La Liga 12/13 end of season awards

Posted: June 4, 2013 in La Liga

It’s been another crazy year in La Liga with Barcelona achieving 100 points to win the league with a manager who had to step aside for a couple of months due to his cancer treatment. Real Madrid found themselves in a mess as soon as the season started; as much as they tried to pick themselves up, Jose Mourinho had already divided the changing room by dropping and publicly slating club captain, and legend, Iker Casillas.  Their city neighbours, Atletico Madrid, challenged them for 2nd place throughout the season and beat Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey final.

At the other end of the table, the final day of the season decided who would go down. In the end, Deportivo La Coruña, RCD Mallorca and Real Zaragoza all bowed out of La Liga, dropping into the Segunda; Celta survived on the final day. Whilst the damage had already been done at the start of the season, Fernando Vazquez did his best at Depor and turned the club’s fortunes around until the final day. Mallorca’s squad began to get thin through injuries and suspensions, Giovani Dos Santos the only man worth his salt from January onwards at the club. Real Zaragoza were doing fine until a horrendous run of form in 2013 saw them nose-dive down the table.

Real Sociedad, the surprise package, knocked Champions League regulars, Valencia, off their 4th place perch and cemented a place in the Champions League qualifiers for next season. Valencia, as much as Ernesto Valverde had done well since taking over, just seemed to have felt the backlash of Pellegrino’s unsuccessful reign at the beginning of the season.

The teams who filled the Europa League places were Valencia, Betis & Malaga (if their appeal against the UEFA ban is overturned by the court). Real Betis were impressive under Pepe Mel with veteran striker, Ruben Castro, finding the back of the net with consummate ease. The January signing of Dorlan Pabon helped ease the club’s goal scoring problems when Ruben Castro was out injured for a month. Arsenal loanee, Joel Campbell, won many plaudits for his hard work, determination and passion on the pitch. Pellegrini’s Malaga started the season off sensationally, but their league form began to dip as they progressed to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Losing to Dortmund, in the harsh manner in which it happened, took a lot out of Malaga; their push for Champions League qualification tailed off as they ended the season in 6th.

Honourable mentions go to Espanyol who, under Aguirre, ended the season in 13th place. When he joined the club before the turn of the year, they were in total disarray and bottom of the league. Rayo Vallecano, under Paco Jemez, also deserve a huge shout for finishing 8th with the lowest budget in the league. Jemez’s mixture of young players and journeymen worked a treat as Rayo found themselves competing for a Europa League spot.

So now, summary aside, let’s get into the fun stuff. The La Liga 12/13 end of season awards!

Goal of the season

In a season that has seen a gargantuan amount of goal of the season candidates, it was always bound to be a hard choice pinning it down to one goal. Whilst Soldado has made a case for goal of the season with three goals – volley against Atleti, acrobatic finish against Depor and a volley against Levante – the goal of the season goes to Deportivo La Coruña’s Silvio. Picture the scene: Depor need to win to have any chance of staying up, they’re up against city and relegation rivals, Celta Vigo. The match is edging Depor’s way as the home side are leading 1-0 following Riki’s brilliant goal in the 1st half. Valeron, who’s now retired, puts the ball inside the box, it’s headed out and into the path of Silvio who half-volleys the ball from 30 yards out.  His goal all-but seals the three points for Depor and a sweet, sweet victory against their rivals, Celta Vigo.

Player of the season

It’s always hard choosing a player of the season in Spain, especially when you have the two abnormally exquisite footballers, Messi and Ronaldo, in the league. For this reason, I’m excluding Real Madrid and Barcelona players from my shortlist of players of the season. Whilst there have been a few at Real Sociedad worthy of this award – Vela and Illarramendi – my player of the season is Thibaut Courtois. At the age of just 21, Courtois has broken an incredible amount of records at Atletico Madrid and La Liga as a whole: he’s the youngest ever winner of the Zamora trophy (most clean-sheets), keeping 20 clean sheets and conceding just 31 league goals all season. He now holds the record for most minutes without conceding a goal away from home and at home, breaking Abel Resino’s two records in a matter of one season. This award usually goes to outfield players, but I find it hard to overlook Courtois as he’s been Atleti’s best player this season, in a season where they’ve done extremely well, and he’s kept the most clean sheets in the league. He’s deserving of this award.

