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Cyler’s Season Awards: La Liga — Part 1

The Spanish brand of football has seen better days, to say the least.

Cadiz CF v Granada CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

After a less than brief hiatus, Cyler’s Season Awards return, moving now to Spain! The La Liga seemed set to enter a dark age but the resurgence of teams competing in Europe has seen the division shine once again. We look first to the teams in the bottom third of the table.

If you haven’t checked out our 2. Bundesliga awards, I would highly recommend familiarising yourself with them as some of the names mentioned could come up as top performers in the top flight of Germany this season. The bottom half of the table can be found here while the top half of the table can be found here.

I’ve also covered France’s top flight of football — the Ligue 1 — which you can find here, here and here.

With all this said and done, let’s crack open La Liga in the year gone by!

20th - Deportivo Alavés

Deportivo Alaves v Villarreal CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Fernando Pacheco (GK)
Alavés’ defense was depressing, but Pacheco offered a handful of good performance despite the constantly in-flowing goals.

Fußballgott: Mamadou Loum (CDM/CM)
Loum was serviceable in the middle as a 6 carrying the ball forward to the front four from the back four, with his progression becoming a pillar of Alavés’ play.

Der Bomber: Luis Rioja (LM)
Rioja was consistent, pressing well down his flank and often pushing ahead of his fellow creators to aid the striker off the ball. Despite this, he would maintain the stamina to rack up more minutes than any other player in the team. On the ball, his creation would not set the world alight in any manner but a return of 3 assists is not bad.

Meister of the Season: Joselu (ST)
Despite Alavés’ disastrous season, Joselu was simply world class. 14 goals and 4 assists in a sinking ship is the kind of return very few players can manage, but Joselu did. His ability to conduct the entire front four with his hold up, positioning and link-up provided a focal point for the entire attack to pivot around, and when the tactics wouldn’t work Joselu would pull moments of brilliance out of his pocket.

19th - Levante UD

Real Madrid v Levante - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Óscar Duarte (CB)
Duarte was the best of what was a rather unimpressive defensive line. The unit was disorganised and chaotic throughout.

Fußballgott: Enis Bardhi (CM)
One of the more consistent players over the last few years, Bardhi continued his development into one of the best players in North Macedonia’s brief history. His attacking engine was characteristically strong but this year he added defensive contribution to his repertoire.

Der Bomber: Jorge de Frutos (RW)
Frutos was serviceable down the right flank, with 4 goals and 7 assists.

Meister of the Season: José Luis Morales (ST)
An absolute legend of La Liga, Morales had a fantastic season with a disappointing Levante team, with 13 goals and 7 assists in the league. I was excited when I heard he would be staying in La Liga with a new team at the end of his contract, but I must say I’m not excited for his prospects of game-time at Villarreal.

18th - Granada CF

Granada CF v RCD Espanyol - La Liga Santander Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Luís Maximiano (GK)
Granada’s defense was as un-special as any other relegation team, and Maximiano was the brightest of a set of very not-bright players.

Fußballgott: Luis Milla (CM/CDM)
While Milla often failed to control games and keep attackers under his thumb, his ability to progress the ball was still undoubtedly important to Granada’s play.

Der Bomber: Luis Suárez (ST)
Suárez scored 8 and assisted 4 as part of a strike partnership, and his ability to drift to the left and drag defenders allowed Granada space for others to push into.

Meister of the Season: Jorge Molina (ST)
Suárez’s usual strike partner was Molina. While he did not start every game, his ability to come off the bench and change the complexion of games in extremely short times gave Granada more options, and important options at that. 10 goals and 5 assists — 3 goals and 1 assist off the bench — is an impressive return.

17th - Cádiz CF

Cadiz FC v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Alfonso Espino (LB)
Espino was an excellent presence down the left, consistently running up and down the flank tirelessly. 2 goals and 2 assists is a respectable return.

Fußballgott: Jens Jønsson (CM/CDM)
It is rare to see a 4-4-2 employ a proper 6 as one of the midfield pivots, but Cádiz did exactly that by repurposing Jønsson into midfield. He was strong in the tackle, good at reading the game and in general a consistently positive presence.

Der Bomber: Álvaro Negredo (ST)
Negredo showed why he was once considered world class, as while his link up and pressing weren’t ideal, his strength as a target man both in the air and on the shoulder of the last man was present for all to see. 7 goals and 2 assists was a good return for the 36 year old.

Meister of the Season: Jeremías Ledesma (GK)
Ledesma has been one of my favourite goalkeepers to watch for a few years, and while he had dropped off as of late he would return to form in flying colours this season, with great saves that in the end may have been the difference between relegation and survival for Cádiz.

