First things first, Spanish football has clearly turned into a two-horse race. The rest of the 18 clubs have been given the honour of crowning who they want by putting in performances, good or bad, against them. And when both the super clubs meet, it’s supposed to be the biggest football match in history ever. Frankly, Spanish football is turning out to be a joke. You can brag all day about how technically superior the players are and how football and culture are all mingled up but you cannot deny how the other clubs are treated and how hard it is for them to survive in this league where only super clubs can win. Let’s leave this for another day and get down to some business.
Team of the season
FC Barcelona – virtually, an unstoppable force in La Liga. The Catalans won their third consecutive La Liga title.
Shock of the season
Real Madrid spent all the cash in the world, bought some of the best players in the world, and signed on the best tactician in club football. But nothing could have stopped Barcelona that night. Real Madrid could only watch the ball go in as the clock ticked slowly for 90 minutes signaling the end of a painful five-nil drubbing for the visitors. The Catalans produced a footballing masterclass that promises to be the epitome for total dominance in years to come. And yes, you had Ramos slapping Puyol and Xavi, and Mourinho calling himself impotent. Beat that!
Fastest to get the boot
Sevilla’s Antonio Alvarez got the boot just five games into the season and it proved to be the right decision as Sevilla improved exponentially under Gregorio Manzano. Thereafter, much to the delight of their fans, Sevilla played better football and managed to finish fifth in the league. Alvarez was gracious enough to admit that his sacking was not unjust.
Prediction of the season
When Esteban Vigo, a former Barca player and Hercules manager, predicted that Hercules would beat Barcelona 0-2 at the Nou Camp, the world thought he was a lunatic who was hopelessly stupid. The next day they stood up and saluted him. Barca had 80% possession and Hercules had Nelson Valdez.
Worst Prediction of the season
The Barcelona president Sandro Rosell got so carried away with the manita that he predicted that the Catalans team would win with the same margin in the Copa final. Well, we all know what happened.
Player(s) of the season
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – two incredible players, one who has made such a habit of changing games in the blink of an eye that it is no longer a surprise and the other who has been on a mission to smash all the record barriers. Once again, the magical duo dazzled the world this season and with 31 goals and 40 goals respectively, Messi and Ronaldo are the most valuable players of the season.
Flop of the season
Before the beginning of the season, Diego Forlan could do nothing wrong. He led Atletico Madrid to Europa league glory and then was adjudged the player of the tournament in the World Cup. As the season progressed, he disappointed the fans and himself with his pathetic performances. Also, his feud with the manager did not help matters. Atletico are now looking to offload their one time hero.
Most controversial goal of the year
Against Real Sociedad, Ronaldo’s free kick deflected off Pepe and went into the goal. The referee’s rewarded it to Pepe. But Marca, the awesome newspaper it is, decided to do something stupid again. They awarded that goal to Ronaldo to ensure he was in the Pichichi race. In the end, it did not matter.
Best inspirational speech of the season
“Barcelona’s eight goals don’t mean anything to me. I’d like to see them score eight on Monday“, said Ronaldo after the Catalans scored eight against Almeria. Barca disappointed Ronaldo by scoring only five.
Smallest budget but a big heart
Levante’s annual budget of €17m is the smallest in the league and they had not paid anything in transfer fees for the last three years for 30 players. Yes, this is a club that plays in La Liga’s first division in 2010-11.
Selling the stars but still lighting up the league
Valencia wins this hand down. Villa, Silva, Zigic and Marchena left to provide some much needed financial help to Los Che and everybody thought that Valencia were going down. But Valencia knows a thing or two about winning, despite selling their stars, thanks to Gaizka Mendieta. Valencia played entertaining football, never backing down, lead the table for a few weeks, and eventually finished with automatic Champions League qualification .
Accepting the reality award
Depor coach Miguel-Ángel Lotina, after the thrashing against Barcelona, said “I can now say that we are the worst team in the first division.”
“We won’t appeal the cards because they were both cards, I acted like a little kid – I didn’t need to make those challenges, I was just so overexcited. It’s my own entire fault.” – Hercules midfielder Francisco Farinós, after making a comeback as a substitute and getting two immediate yellow cards.
