LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses of Liverpool celebrate winning a game during a training session at Melwood Training Ground on January 23, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

In the space of three days, between July 11 and July 14, 2014, Liverpool agreed deals with two La Liga clubs which saw a pair of strikers leave Anfield for Spain. 

One, over the course of the next eight years, would establish himself as one of the most lethal marskmen in European football. A living legend of a centre-forward with 129 goals in his last 253 games, many of them truly spectacular, the sort of finish you have to watch over and over again to figure out the pure physics of it all. 

The other is Luis Suarez. 

Turning English Football Completely UPSIDE DOWN | Football Manager 2022 Experiment

Turning English Football Completely UPSIDE DOWN | Football Manager 2022 Experiment
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Now, nobody is suggesting that Aspas could hold a candle to Suarez’s enviable collection of silverware. The only trophy on his CV is the Europa League title he secured during a loan spell at Sevilla. But while Suarez had Lionel Messi and Neymar to share the burden with at Barcelona, Aspas, at Celta Vigo, has often been a one-man show. 

If Suarez, Messi and Neymar were football’s Nirvana – a truly iconic trio who’s influence will be felt across the generations – then Aspas is more of a Jimi Hendrix. Celta’s Balaidos turf his very own Woodstock. 

Aspas’ lack of trophies, meanwhile, is a reflection of his undying loyalty, rather than anything to do with his ability.

Is Iago Aspas a La Liga legend?

Where would Celta be without him?

That’s a question akin to asking where would that Liverpool side of the mid-2000s have been without Steven Gerrard? A hometown boy turned sporting icon. A truly wonderful, era-defining footballer who’d reject the chance to play for Real Madrid’s all-conquering 1950s and 1960s side if it meant one more game, one more goal in the light blue shirt of Celta Vigo. 

His performance in Sunday’s topsy-turvy 4-3 victory over Real Mallorca was Aspas’ Celta career in a nutshell. Dragging his team-mates out of the mire, Aspas stepped up when they needed him the most, rifling home a 97th minute winner from the penalty spot.

Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

That ‘Messi of Moana’ nickname is not just the result of some inventive alliteration. It’s an accurate describtion of just how influential he has been, and remains to be.

“He’s a superstar. If he’s not playing at a bigger club, it’s because he doesn’t want to,” says Valencia manager Jose Bordalas, via ESPN.

Forget ‘the Messi of Moana’. Perhaps ‘La Liga’s Le Tiss’ would be an even more appropriate moniker. 

Across two spells at the Galician club – either side of that most forgettable stint in Liverpool red – Aspas has scored 179 goals. That makes him the all-time top scorer in Celta’s near-century long existence.

It’s not even close either. Second place on that list – Aleksandr Mostovoy – finished 109 short of Aspas’ tally. 

Aspas was just 25 when he joined Liverpool in the summer of 2013. After 14 goalless Premier League appearances (‘Iago Aspas corner’ is still the second highest google search associated with the Spain international), few would have dared to imagine that at 34, he’d be chasing down Karim Benzema in La Liga’s Golden Boot race, and his 200th goal in Celta colours.

Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

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