LA LIGA IS ALMOST ABOUT TO END AND WITH THE WINNER YET TO BE DECIDED WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE PLAYERS WHO HAVE BEEN A CLASS APART THIS SEASON
The 2020/21 Spanish title race has been no less than a roller-coaster ride for many teams. And even after 37 games played no one has been crowned the Champions of Spain.
A week back both the Madrid clubs along with Barcelona and Sevilla were on the hunt to win the league. But Barca’s recent slump and Sevilla and Real Madrid sharing points gave Atletico some breathing space on the top of the table.
Though a title is not confirmed for Diego Simeone’s squad, Los Rojiblancos wouldn’t want the title to slip from their hands and would like to keep matters in their own hands and the last two fixtures.
With just the final gameweek left before the season comes to an end, FootTheBall takes a look at the best eleven of the season who have outshined every other player playing in their position.
Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak is not only the best goalkeeper in La Liga but arguably the best in the world. He’s been a brick wall in between the posts for Los Rojiblancos, making a total of 99 saves this season. The Slovenian has saved two last-minute penalties, helping Atletico retain their top spot. The legendary goal-keeper has kept 18 cleans-sheets in La Liga this season.
300… Seguimos! pic.twitter.com/fngma9CMWY
— Jan Oblak (@oblakjan) May 8, 2021
He has also conceded just 22 goals which are less than a goal per match. The effect he has had on Atletico Madrid is out of the world. He came to Spain from Benfica in 2014, and since his arrival, his importance at the club has grown every season. Atletico is top of the table and if Simeone’s men end up being crowned champions of Spain they’ll surely owe it to their best player, Jan Oblak.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Barcelona’s Marc Andre Ter Stegn deserved a mention as he’s been a dominant figure between the posts for the Catalans saving them from embarrassment many times this season.
Arsenal reject, Unai Emery has transformed Villareal into a dominant team in Spain this season. And Emery’s team has been so successful only because of Pau Torres’ contribution in defence. The youngster has already proved his metal in Spain and has been constantly linked to moves to the Big 6 in England. Right off the bat, he has been a perfect fit for Villareal.
— pau torres (@pauttorres) May 7, 2021
The lanky Spanish defender is good in the air as well as on the ground. He never shies away from putting in the extra mile for the men in Yellow. Villareal has been successful in Europe too this season as they square off against Manchester United this weekend. Emery called the 24-year-old one of the best centre-backs he had seen and he hasn’t disappointed.
On average, the Spanish international clears 3.3 times every 90 minutes while making 0.8 blocks in La Liga.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Jose Gimenez of Atletico Madrid and Raphael Varane have looked in fine form this season and both of them deserve a special mention
Rated as one of the best centre-backs playing the game of football, Jules Kounde has been a prominent star for Sevilla’s defence. Sevilla is 4th on the table and is still competing for the title and Kounde’s form for his club has been out of the world. Kounde was targeted by many clubs around the world including current Premier League champions, Manchester City.
— PUMA Football (@pumafootball) April 5, 2021
But he refused to put pen to paper and Sevilla couldn’t have been happier. He possesses the ability to win aerial duels very easily and always looks comfortable when he has the ball. With a dangerous vision, he can play those over-the-top balls for his strikers to chase. The French are rarely dribbled past in a game and his strength sometimes was too much for a striker.
He also has 2 goals and an assist under his belt which is not bad for a centre-back. The muscular defender makes 0.5 blocks each game while clearing the ball 3 times. Kounde had hit new heights this campaign and therefore deserves a place in this eleven.
One player who attracted a lot of praise from football pundits around the globe was Real Betis’ right-back Emerson Royal. The 22-year-old has been a force in Betis’ Backline. All the big clubs are willing to land the Brazilian as soon as the summer transfer window opens. Having featured in 32 games for his team, Emerson was able to find the back of the net once. If it has to be put in one sentence- The Sao Paulo youngster is extremely productive and dominant on the pitch.
Acredite e continue evoluindo. 🔛💪🏾⚔️ https://t.co/1ETTHZiwUq
— Emerson Royal (@Emerson_Royal22) January 22, 2021
You would rarely see him lose possession, defends like a beast, and never gives his opposite number free space. He has the strength to go in for aerial battles without thinking twice and could outclass defenders if he has to run forward.