Impossible but understandable suggestion of the season
Sevilla president José María del Nido’s suggestion was tempting. He suggested, “The other eighteen clubs should get together and kick Barcelona and Madrid out. Let them go and play in France or Portugal. We won’t mind competing in a different league to them.“
Abuse of the year
“If no one at Real Madrid is going to tell this bloke how to behave, I will. Who the f**k does he think he is to say things like that? Well, we might be poor but we’re not idiots. He is a bad colleague, egotistical. He is a scumbag.“
Only one guy could have pulled this off – Manolo Preciado. And the victim? Jose Mourinho. The victim also had a bottle thrown at him by Cani during a match. Surely, he was the most hated man in La Liga this season.
No competition for this. 114 completed passes out of 117 attempted in the 5-0 victory against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid is the perfect testimony of the fact that there can be only one winner – Xavi Hernandez.
Best inventive rant
Just when you thought post-match rants were getting boring, Jose Mourinho proved it all wrong. After the match against Sevilla, he brought a paper for the press conference, highlighting 13 grave errors by the referee on an official club letter head. The rant was sickening, but amusing.
Hero to zero award
Drenthe, at the start of the season, became a fan favourite at Alicante with his performances. But in January, he decided to refrain from training or playing until his dues were settled, leading to abuse from the fans and finally to his disownment.
Goal of the season
There have been stunning goals but Cani’s goal against Osasuna very narrowly edges out the other spectacular goals.
Manager of the season
The youngest manager in La Liga and no, it’s not Pep Guardiola. It’s Luis Garcia of Levante. At times, there is more to football than winning trophies.
Javier Aguirre of Real Zaragoza gets a mention here for his victory against Real Madrid and for ensuring that his side stays afloat for the next year inspite of the financial difficulties.
Story of the season
Levante were down with debt of €88m at start of the season. Felipe Caicedo, their costliest player, makes less money in a year(€350,000 ) than what Ronaldo earns in a week. Now that the season is over, they will look to repay most of their debt over the next five years and move into a brand new stadium. And according to estimates their old stadium land’s value is €90m. Where there is will, there is always a way.
According to Sid Lowe, they also made a video in which the squad come together to sing to their fans, thanking them for their support and promising that they will remain at each others’ sides. It finishes with a message: Sorry for being out of tune, we’ll make it up to you on the pitch. And they did just that. Take a bow, Levante.
Drama of the season
Three equalizers, three red cards, a 91st minute winner and a coach sent off. Phew!
Equalizer of the year
Dani Aranzubia’s 95th minute header against Almeria.
So, what’s the big deal? Dani Aranzubia is a goal keeper, and is the first goal keeper ever to score from open play in the Spanish league.
Heart break of the season
Relegation of Deportivo La Coruna. It was heartbreaking to watch the La Liga champions of 2000 and one of the fiercest challengers for the title in the past decade get relegated. We will miss you, Riazor.
Sporting Gesture of the season
Valencia’s gesture to Japan’s cyclone victims was extremely pleasing and heart warming.
Saluting the human spirit
Eric Abidal’s world shook when the medical report said that he had cancer. After six weeks, Eric Abidal stepped onto the football pitch and lifted the Champions League trophy at Wembley, wearing the captain’s arm band. He has sold all of his cars and has invested everything in hospitals and for children. Inspirational.
Winter signing of the season
Julio Baptista. He rejuvenated a relegation-threatened Malaga side and thanks to his heroics, Malaga have managed to stay in the first division to fight for another year. And, he cost only €2.5m. Priceless.
Impact player of the season
Frederic Kanoute has been sublime and versatile for Sevilla, slotting into different positions depending on the situation. It’s no coincidence that the best moments for Sevilla in this season have come when he has graced the pitch.
Upset of the season
Jose Mourinho’s unprecedented winning streak at home finally came to an end. And it was not at the hands of Barcelona or Manchester United. Sporting Gijon ended a run that had lasted for nine years and 150 games.
Signing of the season
At €15m, Mesut Ozil has been nothing short of a bargain for the Casa Blanca. The German playmaker has dazzled fans, critics and his team mates with his flawless performances and his countless assists. He has produced more than 125 goal scoring opportunities, more than anybody else in Spain and has displaced Kaka as the primary playmaker for Los Blancos. One of the best midfielders in the world currently and a potential Ballon’D Or winner, Ozil is the heart of Madrid’s offense.
Most exciting team of the year
When they were in full flow, Villarreal were easily the most exciting team to watch in Europe. Their form has been wobbly and it has been a tale of two halves. The first of the season was brilliant and the second patchy. They were too inconsistent against the small teams but have managed to secure a CL spot for next season.