Team and manager of the season

These two awards were, initially, meant to be separate but I’ve decided to combine them as my manager of the season manages my team of the season. Whilst mine was a toss-up between Simeone-Atleti and Montanier-La Real, I’ve decided to go with someone a bit different: Paco Jemez and Rayo Vallecano. It’s hard to look past this season’s surprise package in the Vallecas. Jemez, the best dressed manager in La Liga and, arguably, the world, has had to work on a next-to-nothing budget; the tightest budget in La Liga. What he has done is nothing short of superb. He’s got his youngsters, mixed them with journeymen, and has conjured up a team which plays an exciting brand of football and challenged for a Europa League spot all season. The only downside is that Rayo don’t have a UEFA license, so they won’t be able to take part in the Europa League. An 8th place finish surprised fans and pundits alike as Jemez’s Rayo made waves in the league. Jordi Amat, on loan from Espanyol, was the best defender in that team, whilst Trashorras, at the age of 31 was, statistically, the best midfielder in La Liga, barring the Real Madrid and Barcelona boys. Piti, Lass & Leo Baptistao were stealing the spotlight going forward. This, again, showcased the mixture of youth and experience in Jemez’s side.

Paco Jemez looking suave, on the touchline.

Paco Jemez looking suave, on the touchline.

Young player of the season

As much as I considered having Courtois for this award, I felt as though he was extremely deserving of the player of the year award. There have been many youngsters in La Liga, this season, who have made waves: Isco, Ruben Pardo, Inigo Martinez, Joel Campbell, Kondogbia, Aymeric Laporte, Koke and many others. My young player of the season, and it had to be a La Real player, is Illarramendi. Illarramendi has played as a defensive midfielder for La Real this season, but the 23-year-old isn’t a static defensive-midfielder. He gives his other midfielders the leeway to attack, whilst sometimes interchanging with Bergara in a pivot in order to move further into the final third. His reading of the game is exceptional, and that shines through his magnificent, expert tackling and interceptions. He isn’t someone who shines through superficial stats – only two assists and no goals this season – but take Illarramendi out of that La Real side, and they simply struggle to function as a unit.

Illarra in action.

Illarra in action.

Best game of the season

Much like the talented young players in La Liga this season, we’ve been spoiled by entertaining games, full of action and drama. Valencia are usually the prime candidates for entertaining games, be it against or in their favour. La Real have also given us a fair share of entertaining games where they’ve been in electric form, counter-attacking magnificently. It’s a toss-up between three games: Valencia 5-1 Malaga, Barcelona 5-4 Depor and Betis 3-3 Sevilla. It’s a hard decision, but I’ve gone with Betis 3-3 Sevilla. The Sevilla derby is one that’s never short of entertainment, and this game had entertainment oozing out of its pores. Sevilla, the away side, stormed the opening minutes of the game. Within the opening 30 minutes, they were 3-0 up. Ivan Rakitic scoring two whilst Negredo bagged the other. The Betis players and fans were being humiliated by their city rivals; the Betis fans had turned to abusing their players and manager. Dorlan Pabon, my signing of the January transfer window, pulled one back for Betis on the stroke of half-time. Shortly after the break, Fazio brought down Ruben Castro in the box who, in turn, converted the penalty to make it 2-3. Betis still behind by one goal. A couple of minutes later, Gary Medel received a red card but, for someone who’s often sent off for silly challenges, Medel hadn’t done much wrong: he got into a scuffle with Cañas who, upon making contact with the referee, milked the whole situation. The referee should’ve sent the two off but, alas, the excruciatingly awful Spanish refereeing shines bright. The game continues and it intensifies as Sevilla and Betis continue attacking each other’s goals. Nosa, a man who’d been heavily criticised by the Betis faithful, was sent on by Pepe Mel in the 82nd minute. Seven minutes later, Real Betis were celebrating their equaliser but guess who’d scored it? Nosa. His celebration was to run to the Betis fans and give them the middle finger, to which Pepe Mel decided to copy. Betis had drawn level in the dying embers of the game, a game which hadn’t been void of entertainment by a long shot: a sending off which should’ve been two, the comeback from three goals down and the equaliser in the dying minutes of the game, followed by the celebrations, made this game the most enjoyable, for me, of the season.

Naughty, naughty boys.

Naughty, naughty boys.

Summary

12/13 was a crazy, entertaining and gut-wrenching season, personally. Whilst my beloved Depor were relegated, it was still a season to cherish for many reasons. The underdog stories, Atleti’s cup win and the overall entertainment made it a joy to watch. As of writing this, La Liga teams are doing their business early on: Sevilla have lost Jesus Navas to Manchester City, Barcelona have signed Neymar, Real Madrid have activated Carvajal’s buy-back clause, Leo Baptistao has joined Atleti, Piti is close to joining Granada, Djukic is set to take over the vacant managerial spot at Valencia as Valverde looks almost certain to join Athletic Bilbao. Next season will, undoubtedly, be very entertaining. It’s still to early to make predictions, but I think Valencia will surprise many next season under Djukic.

Comments
  1. amahgfur says:

    illarramendi sounds a lot like Arteta’s successor. Is he ready for a life at Premier League? If he signs this summer, he’ll have a season to adapt.

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