With great patience on the ball, he could dig his team out of any situation while defending and loves to take responsibility. He has completed 48 tackles this season and has rarely been beaten. He makes an outrageous 2.6 clearances each game and was also the recipient of 2 Man Of the Match Matches this season.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Jesus Navas of Sevilla has had a praiseworthy season.
Though Valencia has managed to win just 9 games this season. One player who has stood out of the pack is left-back, Jose Gaya. The defender has seemed very comfortable when he has had the ball and is not afraid to take on the opposition when required. The Spaniard is a deadly defender and loves to run at teams with his pace when given the opportunity.
The club’s captain has consolidated his position over Barcelona’s Jordi Alba in Spain’s squad because of his attacking runs in the box. On average he crosses the ball thrice into the box which makes him a threat. And the 5 assists he has spoken volumes of his attacking calibre. His awareness and positioning make him such a successful defender.
🦇🧡 La banda izquierda de Mestalla tiene su nombre.
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) May 25, 2020
He’s always aware of what’s going around him, what the attacker plans to do, and how he can nullify the effect. Making a minimum of a block every game, he’s never scared of 1 on 1 battle. He commits himself in the best way possible and snatches the ball from whoever is standing in front of him and sends his team on the attack in a flash.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Mario Hermoso has been a wall while defending on the left-flank for Simeone and Atletico Madrid. Ferland Mendy is another player who has shown huge promise playing in this position.
FRENKIE DE JONG
Signed for a whopping price of 75 million euros last season, it seemed as if De Jong could be the answer to all of Barcelona’s problems. And the young Dutch magician hasn’t been disappointed. His first season didn’t give the proper reflection of De Jong’s quality but since Koeman took charge, the Dutch midfielder has been incredibly magnificent for the Catalans.
He has scored crucial goals for the Blaugranas bagging 3 goals and 4 assists this season. But what makes his head and shoulders above are his inch-perfect passes and an eagle-like vision. The 24-year-old is tireless as he’s seen covering all parts of the field and running that extra mile has never been a problem for him. De Jong has been exceptional in both halves of the pitch.
— Frenkie de Jong (@DeJongFrenkie21) May 3, 2021
Ronald Koeman had started him as a centre-back in many matches and the new system that Barcelona adopted gave him the freedom he needed. If Barcelona would have capitalized on the missed chances De Jong would surely have more goals and assists under his belt. The Dutchman is a wall and gives his man no space to run.
His skills are a class apart from others and you rarely become one of the best players of the team when you share the dressing room with Lionel Messi. But De Jong has been right up there with the Argentine and has also played the most minutes for Barca proving his worth.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Luka Modric and Toni Kroos of Real Madrid are 2 experienced campaigners and have just missed out on the eleven.
A constant feature in the Real Madrid team-sheet and one of the most experienced players, Casemiro is always a class apart whenever he’s on the pitch. Blocking shots, dribbling past defenders, playing the perfect balls, and defending like a beast, the Brazilian has every trick in the book. Though Madrid was knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea, Casemiro’s been a star for Los Blancos.
— Casemiro (@Casemiro) May 9, 2021
Banging in goals when required and keeping Messi quiet for 2 El Classico’s in a season isn’t an easy job. But defending has never looked difficult when Casemiro is up against an attacker. Not to forget his patience on the ball and his technique to get the ball out of tight areas.
The Brazilian was always hailed as one of the best midfielders of Europe and him featuring in this list isn’t a huge surprise for anyone.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Youngster Pedri was a revelation for Barcelona and has had a terrific season. While Frenchman Nabil Fekir also just missed out in the Team Of the Season after having an outstanding season.
It’s no surprise that Marcos Llorente marches his way into the Team Of the Season list. The Spaniard has been prolific for Atletico Madrid this campaign. Though he’s a midfielder he has 12 goals and 10 assists under his name. Other than Messi he’s the only player who has more than 10 goals and assists this season.
Una revolución en #LaLigasantander que es mejor cada día.
