As the 84th La Liga title is awarded, we look at the team of the season in Spain.
Barcelona have just won their 23rd La Liga crown which leaves them 9 behind Real Madrid. While they aim for a potential treble, there were other star performers in the liga this season. We glance at the players who made a different to their teams and were major contributors to their teams’ causes in the 2014-15 season.
Claudio Bravo (Barcelona)
32 year old Bravo was brought in 9 months ago to fill the gloves left vacant by club legend Victor Valdes, and the Chilean has not disappointed. Winner of the prestigious Ricardo Zamora trophy this season, Bravo deserves the accolades as he helped Barcelona overcome the two Madrid teams and win their 23rd championship. Some might say he had better protection in front of him than Valencia’s Diego Alves, who also had a good season, but the records speak for themselves. Hold your breath for this. Bravo conceded 19 goals this season, only Deportivo in the 1993-94 season conceded fewer goals. His 0.51 goals conceded per game is the third highest in La Liga history. He went 754 minutes without conceding a goal, a new La Liga record and had 23 clean sheets this season, another Liga record. You may breathe again.
Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia), Jose Gaya (Valencia)
To be integral parts of a Barcelona team that has conceded the fewest goals this season means that Alves and Pique’s presence in this list is not a real surprise. 28 year old Pique’s season didn’t have the best start, with the Catalan crowd calling for him to be dropped, but as Barcelona’s season stabilized under Luis Enrique, so did Pique’s. With 5 La Liga goals added to the 2.1 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and 4.4 clearances per game in La Liga, Pique has shown he still is a top dog in the Barcelona defence.
His right-back Dani Alves has finished the season strongly amid speculations about him moving to another club. The Brazilian was fantastic in the win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and his La Liga form has been consistent. In arguably his best season at Camp Nou, Alves has improved as a player, reducing his mistakes and providing ammunition going forward as well. 6 assists in La Liga have been peppered in a season where he has made an impressive 4.1 tackles per game.
Europe Next: Otamendi has been instrumental in Valencia’s top four finish.
Otamendi in his first season has already becomes a fan-favourite especially with his two goals towards the end of the season that helped Valencia secure fourth place. He edges out Diego Godin in this list by narrow margins. His aerial threats and tough tackling made him an offensive option from set pieces and a wall at the back. It’s no wonder Louis van Gaal at Manchester United is interested. 6 goals in all complement 3.5 aerial duels won per game, along with 2.9 tackles 3.1 interceptions and 7.3 clearances per game.
Young left back Jose Gaya is a kid in this list. Yet, the 20 year old has been superb for Los Che, racking up a goal and 6 assists at the end of his darts up the pitch. Gaya still has a long way to go, but has come of age this season. He has looked calm and composed in defence as well and has been an important cog in the Valencia defence this season. He should eagerly be awaiting European football next season.
Daniel Parejo (Valencia), Bruno (Villareal), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)
The third Valencia player and the second Daniel on this list is play-maker Parejo. His 11 goals and 5 assists helped Valencia capture 4th place, while his 2.5 tackles per game meant he checked back to protect the defence every so often. Parejo’s ability to draw fouls from opponents was very useful for Los Che this season.
There are a few players whose importance is felt more when they are missing. Villareal’s defensive midfielder Bruno is one of them. Sitting in front of the defence, Bruno was the gatekeeper to Villareal’s centre halves. He made 2.8 interceptions from midfield and his reading of the opposition’s passes was impressive. His absence was felt towards the end of the season when he was injured and Villareal’s season petered out.
Playing for the biggest club in the world, justifying his mammoth price tag and slotting into an unfamiliar deeper midfield role have not fazed James Rodriguez this season. The Real Madrid midfielder has racked up 13 goals and 13 assists this season from a deeper midfield role. Perhaps one of his best remembered goals would be this little number against Almeria, or this one against Malaga which showed his passing and awareness as well as a fierce shot. Either way, the hefty price tag has been justified.
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
When you score 33 % of your team’s goals, it’s hard to stay out of any end of the season best eleven. This beings Antoine Griezmann to this list at the expense of Neymar or Luis Suarez. Capable of playing on either wing, or up-front, the Frenchman has hammered in 22 goals for Atletico this season, filling the void left by Diego Costa’s departure. Not much more needs to be said to justify his inclusion, but perhaps this effort against Deportivo wins over the skeptics.
Running out of superlatives in the english language is a struggle La Liga commentators have to contend with as we come to the last two players on this list. Lionel Messi’s season is still not over yet, but he has had the most complete season ever during his time at Barcelona. He has scored a staggering 43 goals in La Liga itself. If that was not impressive enough, he also has 18 assists to his name, with 25 man of the match displays out of a possible 38. The Argentine could still possibly add the Champions League to the already won Copa del Rey and La Liga medals. Staggering.
If there is one man who stand between Messi and the title of the best player of his generation, it is Cristiano Ronaldo. The two have been neck in neck in competition for the last four seasons in La Liga, as the Premier League’s loss became world football fans’ gain in the summer of 2009. Although Messi and Barcelona are Spanish champions, Ronaldo has made it a personal crusade against Messi to become the top goal scorer in La Liga. The Portuguese scored a bewildering 48 goals in 35 matches, also chipping in with 16 assists along the way. Sir Alex Ferguson said recently of the comparison between Messi and Ronaldo that the Portuguese could walk into any team in the world and still be able to score a hat-trick, while Messi is a Barcelona player. The jury is still out on who is better, but both together on this list make for an unbeatable starting eleven.
Here is a montage of some of the goals these two maestros scored this season:
stats courtesy whoscored.com