After months of tussle, goals, saves, matchups, battles, and iconic moments the title race in Spain has finally concluded. Atletico Madrid were crowned the Champions of Spain on Saturday. The runners-up medal was bagged by Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid while Barcelona and Koeman finished third in the title race. The last Champions League spot was secured by Sevilla after a narrow win at Alaves.
Though Diego Simeone’s men had the opportunity to take the silverware home it wasn’t a cakewalk for any of the teams.
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) May 22, 2021
Persistent hard work, battling through injuries, performing week in and week out to get their hands on silverware, it turned out to be a tough season for the players.
FootTheBall takes a glimpse at how the teams have fared this season and what went wrong and what went right for the top-4 clubs in Spain.
Before the start of this season, other than optimistic Atletico fans no one would have predicted Diego Simeone’s side to be crowned champions. But when the going gets tough only the best get going, and this is exactly what happened with Los Rojiblancos. A shambolic campaign last year meant Simeone would push the limits in Atletico’s training ground.
But his troops followed every order of their leader with utmost determination and passion. The roadmap was drawn before the season even began. Atletico has always been a side heavily dependent on their defense and their lack of attacking flair has been a problem.
❤️ 🏆 𝐂 𝐇 𝐀 𝐌 𝐏 𝐈 𝐎 𝐍 𝐒 🏆 🤍
Atletico Madrid win #LaLigaSantander for an 11th time!
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) May 22, 2021
But the arrival of Yanick Carrasco and Luis Suarez filled in the important holes. Suarez, who was thrown out of Barcelona because of his age, came to the other side of the pond to prove his worth. And oh boy! Did he prove it? An unimaginable 21 goal season that too when he was sidelined for a few matches.
Who can forget his decisive goal against Los Blancos and his 90th-minute winner last week? Simeone’s men started the campaign with utmost determination with a demolishing 6-1 victory in their opening match.
Imagine signing Luis Suarez for free from a title contender. Imagine he decided to accept lower salary to show everyone he’s not finished or too old. Imagine winning La Liga thanks to this incredible striker.
What a deal. Congrats, Atlético ⚪️🔴🇺🇾 pic.twitter.com/lwz6qU1rBr
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) May 22, 2021
But then Atletico decided to slack for a few games with 2 goalless draws, and an embarrassing loss to Bayern Munich. The fans at Wanda Metropolitano were witnessing something unusual. But the early shocks were completely ignored and a smooth ride is what followed next. It seemed as if their season took off as they marched past any opposition.
A satisfying run of form as players started shining for Atleti. Marcos Llorente scored more than 10 goals and served more than assists, as he became a fulcrum in Atleti’s midfield.
The likes of Correa and Carrasco were exceptional throughout the season, rarely misplacing passes, scoring pivotal goals, and efficiently getting the ball out of tight spaces. Another hero for Simeone’s side was their keeper Jan Oblak, a name that the world is aware of. Clean-sheets, saves he was nothing less than a wall in for Atletico.
Jan Oblak celebrates Atletico’s triumph with the fans 🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/TNEUBygo1w
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) May 22, 2021
Simeone’s tactics started to fall off in the end when Atletico dropped points increasing pressure on themselves. But in the end, it was too little too late for other squads as they couldn’t catch Los Rojiblancos who finished LaLiga with the biggest domestic silverware.
GRADE- For their mouth-watering performance, Atletico Madrid gets an A.
Barcelona had a season that was muddled, chaotic, and was full of ups and downs. After being kicked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich a revolution was required at Camp Nou. A storm of protests did stop Lionel Messi from leaving his boyhood club but he once again couldn’t reap the returns from the plants he had sown. The story was similar for the Catalans even this campaign as the Argentine was seen carrying them on his back throughout.
And his absence or dip in form meant any team could easily brush aside Barcelona. Ronald Koeman was bought into the club to change the situation at the club. It seemed like LaLiga Barcelona and UCL Barcelona were 2 different teams. The LaLiga Barca were just a shadow of the other one. Losing and drawing matches at home and away from home they had a bumpy start to the season.
But as soon as 2021 arrived, boys turned into men. Griezmann found his scoring touch, Messi was majestic like he always is and Koeman’s tactics started working out. A new 3-5-2 formation meant that Barca played with 3 centre-backs. The formation earned praises from all around the world as it was difficult for teams to predict Barca’s nature of play.
Though Barca seemed in sixes and sevens for most parts of the season they did manage to get their hands on the Copa Del Rey trophy. Messi’s smile after winning the trophy spoke volumes about the amount of hard work the team had put in but a lost temperament in La Liga meant the title slipped out of their hands.
🏆🆙 RAISE IT HIGH! pic.twitter.com/QqqeQ8aN9S
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 17, 2021
The Spanish giants had three clear chances to take over Atletico Madrid after their season started to fall apart. The table-toppers tag came served in a bowl but Barcelona was too reluctant to eat that. And if you end up throwing away such pivotal opportunities the sand would eventually slip out of your hands.