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) January 30, 2021
Llorente has proved his ex-club Real Madrid wrong with his performances this season. Zidane would be regretting letting such a talented player go. But one man’s loss is another man’s gain and Llorente has been no short of gain for Los Rojiblancos. The team hasn’t secured the Spanish title yet but is destined to lift it if they don’t drop points.
But Llorente’s presence on the pitch won’t let the silverware slip. His domination on the ball, usage of strength, and his physique while defending and having an attacking mindset has made him a class apart in LaLiga.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- The captain of Atletico Madrid, Koke hit new ceilings this season and would look to guide his team to another title
With 22 goals this season, Gerrard Moreno has been the big cheese for Villareal. He’s the third-highest scorer in LaLiga and the highest Spanish scorer. He has made sure that he has been a part of Luis Enrique’s team sheet going into the Euros. With a vicious left-foot, he can rip apart defences at will, while ensuring he never wastes any golden opportunity presented to him.
The forward can switch between striker and right-wing and his linkup with Paco Alcacer has been pivotal for Villareal. He has strong shots and can outpace defenders quite easily. His vision, whenever he has the ball outside the box, makes him a strong player.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) April 8, 2021
Not to forget he has unpredictability in his game and it’s difficult for any defender to catch him once he has raced past them. If Villareal has to win their first silverware in years, Moreno has to be deadly when he faces Manchester United in the Europa League final.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Mikel Oryzabal has astonishing stats this season. With 11 goals and 7 assists he clearly has been Socieadad’s best player.
Benzema has always been one of Europe’s most underrated strikers. Overshadowed by the great Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema was always overlooked by fans. But since Ronaldo’s departure, his role at the club has just grown.
Taking the responsibility of scoring 20 goals every season is difficult but Benzema has stepped up for Los Blancos once again. The French striker has 22 goals this season and is positioned second in the list of LaLiga top scorers. His ability to sneak into the box and his aerial strength are what make him deadly in front of the goal. The Real Madrid man now has a habit of scoring decisive goals for his club.
⚪️ Karim @Benzema ha marcado en cuatro eliminatorias diferentes de semifinales de la Champions League:
— Liga de Campeones (@LigadeCampeones) April 27, 2021
Be it the equalizer in the Champions League semi-final first-leg or the opening goal in the El-Clasico, Benzema has been the go-to man for Zidane and Madrid fans.
HONOURABLE MENTION- One player who couldn’t feature in this list but had a great campaign was Celta Vigo striker, Iago Aaspas. The Spaniard has 13 goals under his name this season. Another player who had a great season was Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was deadly for Atletico Madrid and even scored a crucial goal in the Madrid Derby.
Nicknamed ‘La Pulga’, Leo Messi is once again on the road to take the Golden Boot home. The Argentine is the top scorer in the league and everyone is aware of his attacking abilities. The knack of running past defenders like blowing wind and then dribbling the ball past 3-4 at once before finishing the ball in the back of the net makes him a vicious player.
Since Koeman had adopted a new system at Barcelona, Lionel Messi has been astonishing for the Catalans. He’s been magnificent in 2021 and has been the sole reason for Barcelona’s season revival. He dropped an astonishing performance against Athletico Bilbao in the final of the Copa Del Rey but that might be the only silverware he would guide his team to this campaign.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 18, 2021
The veteran has scored goals for fun this campaign but the whole team has never shown the character that he brings on to the field and therefore Barcelona hasn’t had the desired result. Also, his goal against PSG in the second leg left all his fans in awe of him.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS- Portu of Real Sociedad also had a mouth-watering season. Bagging a total of 8 goals in LaLiga the number 7 was no less than brilliant for his club.
LA LIGA’S BEST ELEVEN
As La Liga reaches the business end of the tournament it’s still to be seen who’ll lift the La Liga trophy. But the team of the season can be easily figured out. The best eleven can be placed in a 4-3-3 formation
Pau Torres, Jules Kounde, Jesus Navas, Jose Gaya;
Frenkie De Jong, Casemiro, Marcos Llorente;
Gerrard Moreno, Karim Benzema, Lionel Messi