16th - RCD Mallorca

CA Osasuna v RCD Mallorca - La Liga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Jaume Costa (LB)
Mallorca’s switch to the 4-2-3-1 would bare fruit in the form of great performances from both wing backs. On the left, former Valencia and Villarreal player Jaume Costa found success. While Mallorca’s defense in general wasn’t the most well set-up, Costa would contribute greatly going forward with 4 assists.

Fußballgott: Iddrisu Baba (CDM/CM)
Mallorca’s midfield double pivot was disappointing to say the least. Babu was the least disappointing.

Der Bomber: Vedat Muriqi (ST)
Muriqi was simply unreal. After a non-start to the season at Lazio, he would transfer to Mallorca in the second half of the season he would come back with a vengeance. 5 goals and 3 assists in 16 league appearances is the kind of return you see from players slapped with the label of ‘world class’.

Meister of the Season: Pablo Maffeo (RB)
While Muriqi was explosive in his short game-time, Maffeo was consistent and consistently excellent at that. A goal and 3 assists is a deceptively low return for a player that functioned as both the sole defensive presence and attacking lynchpin on the right flank. Maffeo is genuinely one of the best right backs in the league and we could soon see him in the Spanish national team.

15th - Getafe CF

Elche CF v Getafe CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Francisco Macia/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Jorge Cuenca (CB)
Getafe’s defense was strong, and Cuenca was the vocal and active leader that it so needed. Leading the back five, Cuenca would show his exceptional ability to command and and lead by example, a quality that is almost always either non-existent or undeveloped in any 22 year old centre backs.

Fußballgott: Mauro Arambarri (CM)
Arambarri developed from a 6 to a proper box-to-box player with a strong defense sat behind him, and the team greatly benefitted from it, especially his ability to create chances from slightly deeper in the pitch, bagging him 5 assists.

Der Bomber: Enes Ünal (ST)
Ünal is a player I’ve talked about before — namely in this Mannschaft Planen article — and for good reason. The kid is cracked. 17 goal contributions out of a team total of 33 means he’s contributed to more than half of the goals, 16 of which he scored himself. Ünal showed great character with most of his goals coming when the team was behind or on even terms, and this uncanny ability to flip games on their head even from off the bench is a quality many teams would die for. Strong in the air, strong in the press, great finish, great instincts as a striker, overall a truly complete package as a number 9. Only thing I can really say is his link-up and hold-up isn’t the strongest.

Meister of the Season: Mathías Olivera (LB/LWB)
Olivera is a defender’s defender. His ability on the ball may be unconvincing but he just does not let players get past him. He was dominant in the air, unreal at intercepting and holding off wingers, and almost never made poor decisions. His ability to isolate wingers with perfect positioning and placement of his shadow showed great intelligence, and he would even be able to win out against overloads at times. His ability to hold down the left flank by himself allowed Getafe to overload other areas and have more asymmetry in their formation.

14th - RCD Espanyol

Granada CF v RCD Espanyol - La Liga Santander Photo by Fermin Rodriguez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Der Kaiser: Leandro Cabrera (CB/LB)
Cabrera looked strong and like he’s finally hit his stride in Spain after a rough couple of years. Espanyol’s attacks all started with Cabrera, who’s ability to build from the back while not over-committing showed great maturity and understanding of the Spanish game. His intelligence in positioning extended to his ability to mark as well, with Espanyol’s marking holding tighter than most.

Fußballgott: Sergi Darder (CM)
Darder, usually a 10, was re-purposed to become part of a midfield double pivot, and served his role fantastically. 3 goals and 9 assists from this position showed his versatility as a box-to-box player. Cabrera’s ability to build from deep also often allowed him to push ahead and join the attacking unit at times.

Der Bomber: Javier Puado (LM)
Puado was not the most flashy or mind-blowing player on the left, but he was, was efficient. 4 goals and an assist in the league as well as a goal in the Copa del Rey is a good return for the player. While he would not be able to cross as well as would be ideal, his ability to make diagonal runs and disrupt defenses with his movement was important to Espanyol’s final third play, especially with two players acting as attacking midfielders in the middle when Darder would push forward.

Meister of the Season: Raúl de Tomás (ST)
One of the finer strikers in Europe, de Tomás scored an amazing 17 goals to go with his assists, a striker that has reached his prime. While his timing of runs isn’t ideal, his hold-up play, passing, ability to beat his man, finishing, positioning and instincts in the box, ability in the air, ability to shoot from distance, play through balls from behind the last line and threat from set pieces all made him a threat. De Tomás was not only a threat, he was a versatile threat.

What do you guys think of these awards? Have I omitted anyone that I really shouldn’t have? Let us know in the forum below.

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