In this case, the LaLiga trophy slipped out of Koeman’s hands. Not to forget Barca managed to pick up just two points against a top club. Losing both legs against Madrid, falling away from home at Atletico, and losing to Paris in the UCL.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 22, 2021
Koeman’s squad lacked the defensive depth and the finishers’ touch. Frenkie De Jong’s magical performances and Koeman’s managerial tactics turned out to be a plus for the Catalans. A draw against Levante and a loss to Celta at Camp Nou meant Barcelona would finish 3rd barring whatever happens in the last game week. All in all the unnecessary mistakes cost Barca the Spanish crown.
GRADE- Though Barcelona added another trophy to their cabinet, it wasn’t LaLiga or the UCL making it a disappointing season for Koeman’s team. They get a B for all their efforts.
One of the biggest challengers to the LaLiga trophy, Sevilla once again were decent under Julen Lopetegui. Though they went trophyless this campaign, Sevilla managed to tick a lot of boxes and pundits can smell something big soon. Jules Kounde had a career-defining season playing at center-back.
It was a humongous task to get past the French defender who attracted attention from all over the world. Though Sevilla qualified for the UCL a few weeks ago their position on the table was unsure.
Terminamos otra temporada para enmarcar y en este caso no una cualquiera; la mejor temporada de la historia del club con el récord de puntos en @LaLiga.
Gracias a tod@s los que desde dentro como fuera habéis estado cada partido apoyándonos! Ahora toca desconectar! Abrazo🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/QOJZvFa5sL
— Sergi Gómez Solà (@gomez_sergi) May 24, 2021
A 4th position might seem disappointing but it gives them the confidence to come back stronger next season. Not to forget they managed to get draws against Barca and Real Madrid and even emerged victorious against Champions, Atletico Madrid. Though they were never in the race to win the League they could have spoiled the party for many teams. Their win against Atletico initiated Simeone’s downfall, Madrid had an opportunity to grab the top spot but their match ended in a stalemate.
And Barca could have used up the three points perfectly if Sevilla wouldn’t have stopped them. Worth-mentioning is the fact Sevilla ended the last campaign with 70 points whereas this season they were able to reach a total tally of 77 points.
— Sevilla Fútbol Club (@SevillaFC) May 24, 2021
The summer signing of Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona worked out perfectly as he was marvelous controlling Sevilla’s midfield linking up with his strikers from time to time. In the end, this season might lay the perfect base for Lopetegui who’ll look to be more than a challenger next season
GRADE- For their valiant effort on the pitch, Sevilla get a B grade.
Ever wondered what Real Madrid’s trophy cabinet looks like. It looks the same as it was last year, no changes. A trophyless season for Los Blancos combined with players picking up injuries here and there, Zidane had headaches all year.
Their dominant defensive duo of Ramos and Varane rarely played a match together, with either of them being injured if not both. Fans have started to forget that Hazard was bought for a million bucks from Chelsea after he was sidelined once again.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) May 22, 2021
The inexperienced Madrid side was called upon to take the lead and they ultimately failed the test. The reigning champions of Spain had a decent start to their campaign but soon they started crumbling. As mentioned injuries were the first thing that hit Los Blancos. Madrid started dropping points, as they couldn’t find the back of the net most of the time. A place that has been empty since Ronaldo’s departure hasn’t been filled yet.
Hazard might have seemed like the perfect no.10. But unfortunately, he has spent more time injured than he has played minutes on the pitch. Though they were in the LaLiga race till the end, they were pretty naive throughout the campaign. The leadership, the sharpness, and the dominance was missing from Zidane’s squad. They scored fewer goals and conceded more goals this season as compared to their last season’s outing and the results are a reflection of their performance.
– Odriozola had ZERO tackles, blocks or interceptions
– Marcelo lost possession 32 times
– Mariano only 17 touches in 67 mins
– Isco the most active (3 key passes, 6/8 long balls + 9/11 dribbles)
— Emily Wilson (@wilson_emt) January 20, 2021
They were knocked out by a Segunda B-Division team in Copa Del Rey in the early stages of the competition. And Chelsea proved to be too challenging for Zidane’s man as they faltered in their favorite competition. LaLiga too went to the outfit in Red and White, leaving Zidane’s team empty-handed. Zidane’s announcement that he is leaving the club, added fuel to the fire.
The summer window might be the perfect time when Real Madrid shops for big names. But whatever the situation is a trophyless season, a disappointing set of fans at Santiago Bernabeu, and a departing manager the situation at Madrid doesn’t look great at all.
GRADE- With Zidane’s men having one of the most shambolic seasons in recent memory they get a C grade.