James Felton brings you his verdict on the best eleven players in Spanish football this season, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
The La Liga season finished last weekend, with Barcelona as its champion, and after a season of yet again more surprises, beautiful football and with scintillating moments of great joy and sadness.
This season managed to see more young players emerge, Valencia return to somewhere near the ability that it has historically been and saw Sevilla finish 5th place with a record amount of points, 75, which would have seen the Andalucians win the league in 97/98, 99/00, 01/02 and 06/07.
As a note, it must be said that this team of the season, is based on formation as well as playing ability.
That is, there is not as much imbalance to the team as standard teams of the seasons have, but as a consequence, it means there is no room for Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez and Antoine Griezmann, who would normally be up for the places, as it would be both unrealistic and unfair to play five attacking players, when, at maximum, there is only really three.
Claudio Bravo has seamlessly filled the gap left by Victor Valdes, and, at the start of the season, set a new La Liga record by going 754 minutes without conceding a goal.
The Chilean has also won the much coveted Zamora trophy, having only conceding nineteen goals in 37 league games. In those 37 games, Bravo also kept 23 clean sheets. That is, Bravo had a fantastic campaign in his debut season at the Nou Camp. Much focus has been given to the attacking triumvirate of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, and rightly so, but Bravo played an important role, and will be hoping to win a treble.
When Valencia sold their star, Juan Bernat, to Bayern Munich, there was questions about who would fill the void. Fortunately, the Valencia academy, which has also produced left footed players Jordi Alba and David Silva in recent years, could count upon Jose Luis Gaya in their squad.
The 20 year old, has emerged as a bright spot in an even brighter season, which saw los che return to the Champions League. The adventurous left-back has defended well, and his crossing ability is second to none, giving inch perfect deliveries o the likes of Alvaro Negredo and Paco Alcacer. Having only turned twenty yesterday, it is clear that Gaya has a huge amount of potential, and this can be served as a belated birthday present.
Nicolas Otamendi was arguably Valencia’s best signing of the season, and it seems that the Argentine will be heading to Old Trafford as Manchester United look to bolster their squad in order to try and win the Premier League next season.
Otamendi is a leader, a strong defender, a fantastic reader of the game, can score goals with his head, can play out from the back and, has, it could be argued, been Valencia’s best player this season. Picking him for team of the season is a no brainer, and it will be interesting to see what happens with his summer.
The other centre-half to feature is Gerard Pique, one of the best defenders in world football.
Having not performed as well as he could have last season, and having a slightly average start to the season, which saw Pique be omitted for a Spain squad, the former Manchester United player has shown great determination to be performing at his highest level again. Another key function of this great Barcelona side, Pique will be hoping to conserve his great form and try and help Spain defend the European Championships in 2016.
Whilst his future has not been resolved, it could be claimed that Dani Alves had his best season as a Barcelona player.
The Brazilian provided six assists, but more importantly, provided defensive cover for Lionel Messi on the right hand side, whilst also making attacking runs, which not only gives Barcelona more options, but leaves Lionel Messi with more space, and that is something that is certain, that Lionel Messi is unplayable with space.
It could also be that Dani Alves ends up with Otamendi at Old Trafford, or perhaps he plays with fellow Brazilian defenders David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Maxwell, at PSG. One thing is for sure, Alves has had a fantastic season, and certainly deserves to be in this team.
One of the most underrated players for Barcelona is their holding midfielder, Sergio Busquets.
The Catalan has, as always, provided stable and consistent performances for the Azulgrana, and is yet another reason why Barcelona are set on course for the treble. Without Busquets, the Barcelona attacks, and possession games, would not flow as well and with only 26 years of age, Busquets will be holding the pieces together for years to come.
Ivan Rakitic has added another dimension to this Barcelona side, and is a more attack-minded player than Busquets. Rakitic has scored five goals, and produced seven assists, which statistically demonstrate his abilities. However, there are other jobs that Rakitic has done which cannot necessarily be corroborated by stats.
Rakitic, when asked, stays and defends, or sometimes he ventures further forward. The creation can also produce extremely accurate long-balls, which Messi, Suarez and Neymar are very grateful for. In short, Rakitic has fitted in superbly with Barcelona, and perhaps will be able to play an even more important role next season, now that Xavi Hernandez has left the club.
Whilst the season has been a disappointment for Real Madrid, the emergence of Isco as a regular starter has been one of the brightest aspects of their season.
The Spaniard has, it can be argued, has his most influential and consistent season, and has converted the potential he showed with Malaga to true ability.
A return of four goals and nine assists show the influence he has had on the team, and it is true that Isco is an expert at opening up the space that the other team have. In short, he is a defender’s nightmare, and Cristiano Ronaldo must love seeing the former Valencia academy player on the teamsheet.
Whilst Real Madrid finished second in the league, and lost in the Champions League semi-finals, Cristiano Ronaldo has still had a phenomenal season, amid the controversy over his relationship with Gareth Bale.
Ronaldo ended the season as the Pichici winner, with a grand total of 48 goals. Ronaldo has constantly scored goals, and whilst it has been said that he hasn’t turned up in the games where it mattered, Ronaldo still deserves to be in the team of the season.
Neymar has converted his huge potential to world-class ability, and should be looking at aiming to win a Ballon D’or, at some point of his career. The Brazilian has put the world-cup heartbreak and the controversy over his transfer fee to one side, and has managed to score an impressive 22 goals. Whilst Neymar may not get the press that Ronaldo and Messi do, he still scores goals after goals and is pivotal for the Barcelona side to operate.
It would not be a La Liga team of the season without picking Lionel Messi, the best player in the world. Whilst it was still an excellent season, Messi was not up to his usual standards last year, but this season he has performed just as well as any of his career.
The Argentine has wowed crowds with his skills, with his amazing turn of feet, his dribbling ability and, of course, his 43 goals in the league. Messi will be hoping to guide his Argentina side, managed by ex-Barcelona manager Tata Martino, to Copa America success this summer, and with the season he has had, you wouldn’t bet against it.