Phil Ball selects his stand-out players from the 2014/2015 La Liga season. His 4-3-3 formation includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Sevilla’s fulcrum-like Grzegorz Krychowiak.
GOALKEEPER: Diego Alves (Valencia). There a quite a few candidates – Claudio Bravo, Sergio Asenjo, Sergio Rico – but Valencia’s Diego Alves (now seriously injured) gets my vote. Second to Bravo in the Zamora trophy, he didn’t have Barcelona’s defence to help him on his way.
RIGHT FULL-BACK: Mario Gaspar (Villarreal). Juanfran has been good again, as has Dani Carvajal, but Villarreal’s Mario Gaspar gets my vote. Fast, strong, consistent and tactically astute, he seems to have come of age this season, after making his debut at 17 for Atlético Madrid.
LEFT FULL-BACK: José Luis Gaya (Valencia). Marcelo was once again among Real Madrid’s finest this season, but the new player who has attracted the attention of European money-bags clubs is Valencia’s José Luis Gaya. Sensational this season, at a mere 20 years of age, a man with a bright future.
CENTRE-BACK: Nicolás Otamendi (Valencia). Hard as nails, consistent and technically well-equipped, the Argentine has been another of those players who turn up at Valencia and become household names overnight, despite their previous anonymity.
CENTRE-BACK: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona). It’s true that he doesn’t always play as a conventional centre-back, but when he does he looks the best in the world. He anticipates everything, cleans up others’ mistakes, distributes well and helps others to improve too. A fantastic player, so good that most of the time you don’t even notice him.
MIDFIELD: Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona). He was class last year with Sevilla, so we knew he was good – but he deserves to be in the top eleven because of the scale of his challenge this season, replacing a legend (Xavi), fitting into a changing system and helping to define it, and silencing the critics who held him partly responsible for the club’s relatively poor showing before Christmas.
MIDFIELD: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid). Valencia’s Dani Parejo almost made the list, but James deserves a place here. Like Rakitic, he was faced with the problem that the Bernabéu were fond of Angel Di María, but he’s quickly become a favourite. He’s proved himself far more than a spectacular goal-scorer, and has surprised people with his all-round game and astute tactical vision.
— RMCF EL SALVADOR (@SV_RealMadrid) May 29, 2015
MIDFIELD: Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla). A very different player from the one he was brought in to replace (Rakitic), the Pole has been the rock on which Sevilla have founded their excellent season. At €4.5 million, talk about a bargain.
FORWARD: Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid). Real Sociedad fans knew what he was capable of, but nobody expected him to adapt quite so quickly to Atlético, and in effect take over. Third top scorer behind Messi and Ronaldo, he is the new hero of the Calderón, easing effortlessly into Diego Costa´s shoes. A canny player, Pep Guardiola is now on his trail.
FORWARD: Leo Messi (Barcelona). What can one say? The data is as mind-boggling as ever, but since Christmas he has simply been superhuman. The best player in history? I reckon so.
FORWARD: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid). It could be that Ronaldo’s often selfish style and his diminishing sense of emotional intelligence are beginning to affect the overall atmosphere at the Bernabéu, but 48 goals in the league and 61 overall (plus 22 assists) speak for themselves. In a goal-scoring sense, he has been sensational.