC Barcelona team. And there are players who are no longer in the spotlight but were world famous not so long ago such as Raul Gonzalez from Real Madrid. Some football managers have also become famous such as Vicente del Bosque who won the World Cup with Spain and ones who have plied their trade in England such as Rafa Benitez and Juande Ramos.
At this stage I’m sure many American readers are wondering who I’m talking about so let’s see which Spanish sports stars will be best known in the USA. Pau Gasol left Barcelona’s basketball team to ply his trade in the NBA and became a big star over there. Similarly in the world of golf Sergio Garcia has made his home in the US and speaks English with an American accent. Sadly Seve Ballesteros is no longer with us, I’m sure he would have been in most people’s list of famous Spaniards.
Tennis star Rafa Nadal is a person that deserves a place in an all time list of famous Spaniards as he has undoubtedly been one of the greatest players of all time. His time out of the game due to knee injuries allowed his friend David Ferrer to climb above him in the official ranking but Rafa will always be up there with the best.
In motorsport Fernando Alonso has twice won the Formula One world championship and is revered nationwide whilst in the world of MotoGP Dani Pedrosa has twice been world champion. Being in the public eye probably gives them the edge for my list over world rally champion and winner of the Dakar Rally, Carlos Sainz.
Another sport which is huge in Spain is cycling and there are many riders are very famous throughout Europe. Miguel Indurain won five Tour de France titles without cheating which makes him the greatest cyclist of all time in my book. The current star is Alberto Contador who has won three Tours de France which still stand amidst doping allegations. I sometimes wonder whether other Spanish cyclists such as Carlos Sastre would have claimed greater fame had (my former hero) Lance Armstrong not cheated his way to winning seven Tours that have since been stripped from him.
What about Spaniards outside sport? In Hollywood there are three Spanish superstars that spring to mind: Antonio Banderas is from Malaga; Penelope Cruz is from Madrid and her husband, Javier Bardem, is from Las Palmas. His recent role in Skyfall hasn’t done his career any harm whatsoever! Another Spaniard that has made his mark on the world of movies is Pedro Almodovar who is recognised as one of the industry’s top filmmakers.
And then there’s the wonderful world of music. José Carreras is Spain’s most famous tenor who performed alongside Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti as the ‘Three Tenors’ whilst Montserrat Caballé is Spain’s most famous operatic voice. Julio Iglesias would have to go down as one of Spain’s most famous pop voices of all time whilst his son Enrique became a superstar in the Hispanic pop world.
Okay, now just for fun have a go at listing your top ten most famous Spaniards who are still alive. Here’s my list:
- Rafa Nadal
- Penelope Cruz
- Andres Iniesta
- The King of Spain
- Fernando Alonso
- Antonio Banderas
- Sergio Garcia
- Miguel Indurain
- Cesc Fabregas
- Julio Iglesias
I’m sure these people will feel honoured to have made my top 10 (especially the King!). Apologies to Fernando Torres … you could have been in there but you left Liverpool 😉 Any list or extra suggestions are more than welcome in the “Comments” section below. Have fun!