Once again – we continue our European league whistle-stop tour, looking into the very best players from the current season. This time, we’re travelling to Spain, and taking a look at the best players from La Liga. As Atletico Madrid look on course to win the title – have they won a few players in our starting XI, or will the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate like the yester-years?
GOALKEEPER: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
Arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at this current time – Jan Oblak has been a key figure for Atletico Madrid for many years, and has never truly been given the appreciation he deserves after stellar performances year on year for the club. But this season, with Atletico sitting at the top of the league, Oblak is getting the appreciation he deserves – and the stats dont lie. With 26 matches played and 12 clean sheets – the Slovenian has time and time again kept Atletico safe at the back. At the end of the year, Oblak has to be a mention for FIFA’s ‘The Best’ award, alongside the likes of Manuel Neuer and Keylor Navas.
Right-Back: Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)
With a major defensive crisis this season – Real Madrid have done impressively well to only concede 22 goals in the league, the same amount as Barcelona and only four more goals than Atletico Madrid. One of the players that has stood up to the occasion is Lucas Vazquez. It was notable that Vazquez was one of Madrid’s weaker players – and looked set to be booted out of the door after this season, but with Carvajal and Odriozola out injured – Vazquez moved into a right-back role, and has done exceptionally well. With 21 matches played, the Spaniard has two goals and five assists from a right-back role, including eight clean sheets. After this seasons performance – Vazquez may have just saved himself from being one of the many players on Madrid’s exit list next season.
Central Defender: Diego Carlos (Sevilla FC)
When Diego Carlos joined Sevilla from FC Nantes in 2019, no one expected the outcome for the Brazilian defender to become one of the best centre-backs in La Liga. In a backline that includes the likes of Jules Kounde and Jesus Navas, Sevilla have only conceded 20 goals this season so far, the second least amount of goals behind Atletico Madrid. Diego Carlos has been at the heart of the defence, playing 22 matches and keeping ten clean sheets in the process. With links to Premier League sides like Liverpool and Manchester United, Diego Carlos is no doubt an asset that Sevilla will hope to keep for quite some time, as the club goes through a largely successful period.
Central Defender: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
This season, Real Madrid have had a defence crisis, with players like Dani Carvajal and more notably Sergio Ramos being missing for large parts of the season due to injury. With every negative situation comes a positive – and one of those is the progression of Raphael Varane. The Frenchman has always been in the shadow of the likes of Sergio Ramos and even Pepe in previous years gone by, but now the Frenchman is the first name on the Madrid team-sheet. Even with an injury crisis, Real Madrid have only conceded 21 goals this season, which is certainly impressive. Varane has played in 25 La Liga matches, scoring two goals in the process as well as keeping 11 clean sheets. It’s an impressive feat with a back-line that included Lucas Vazquez playing as a make-shift right-back, which is why Varane deserves a spot in the team.
Left-Back: Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona)
One of the many players that have been at FC Barcelona through the good and bad days – the consistency of Jordi Alba as one of the top left-backs in world football is something that should be appreciated more by La Liga fans. At the age of 31, the Spaniard still has plenty of good years ahead of him – and this season has allowed Alba to shine in a team which is slowly renovating around him. With 23 matches played, Alba has scored three goals and claimed five assists, as well as keeping 11 clean sheets in those games. It’s likely Alba will be one of the last players left at Barcelona from the historic sides of the past that included the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta – but it just shows how detrimental the Spaniard is to the clubs performances, and a credit to the consistency of the player over the last decade and beyond.
Midfielder: Sergio Canales (Real Betis)
Real Betis have been a side in the last two years or so that have majorly struggled in La Liga. As a neutral, they’re a team that have always had quality players across the board – but they’d never lived up to the potential expected. But this year – Betis are flying, and sit sixth, with a real possibility of getting into the Europa League next season under Manuel Pellegrini – and a large amount of appreciation has to go to Sergio Canales. With seven goals and six assists in 21 matches, the Spaniard has no doubt been the clubs best player since his arrival from Real Sociedad in 2018, and continues to improve as he gets older. Could a call-up for Spain be on the cards?
Midfielder: Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid)
Marcos Llorente has been the most versatile football in Europe, and potentially the world. Starting as a central midfielder, Llorente has played a whole host of positions under Diego Simeone – which include as a striker, right-winger and as a right-back. Llorente can just about play anywhere, and that’s why he’s been lethal for the Spanish side. With nine goals and eight assists – Marcos Llorente is in the top five players for the most goal contributions this season, which is staggering considering all the different positions the Spaniard has played in. It may be a case of where to put him in the team rather than how, but Llorente is one of Simeone’s favourite players – and slowly becoming a La Liga fan favourite too.
Midfielder: Carlos Soler (Valencia CF)
One of the more obvious options to place in the starting XI would be Casemiro – who has been exceptional for Real Madrid this season. However, if any club needed a hero to save them from a relegation battle – it was Valencia, and their new star Carlos Soler. In a season where Valencia’s main squad was completely ripped apart due to FFP issues, Soler was one of the sole survivors, and the club may be thankful that they didn’t cash in on the 24-year-old. With 22 appearances, Soler has seven goals and 5 assists in La Liga, with an average match rating of 6.97 this season. While this stat may be fairly low compared to other midfielders, Valencia could’ve been in a much more dire position if the youngster didn’t turn up in the way he has, potentially paving the way for a big-money move in the near future elsewhere.
Left-Winger: Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad)
Real Sociedad have been one of the more enjoyable teams to watch in La Liga this season. The club started the La Liga campaign in fine fashion, but dropped off through the winter period. Sat in 5th, and just three points from the UCL spots – a large amount of Sociedad’s success is down to Mikel Oyarzabal. At the age of 24, Oyarzabal has been Sociedad’s star talent for many years – but this has been his best season in the famous white and blue of Sociedad. With ten goals and six assists, Oyarzabal ranks in the top ten for goal contribututions in La Liga, winning the La Liga Player of the Month once this year. The Spaniard is going to be tough to hold onto, as Europe’s biggest clubs begin to swarm around Sociedad for the player.
Right-Winger: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
For many – the choice of Lionel Messi will now became a debatable option in comparison to previous years. With rumours constantly circulating over the Argentine’s departure from Spain, you cannot look at the stats and say Messi hasn’t tried to help Barcelona get going this season. With 19 goals, Messi is the top-scorer in La Liga, which is impressive for someone who is not supposed to be performing to the highest level. Whatever happens with Messi, he will go down as one of Barcelona’s all-time bests and it’s a shame his time could end in a bad manner – but year after year Messi has performed, and once again the winger / forward makes the starting XI.
Striker: Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
Barcelona fans – look away now. Luis Suarez has no doubt been exceptional for Atletico Madrid in his debut season. After being hounded out of Barcelona after their 8-2 defeat in the Champions League to Bayern Munich, Suarez has made the club pay – and could be lifting the title with Atletico at the end of the season. With 18 goals in 23 games, Suarez is averaging 0.78 goals per match, the second highest average in the league behind Lionel Messi. Although the Uruguayan had a brief dip in the season, Suarez has been the striker that Atletico Madrid had craved for years – and with the title in sight, the striker has no signs of slowing down, with the goal to show Barcelona just what they’ve been missing.
With the La Liga season being incredibly tight – there’s a whole host of other players which have missed out on the starting XI, but are a notable mention for their consistency as well as goals and clean sheets. Here’s some of La Liga’s stars of the 20/21 season, and tell us your stars of the season in our comments section below!