Each week, Sport360 will be bring you the best five players from La Liga, as chosen by you the supporters through our ValoraFutbol fan ratings tool.
YOU have direct influence on who appears in each Top Five so be sure to rate each weekend.
1) AUGUSTO FERNANDEZ (ATLETICO MADRID) – 7.59
Augusto was a strong presence at the heart of the Atletico midfield, stopping Real Madrid’s creative talents play, as Diego Simeone’s men wrapped-up a 1-0 victory over their city rivals at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Argentina international, who has become a lynch-pin in the side since making the switch from Celta Vigo in January, frustrated Zinedine Zidane’s side by breaking up play and releasing his team’s attacking stars.
2) LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA) – 7.48
Valora regular Messi reached the 30-goal mark for an eighth consecutive season with a superb equalising free-kick as Barcelona strengthened their grip on the La Liga title with a 2-1 home win over Sevilla.
The Argentine magician, who hit 58 goals last season as the Catalan giants went on to do the treble, played a key role in Luis Enrique side’s victory at the Nou Camp.
3) MATIAS NAHUEL (VILLARREAL) – 7.41
The Spain under-21 wide-man helped the Yellow Submarine continue their hot pursuit of Champions League football next term with a 3-0 rout over Levante, closing the gap on Real Madrid to two points.
The 19-year-old was a constant threat all afternoon, twisting and turning from wing positions to create space for Villarreal’s forward talent.
4) LEO BAPTISTAO (VILLARREAL) – 7.38
The 23-year-old Brazilian forward, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid, hit the first goal in the Yellow Submarine side’s 3-0 home success over Levante.
Baptistao, who has also enjoyed loan spells at Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano, moved in-field from a wide position before firing a shot past the goalkeeper from an acute angle.
5) PEDRO BIGAS (LAS PALMAS) – 7.32
The versatile Las Palmas star netted the only goal of the game as his team secured their first away victory of the season against Eibar.
The 25-year-old headed home his first goal for the Yellows on the stroke of half-time from a corner as the Islanders controlled the action.
From an outsider’s perspective there seem like few negatives Pique could choose from, but here the Spaniard explains exactly what it takes to deal with both the highs and lows to ensure you remain at the top of the sport.
The former Manchester United centre-back says that not being given game time at Old Trafford bothered him and that as a defender he cannot let mistakes get to him.
On the flip side, and during a career of huge success, Pique descries how he “felt like a superstar” after arriving at Barca and winning just about everything there was to win.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit the headlines after this weekend’s Madrid derby for his ill-advised—he says misinterpreted—comments about his team-mates.
Whether or not his comments were meant as a jibe at his colleagues, only he will know. However, they have certainly not helped the Portuguese’s image in a year when his side has failed to mount a substantial challenge to rivals Barcelona in La Liga.
Rightly or wrongly, Ronaldo is seen as only out for himself and not for the team.
With that in mind, our #360debate today is: Should Real Madrid sell Cristiano Ronaldo?
While there was a significant amount of backtracking, with each passing week Cristiano Ronaldo makes his departure from Real Madrid all the more easier to set in motion.
Ronaldo’s criticism of his team-mates in the wake of Saturday’s derby defeat to Atletico Madrid had more than a little of Roy Keane circa 2005 about it. Except when the Irishman took aim at the likes of Darren Fletcher, Kieran Richardson and Alam Smith, it was done to in-house station MUTV and was largely with the club’s own interests at heart.
Ronaldo’s words were to journalists in the mixed zone at the Bernabeu – an area he is renowned for mostly ignoring, more likely to walk past reporters with a pout. This was pure narcissism.
But just as Keane’s criticism hastened his exit from United, so too should it for Ronaldo from Madrid. Both are past their peak and becoming a dangerous presence within the dressing room.
You could just about accept Ronaldo’s words if he was scoring hat-tricks every game. Just. And while his many fanboys will point to his 34 goals in 33 games this season let’s not ignore the fact he’s yet to hit the target against any of Spain’s top five sides and 16 of his 22 La Liga goals have been against teams in the bottom-half. They’re largely empty statistics.
Cristiano Ronaldo: "If all players at Real Madrid were at my level, we would be top of the league." pic.twitter.com/RPWkYezFHl— Soccer Quotes (@Soccerquotes17) February 28, 2016
With all their resources, Real could find a younger scorer who could do that and more. And without the baggage.
In January, Football Leaks detailed Gareth Bale’s 2013 transfer from Tottenham and how the fee was kept quiet to placate Ronaldo. Will that have to happen again if Madrid try this summer for Robert Lewandowski or Paul Pogba?
From a practical perspective, at 30, this is the last summer Madrid can hope to earn a considerable transfer fee for the Portuguese. Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are two obvious destinations and receiving more than £70m in transfer fees is realistic.
That won’t be the case next season when he has 12 months to run on his contract from June 2017, and a free transfer to the MLS will be in negotiation for 2018.
No player is bigger than any club, even at the madhouse that is Real Madrid.
Real Madrid are still finding their feet under Zinedine Zidane, and the French coach has not found a formula which allows Cristiano Ronaldo to shine. But making the leap from there to suggesting they should sell their alltime leading goalscorer, during a season which has seen him score at a rate of more than a goal per game, is absurd.
Ronaldo did not play well in Madrid’s latest derby defeat to Atletico. But then neither did anyone else, and the result was due to collective failings on the team’s part – not individuals.
What Madrid need, rather than jettisoning arguably the deadliest goalscorer in the world, is a period of stability. They need to allow Zidane to work without the pressure of fearing that his job is on the line, so that he can develop a coherent team system which gets the most out of their awesomely talented individuals – including Ronaldo.
That clearly is not the case right now, as demonstrated by their problems whenever they come up against quality opposition.
Ronaldo, without any doubt, still has an enormous amount to offer and should be the central part of that process.
In the same way that Barcelona remodelled their playing style last season to improve the effectiveness of Lionel Messi, who was previously below his best for two years, Madrid and Zidane must do the same now.
Something else they must do is address the physical care provided by the club’s medical staff, whose relationship with senior players is so bad that Sergio Ramos reportedly attempted to ban them from the dressing room earlier in the season.
As noted by Ronaldo in his ill-advised and petulant – but essentially accurate – post-match comments this weekend, they have been badly hindered by a long line of injuries this season. Imagine Barcelona operating without Luis Suarez, Neymar, Jordi Alba and Javier Mascherano, the equivalents of the Madrid players currently sidelined.
Obviously they would be less successful. Real Madrid need to keep their players fit and find a system which allows them to play well together.
Selling Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn’t even enter their thinking.