La Liga: Best XI for the First Half of the Season

The Ballon d’Or awards were announced on Monday and it proved to be a clean sweep for Spanish football; Lionel Messi lifted his fourth player of the year award in succession, Vicente Del Bosque was named coach of the year and the team of the year were all based in the Primera Division. It is a reflection of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s dominance that all but one of the eleven played for them.

However, whilst some of these players have been boosted by their national notoriety too, other league based players have excelled. It is therefore time to reflect on the first half of the league season in Spain and pick out the most in form eleven players:

 

Goalkeeper

 

Willy Caballero (Malaga CF)

Many fans and pundits alike were worried for Malaga before the season began but they have surprised all with their performances. One key facet to their success has been their defence and Caballero has been outstanding in goal.

 

Defenders

 

Jordi Alba (Barcelona)

It seems like he has never been away. His understanding of the way Barca play is fantastic and already he has made the position his own. Following on from a tremendous European Championships Alba looks set for more glory in 2013.

 

Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Despite all the shenanigans at Real Madrid at the moment Ramos has been a rock in defence at times. The gifted, ball playing centre half is still only 26 but seems to have been around forever.

 

Martin Demichelis (Malaga)

Having conceded the fewest goals in the league so far Demichelis has drawn on all his experience to be the fulcrum at the centre of their defence.

 

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)

It has been great to see Atletico doing so well this season and Filipe Luis has been an integral part of their success. The Brazilian sustained an injury shortly before the end of the year but will be crucial in Los Rojiblancos chase for Champions League qualification and their defence of the Europa League.

 

Midfield

 

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)

Busquets gets better and better with every passing year. The ability to receive the ball and play the correct pass almost every time while at the same time protecting the defence makes him the leading exponent of the defensive midfielder role in world football.

 

Oscar Gonzalez (Valladolid)

Last season Oscar contributed 13 goals and six assists in Valladolid’s promotion to the Primera. He has carried on where he left off and already has seven goals and four assists to his name this season. He will be vital to the club for the remainder of the season.

 

Isco (Malaga)

Isco’s incredible displays in 2012 have alerted all the major clubs to his potential. A player with incredible technique and a unique ability to beat opponents with ease have reminded many of a young Andres Iniesta, high praise indeed.

 

Forwards

 

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)

The Colombian striker has 17 goals in 16 games so far this season; a record that would make him top scorer in almost every other league in Europe. Whether he has to chip, head or volley the ball at goal it is done with remarkable skill and precision. So far this season he has proved he is a truly world class performer.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

It has been a funny few months in Madrid but the goals just keep on coming. His record in Spain since he arrived is staggering (171 goals in 171 games) and his performances just keep getting better and better. At 27 he is now around his peak, if only it wasn’t for an Argentine he must think…..

 

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

What more is there to say? The superlatives you can offer simply cannot do justice to the man anymore. Simply the best and the fact that he seems to enjoy it so much only makes everyone like him more.

 

Written by Andy Hunter

Follow him on Twitter @hunter67980

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Malaga: The Financially Troubled Club Defying The Odds

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When I was approached about writing a piece on the quite extraordinary tale of Malaga’s season thus far I had no qualms at all. It is an immensely pleasing story and one which many other clubs could learn a great deal from.

Before this season began the club was in turmoil. Their owner and benefactor Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani had basically washed his hands off them. They owed significant sums of money to the Spanish tax men, could not pay their staff or players and had been forced to sell Santi Cazorla, arguably their best player, to Arsenal for a pittance just to raise some money. Many observers and fans expected the worst but in a modern football world littered with tragedy the upturn in the club’s fortunes thus far have been nothing short of miraculous.

Despite suffering defeats in their last two games the club currently lie fifth in the Primera Division and look odds on to qualify for the next round of the Champions League. The side, coached by Manuel Pellegrini, have united as one and have produced a string of good results to set them up for an intriguing 2013. The departure of Cazorla, Mathijsen and Rondon to name but a few was expected to signal the beginning of the end for Malaga but how wrong everyone was.

The club has not spent a Euro in the transfer market but has managed to conduct some effective business. In particular the signing of Javier Saviola from Benfica on a free transfer has proved to be a very astute piece of work. The former Barcelona player never quite lived up to his billing in Spain first time around but eased into his Malaga career with goals in his opening few games.

However, possibly the two biggest influences thus far have been the return to prominence of Joaquin and the emergence of the young Isco. The former had played for Valencia for many years and been capped by Spain but his consistency often detracted from his obvious potential. The current environment he has found himself in at Malaga has clearly awoken something burning inside that has really come to the fore in recent months.

What has taken everyone a little by surprise though is the form of their current superstar in the making, Isco. The 20 year old has been in scintillating form this season and is already earning rave reviews in Spain and further afield. He is clearly a special player; fantastic technique, great movement and dazzling skill. The way in which he dribbles past opposing players is something very special and he has lit up La Rosaleda with his virtuoso performances.

Isco…. a special player.

It appears that the uncertainty surrounding the club’s future has galvanised and harnessed the team to produce something special this season. Although it is only mid November and there are many, many games to play until May the hope and spirit they have displayed is something to marvel.

So often during recent times clubs who have fallen into financial troubles have wilted and folded but Malaga appear to be bucking this trend. The game is unfortunately riddled with clubs suffering from financial misadventure but Les Boquerones are proving once and for all that a club all pulling as one in the same direction can make a huge difference.

Malaga have been a huge positive this season and should be congratulated for what they have achieved.

 

Written by Andy Hunter

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