After an incredible season of the La Liga, let us take a look at the league's finest players
Real Madrid has finished 3rd at 68 points suffering heavy and unexpected losses from teams hovering at the bottom like Rayo Vallecano and Girona. 4th placed Valencia ends up 7 points behind Real Madrid but has edged out Getafe and Sevilla by only 2 points. With FC Barcelona lifting the trophy with a 2-2 draw against Eibar, let’s take a look at the La Liga Team of the Season!
(Bear in mind that the stats are only of the La Liga)
GOALKEEPER: JAN OBLAK (Atletico Madrid)
The Slovenian will take the Ricardo Zamora award for the 4th time, conceding only 27 goals in 37 appearances this season. He has piled up a jaw-dropping 20 clean sheets this season, which is more than half the games he’s played. Just sitting and thinking about it boggles the mind. Goes without saying that he leads the list of clean sheets. He is not only one of the most consistent goalkeepers but one of the most consistent players as well.
Combining great stopping power across all types of shots, reflexes and general reading of the game; it’s no wonder why he made the list. An asset for any team and Simeone and co. seem to know how to reap the benefits he offers, looking at the sheer amount of appearances. He intercepted 21 crosses along with 10 punched clearances and made 105 saves which goes to show that he’s one of the reasons why Atletico Madrid's defence is so highly regarded.
RIGHT BACK: JOSEBA ZALDUA (Real Sociedad)
Real Sociedad has produced some amazing players in recent years. Zaldua is certainly one of them, perhaps the one leading the charge. He proves that statistics are far from everything with 1 and 2 in goals and assists columns respectively. He has been lethal along the right edge of the field, always causing the defence to clench up under pressure.
Terrific agility and attacking prowess have enabled him to rack up 0.8 dribbles per game in the league. He has been just as crucial in defence with 2.5 clearances and 1.4 and 1.5 tackles and interceptions per game in 26 appearances. Fantastic at covering the ground and effective in both attack and defence, his inclusion is a no-brainer.
RIGHT CENTRE BACK: GERARD PIQUE (FC Barcelona)
Who else but the Barcelona veteran to clinch one of the centre back spots on the team of the season? He has been extremely adept this season. His intelligence as a defender reached the zenith of his decorated career this season. He knows how to coordinate with his teammates and when to be aggressive and when to fall back. He slightly favours aggression but not at the cost of the bigger picture and that is one of the reasons Barcelona stands triumphant.
Pique even had 4 goals and 2 assists to act as the cherry on top. On the defensive end, he racked up 1.2 and 1.1 tackles and interceptions (per game) respectively along with a staggering 4.2 clearances per game across 35 games. No better way to live up to(and perhaps, raise) lofty Barca standards.
LEFT CENTRE BACK: DIEGO GODIN (Atletico Madrid)
We move from one veteran to another. Atletico came across the football equivalent of an oil field by signing Diego Godin in 2010. With little help from a few others, he is the reason why Atletico Madrid has garnered a reputation as a pioneer in defensive football. His tackling, read, interceptions, technicality and aggression deceive you into thinking he’s not even close to his actual age (33).
With his partner in crime, Gimenez he has gridlocked attacking plays to the point where it’s not even surprising any more. It’s no wonder he’s part of the team with the least amount of goals conceded. As far as stats go, he averaged 1.7 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 4.2 clearances this season in 30 games; great but anticipated given the way he’s played this season as well as the ones before it.
