La Liga Weekend: Team of the Season

Team of the season
Lionel Messi in action during the week 8 of La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain on October 7, 2018. (Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With the season coming to a close it is time to lay out the La Liga Team of the Season. But first, just a couple of details. This team of the season is set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation because it best fits the players chosen. Before that though, let’s take a look at the surprise of the season and even better, the disappointments.

La Liga Weekend: Team of the Season

Surprise of the Season

It’d be heartless to pick anyone other than Getafe as the surprise of the season. The team has been flirting with a Champions League spot for the last two months, after playing in the Segunda division just two years ago. They are a tiny club on the south-side of Madrid, there is no way they should be competing for a spot in the Champions League.

But under Jose Bordalas, Getafe has taken the step from yo-yo club, to Europe’s door. They fifth-place finish still guarantees them the Europa League group stage. Despite being so close to the Champions League, for a club like Getafe, being in the Europa League is just as glorious. It’s going to be crazy to watch European football at the Alfonso Perez next season.

The Disappointment of the Season

The easy answer is Real Madrid; what could be more disappointing than finishing 19 points behind La Liga Champions Barcelona. A most disappointing eleven of the season would include plenty of Real Madrid players. However, for me, the biggest disappointment of the season had to be Real Betis.

As last season ended things couldn’t have been going better for Betis. They had ridden a rock season to sixth place on the back of Quique Sentien’s style and Marc Bartra’s timely introduction. They had finished ahead of eternal rivals Sevilla and were looking to take another step towards a Champions League place this season.

But their failure to find a striker is what ruined this season, and probably cost Sentien his job. He is the only coach to ever win at the Bernabeu and Camp Nou, and he did both this season. But Betis really struggled to score goals in the other games, with players like Loren Moron and Jese upfront, it’s easy to imagine why.

Team of the Season

There is no other candidate to manage the Team of the Season than the man mentioned above, Jose Bordalas. He led Getafe back into the top flight and now is leading them into Europe as well. Now the Spaniard is expected to say his goodbyes and make the natural step up to a bigger club, either in Spain or abroad. Where he goes, anyone who has watched Getafe knows that new club will be the better for it.

GK Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – The winner of the Zamora trophy for the outstanding goalkeeper for four years running, Jan Oblak has no equal. The Slovenian international has been out of this world since coming to Atletico from Benfica five years ago. This season was not his best, but he still managed 20 clean sheets in 37 games, and a save percentage of 54%. If this is his last at Atletico it’s good to see it was still all worldly.

Defenders

RB Jesus Navas, Sevilla – Whether it was right wing-back or right-back Jesus Navas was finally playing the role that was made for him. His outstanding skill, getting onto his right foot to cross the ball, was never utilized as well as it was this season. The first six months of the season especially he was bombing down that right flank forever. Even the switch to a back four, and a lot more defensive responsibility, couldn’t stop him from attacking glory.

RCB Gerard Pique, Barcelona – After years of being known for his antics and attacking, Gerard Pique is earning his defensive reputation. He is still the elegant passer with a flair for charging up the field in attack. But this season, and parts of last season, Pique has made himself into the great defender he wasn’t in years past.

LCB Leonardo Cabrera, Getafe – Getafe don’t make it into the Europa League without some incredible standout performances. And a team built on its defence, and the second-best defensive record in the league, deserves some recognition. That’s why Leonardo Cabrera has to be in our team of the season. The Uruguayan made 31 starts at centre-back for Getafe this season, and when it matters most, like against Sevilla or at Betis, Cabrera came up massive.

LB Jordi Alba, Barcelona – When La Liga reached the halfway point in the season, Jordi Alba had been the best non-Messi player in Spain. Barcelona’s change of formation and the Neymar sale has opened up a ton of space on the left side. But instead of a winger, Barcelona are at their best when Jordi Alba is filling that space effectively.

The Midfield

DM Dani Parejo, Valencia – In January, Valencia were ten points back of fourth place. In all reality, they were one bad result away from firing their manager, Marcelino. Parejo, Valencia’s captain backed Marcelino publicly and celebrated with him when he scored in three games in a row. All those goals came in losses, but immediately after the last loss, their season changed. Valencia went on a 17-game unbeaten run, made it back to the UCL and made the Europa League semifinal. Not a bad season after all.

DM Santi Cazorla, Villareal – Eighteen months ago if you told Santi Cazorla that he would play 35 out of 38 La Liga games he would’ve taken the relegation fight that came with it. The ex-Arsenal playmaker spent his last year plus in England on the operating table with a terrible Achilles injury. Now back in Spain, Cazorla and Villareal staved off a tough relegation fight, where they were 19th at halfway. But behind Cazorla’s 10 assists and outstanding month of April, Villareal survived for another season.

Attacking Midfield

RAM Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo – The Magician of Moana came back just in time to work his magic on Celta Vigo’s season. It has been well chronicled how valuable Iago Aspas has been for Celta Vigo this season. He scored 38% of their goals while missing three months of the season. This is his second straight season as the top scoring Spaniard, again he missed three months.  But what gets Aspas in this team is how much his injury changed Celta Vigo’s season. They were the worst team in Spain without him, but he came back in the nick of time for Celta to grab 17th.

CAM Lionel Messi, Barcelona – The best player in the world was, shockingly, the best player in La Liga once again. He scored 36 goals, 15 more than anyone else and tied Pablo Sarabia for most assist with 13. Most importantly, Barcelona won another league title, they’re eighth in the last eleven years.  Messi’s numbers always stand out but the contribution he makes to Barcelona’s buildup will never be quantified.  He has moved further back into midfield with each passing year, and he keeps winning Pichichi’s.

LAM Pablo Sarabia, Sevilla – Sarabia was one of only ten players to record double-digit goals and assists this season. Only he and Messi did it this season in La Liga, which shows how valuable Sarabia is to Sevilla. The 27-year-old has gotten better and better each season since heading south from Getafe. It will be interesting to see what Sevilla, traditionally a selling club, do if a big offer comes in for him in the summer. He’s good enough to make a difference at some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs.

Striker

ST Cristhian Stuani, Girona – Girona as a team scored 37 goals in La Liga this season, Cristhian Stuani scored 19 of them. The Uruguayan international and ex-Middlesbrough player has scored 40 goals in two seasons for Girona, all without recording an assist. However, Stuani will have a bitter taste in his mouth if he stays at Girona. That seems unlikely because of their relegation so it will be interesting to see who can add a really good 32-year-old striker.

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