So, here we are. Another La Liga season is over and what a fascinating one it has been – especially outside the top two. That is therefore where I’m plucking my selections from as I do every year, to give people – or at least attempt to, insight into matters elsewhere in Spain. Looking over my Team Of The Season from last year, three of the defence got big moves. Will be interesting to see if that’s repeated again this summer.
Anyway, here is the team (and in brackets the honourable mentions).
GK: Thibaut Courtois
It’s the second year in a row I’ve selected Thibaut Courtois and as all young players should do, he’s grown. His 20 clean sheets in 37 games stand out of course, and the immense ability of the Belgian to barricade his goalmouth has brought this about. Despite his size Courtois is able to spread himself in the goal, offering up excellent reflexes and reaching areas that look unachievable. Most impressive has been the composure, authority and calm he transfers onto the field. It makes Courtois a colossal presence, seemingly unnerved by anything or anyone that’s put in front of him.
(Willy Caballero, Andrés Fernandéz )
Few have remained as consistent and vital to their team as Abraham has. The left-back has brought solidity to the Real Zaragoza defence that others couldn’t manage. The Brazilian has an excellent set of attributes when roaming forward, with close control, speed and ability to take on opponents. Defensively meanwhile his coverage was excellent, reading the game well and making sure to stall any attacks. When retaining possession to his distribution was smart and without unnecessary risk. The team from Aragón will do well to retain him.
(Filipe Luís, Nacho, Alberto De la Bella)
Another Brazilian in defence and one who has quietly gone about his business in a team hardly known for its defensive acumen down the years. With Miranda however they have bucked the trend and found a solid, dependable centre-back that suits their system. Although not powerful what Miranda does is bring his physical assets to the table allowing him to be quick across the ground, smart with his body positioning behind the ball and combative in the air. He thinks swiftly on the sport doesn’t take chances, instead reading the game quickly and assertively. This brings to mind all the features of Atleti’s play. His partnership with Diego Godín has meant Atleti now have the meanest defence in Spain.
(Álex Gálvez, Diego Godín)
CB: Iñigo Martínez
After last season there was fear Iñigo Martínez might drop off as a stream of young Spanish defenders have done in recent years. However, Martínez bounced back from an injury-filled, error-prone 11/12 to come back stronger than ever this season. The mix of Martínez’s defensive talents are a joy to watch; from his uncompromising, hard tackling, muscle bound play in defensive phases to his elegant, aware moves out of defence. He brings together two kinds of defender, the classic centre-back crossed with the modern model. It makes the 21-year old a real talent and this season established himself as one of the best young defenders in Europe.
(Álvaro González, Martín Demichelis )
RB: Carlos Martínez
Without doubt the best full-back in La Liga this season, and the first name down on this team sheet. Carlos Martínez has been one of the vital factors in Real Sociedad’s rise up the table as he balanced his defensive and attacking work effortlessly. Martínez won’t win any awards for being the most exciting full-back but what he does thrive in is efficiency. In defence he’s strong in the tackle, closes down opponents quickly and allows little room for manoeuvre. While in attack he gallops up the line and likes to wrap his foot around a moving ball and swing a cross in. The balance in his play is what is most rewarding, and it benefits the whole team’s structure.
(Damiá – has played at both LB and RB this season, Antonio Rukavina)