ESPN announced today that six renowned former LaLiga players will headline the company’s exclusive and unprecedented coverage of LaLiga in the U.S. beginning August 13, when the 2021-22 season kicks off. The soccer television analysts will have recurring roles on the English- and Spanish-language presentation of LaLiga across ESPN+, ABC, ESPN, and ESPN Deportes.
Former Atlético Madrid’s Luis Garcίa, Real Madrid’s Steve McManaman, and RCD Espanyol’s Pablo Zabaleta will share lead roles as English-language analysts. Former Atletico Madrid’s Diego Forlán, former Valencia CF’s Mario Kempes, and Real Madrid legend Hugo Sánchez lead the team of Spanish-language analysts.
Collectively the six analysts earned seven league titles, four Copa del Rey titles, and three UEFA Champions League titles. Forlán (2) and Sánchez (1) earned three European Golden Boot awards, as the top scorer for a season in Europe. Together, the six former players scored a combined 521 league goals, led by Sánchez (234), Forlán (128), and Kempes (126). The three forwards also won nine Pichichi Trophies, given to LaLiga’s top goal-scorer each season.
“We are pleased to have these legendary players represent LaLiga on ESPN+ and ESPN networks for the foreseeable future,” said Rodolfo Martinez, Vice President, International, and ESPN Deportes Production, ESPN. “This group reflects our commitment and ambition to elevate how soccer fans in the U.S. experience LaLiga matches and exciting storylines throughout the year across our platforms.”
Bilingual analysts will appear on Spanish- and English-language pregame, halftime, and post-game programs across ABC, ESPN, and ESPN+, in addition to highlights and analysis shows including SportsCenter, ESPN FC Jorge Ramos y su Banda and Fuera de Juego.
The 91st season of LaLiga will kick off on Friday, Aug. 13, with Valencia CF vs. Getafe CF at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+, the exclusive, new home of coverage in the U.S. LaLiga content will also appear across a combination of ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ABC platforms. The season-opening weekend will include the first LaLiga on ABC broadcast – Barcelona FC vs. Real Sociedad – on Sunday, Aug. 15, starting at 1:30 p.m. The match will also be simulcast on ESPN Deportes and stream live on ESPN+.
· Diego Forlán – One of the most accomplished Uruguayan players, Forlán joins ESPN as a LaLiga studio and match analyst. He spent sight seasons in the league – three with Villarreal and five with Atletico Madrid. Forlán won LaLiga scoring titles in the 2004-2005 season with Villarreal (25 goals) and in 2008-09 with 35 goals for Atletico Madrid. His 128 goals in 240 LaLiga matches rank fourth by a South American player in the league. Forlan played 112 international games for Uruguay National Team, including appearances in three FIFA World Cup (2002, 2010, and 2014) competitions. He won the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (best player) Award in 2010.
· Luis Garcίa – Following guest appearances on ESPN FC during the past year, the former Spanish National Team player will become a regular LaLiga on ESPN+ analyst starting this season. His early years as a professional were at Barcelona’s famous La Masίa Academy and Barcelona B team, including loan spells at Valladolid and Tenerife from 1999-2002. Garcίa played in seven LaLiga seasons with different clubs such as Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Racing Santander. He won the 2005 Champions League title with Liverpool FC. Garcia played for Liverpool from 2004-07 and became a legend with the club’s fans for his decisive goals during its Champions League campaign.
· Mario Kempes – 1978 FIFA World Cup champion and Golden Boot Award winner, Kempes has been one of the most recognizable soccer analysts on ESPN Deportes (U.S.) and ESPN in Latin American. Beginning this season, Kempes will provide weekly studio and match analysis on the Spanish-language presentation of LaLiga on ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes. Kempes played for Valencia CF from 1976-1981 and returned for two more seasons (1982-84). He was LaLiga’s top goal-scorer in 1977 and 1978. Kempes helped lead Valencia to two Spanish Cup titles, one European Super Cup, and two European Cup Winners Cup titles. He represented Argentina in three FIFA World Cup competitions – 1974, 1978, and 1982 – and played in 43 international matches.
· Steve McManaman – The former England National Team standout has worked as an ESPN analyst since 2010 – both in-studio and calling matches. McManaman and play-by-play commentator Ian Darke earned critical acclaim for their commentary on Saturday morning Premier League matches for ESPN in the U.S. from 2010-13. He contributed to two FIFA World Cups (2010 and 2014) and the past three European Championships (2012, 2016, 2020) on ESPN networks. McManaman’s club career spanned 16 seasons with Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Manchester City. He won two UEFA Champions League titles at Real Madrid (2000 and 2002).
· Hugo Sánchez – One of Mexico’s most prominent soccer stars, Sánchez has been part of ESPN Deportes’ soccer coverage since 2014. Sánchez will focus primarily on LaLiga on ESPN+ from the 2021-22 season. His new role as a LaLiga television analyst marks Sánchez’s return to commentate on a league where he had his best years as a professional. Sánchez won the first of his five Pichichi (top goal-scorer) Trophies at Atlético Madrid in 1985, and his next four with Real Madrid (1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990). He won numerous titles in Spain – five league titles, two Copa del Rey, and four Spanish Super Cups. Sánchez played 58 matches for the Mexican National Team from 1977 – 1994.
· Pablo Zabaleta – A member of Argentina’s National Team that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup and 2008 Summer Olympics Gold, Zabaleta will make his LaLiga on ESPN+ debut this season. Zabaleta began his European career in 2005 with RCD Espanyol. He immediately led the team to its last Copa del Rey title in 2006. The following season, he anchored the defense as RCD Espanyol reached the 2006-07 UEFA Cup Final. Zabaleta moved to English Premier League’s Manchester City in 2008, where he won two Premier League titles in 2012 and 2014. Zabaleta played 58 matches for Argentina’s senior team, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup final at the famed Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He retired from professional football in October 2020.
ESPN+ will stream more than 380 matches in English and Spanish during the LaLiga season as part of a historic rights agreement announced earlier this year. (ESPN will announce the full roster of commentators, analysts and studio hosts for LaLiga on a later date.)
La Liga TV schedule
All times Eastern.
Monday, September 27
Friday, October 1
Saturday, October 2
Sunday, October 3
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