LEFT BACK: JORDI ALBA (FC Barcelona)
It has been fascinating to see Jordi Alba start out at Barcelona in 2012 and transition into one of the best fullbacks in the world and still hold that spot. He is very adept at transitioning from a standard full back into a more attack-minded winger given the needs, which is a priceless asset regardless of strategy and playstyle. His link up with the front players, especially Messi is notable. He’s racked up 8 assists this year thanks to his style of play with an average of 1.3 key passes in the league. 1.2 and 1.7 tackles and interceptions respectively along with 1.5 clearances in 36 games just prove his versatility on both halves of the field.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: RODRIGO (Atletico Madrid)
At just 22, Rodri is the youngest player to make this list. Don’t let the age fool you as he has proved that he’s more than up to the mark. He has great vision and his perception of plays has been very intelligent leading him to score 3 goals and rack up an assist. Both his passing and tackling have been sublime thanks to his abundance of focus. Add to that, his aerial ability (2.3 aerial battles won) and he’s clearly a shoo-in for the list. The averages of 3.1 tackles, 1.2 interceptions, 2 clearances and passing accuracy of 91.1% in 34 appearances more than drive the point home.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: DANI PAREJO (Valencia CF)
With 9 goals, 7 assists, 2.3 key passes and 1.2 shots per game in the League despite playing what is by perception, a relatively defensive role (compared to the CAM and front three positions), Dani Parejo has deservedly risen to the top. His shooting, passing, set-pieces and general defence have all been finely tuned to pure quality. His long balls have been one of Valencia’s weapons of choice and they have served the team quite well. Even in defence, he has 2.1 and 1.3 tackles and interceptions respectively in 36 games over the season. A crucial jack of all trades.
RIGHT MIDFIELD: IAGO ASPAS (Celta Vigo)
With a little help from Maxi Gomez, Iago Aspas has carried Celta Vigo out of the pits of relegation this season. His finishing has been superb for many seasons and certainly did not disappoint this time as well. The 31-year-old almost has a natural flow with attacking plays and that is what makes him so deadly. 20 goals and 6 assists despite being in a bottom 5 team and 27 appearances just show how much weight he’s willing to carry and that’s what makes him indispensable to any team. The numbers on offence such as 2.6 shots, 2.1 key passes, 1.4 long balls per game and a pass accuracy of 82 add to his perceived commitment despite his old age.
LEFT MIDFIELD: PABLO SARABIA (Sevilla FC)
Versatility is the name of the game and Sarabia has it in spades. He’s able to play all three positions of the attacking midfield( left, centre, right) along with the winger positions. He transitioning and switching with other players to fit the needs of the game is seamless. He passing and tackling have been sublime and that might actually be an understatement. With a mammoth tally of 13 assists alongside a passing accuracy of 85.8% and 12 goals, his contribution to Sevilla’s success has been immense. The 2.3 shots per game and the 2.1 key passes per game are just a cherry on top for this offensive powerhouse. Maintaining those kinds of numbers over 33 appearances is worthy of recognition.
CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELD: LIONEL MESSI (FC Barcelona)
Everyone in every neck of every woods knew Messi was going to make this list. He’s rightfully referred to not just being the best player in the world but among the best of all time. 36 goals in 34 games. No one was even close to that tally. If thought goal scoring was all he did, you didn’t take into account that he’s also the assist leader in the League with 13 of his own. He averages 5 shots, 2.7 key passes, a mammoth 3.9 dribbles per game and an 81.2% passing accuracy.
Normally a person having just one of those figures would make the list blindfolded. He has been instrumental to Barcelona’s dominance, not only in the season but in this era of football in general. Even in his 30’s, his passing, dribbling, general prowess and finesse shooting are second to none. Add to that, some of the best free kicks in recent memory and you’d be hard-pressed to argue against his legendary status.
STRIKER: KARIM BENZEMA (Real Madrid CF)
Surprising to see just one Los Blancos player make the team of the season but that’s the way the cookie has crumbled. A lot of big-name players at Real Madrid took their positions for granted resulting in a very turbulent season. Karim Benzema was the opposite of that. He just doubled down on his focus and improved every facet of his game. His read has been fantastic and he has executed some the most difficult and exciting dribbles in the game.
Benzema has scored some of the most crucial goals for Real Madrid and as a result, is second in the goalscorers list with 21 goals in 36 games. He showcased some great footwork which is reflected in his tally of 1.3 dribbles per game. He has also had 6 assists in the La Liga averaging 1.3 key passes and 82.6% passing accuracy throughout the season, showing a level of dynamism and ferocity that is critical to any and every team.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Marc Bartra (Real Betis)