The La Liga season is officially over, which means it is time to select the team of the season. Barcelona completed a splendid campaign with a 4-1 victory over Málaga, finishing with 100 points to tie the record set just last year by Real Madrid. The top two teams reaching 100 points in consecutive campaigns is a troubling sign for the overall parity of the league, but there is still considerable talent to be found amongst the “also-rans”.
While there are many different contenders worthy of a place in the XI, the spaces are finite and hard decisions had to be made. On the merit of 100 points, many of Barça’s squad could have been chosen for this team, but in the spirit of fairness, I’ve tried to recognize players from several clubs that had strong campaigns.
La Liga Team of the Season 2012/2013 (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Carlos Martínez, Sergio Ramos, Iñigo Martínez, Jordi Alba; Andrés Iniesta, Éver Banega, Isco; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
At just 21 years of age, the Belgian keeper on loan from Chelsea became the youngest ever to win the Zamora Trophy, awarded to the goalkeeper with the lowest ratio of goals to games over at least 28 games. Courtois started all but one game this season for Atlético Madrid and was the only keeper in the league with a goals to games coefficient of less than 1. To top off his stellar Liga campaign, he was instrumental in Los Colchoneros Copa del Rey final win, producing several unbelievable saves to deny Real Madrid.
Defenders: Carlos Martínez, Sergio Ramos, Iñigo Martínez, Jordi Alba
Carlos and Iñigo Martínez were rocks for a Real Sociedad side that conceded the fourth fewest goals all year and still managed some very attractive football, scoring the most goals of any team not named Barcelona or Real Madrid. Sergio Ramos had his highs and lows over the course of the season, including missing several games for insulting a referee, but was Real Madrid’s best defender in the middle and paired effectively with both Pepe and the emerging Raphaël Varane. The addition of the attack-minded Jordi Alba to Barcelona’s back four was cited by many as the reason for the team’s weakness in defense, but more of the blame should really be placed on the lack of an adequate central partner for Gerard Piqué. Barcelona still conceded fewer goals than every team except Atlético Madrid, while Alba recorded 2 goals, 5 assists, and was second in the league in interceptions per game. His attacking presence on the left side greatly contributed to the team’s league-leading 115 goals.
Midfielders: Andrés Iniesta, Éver Banega, Isco
This is where it gets very difficult. With the chosen formation, only three midfielders can fit out of many able candidates. Andrés Iniesta is a bit of a no-brainer, as he led the league with 16 assists and was pretty consistently brilliant. The other two slots could be filled by a number of players who had strong seasons, such as Beñat, Koke, Illarramendi, or Piti. Banega and Isco were chosen partially to give a nod to Valencia and Malaga, who had very good campaigns. Their play throughout the year certainly merit inclusion, as these two pulled the strings of the sides that finished fifth and sixth in the league table. Isco was the revelation of the first half of the season and is well on his way to superstardom, while Banega was third in the league in successful dribbles per game. There is no defensive midfielder in the selection, but given the attacking mindset of Spanish football, I believe that can be overlooked.
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao
Unlike the other positions, there is really no argument here. These forwards finished 1, 2, 3 in the Pichichi standings for most goals in the season, while their clubs finished 1, 2, 3 in the table. Messi, Cristiano, and Falcao are not only the three best scorers in La Liga, they are in all likelihood the three best footballers in the world. Other strikers like Negredo and Soldado had superb years, but unfortunately play in the same country as these world class players. With Falcao off to Monaco this summer, a spot will open up, but don’t expect Cristiano or Messi to be left off this team for as long as they are both healthy and play in Spain.
Coach of the Year: Diego Simeone
With all due respect to Manuel Pellegrini and Pepe Mel, ‘El Cholo’ Simeone is the most deserving of this award. The transformation that Atlético Madrid have undergone since Simeone took charge in December 2011 has been nothing short of remarkable. The Argentine manager has won three trophies in a season and a half of work and has Atléti back in the Champions League for the upcoming campaign.
Think I got something wrong? A deserving player didn’t get enough credit? Leave your comments below.