Each week, Sport360 brings 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.
What do you make of this week’s ratings?
1. CEDRIC BAKAMBU (VILLARREAL) – 8.1
Cedric Bakambu has been in a rich vein of form for Villarreal, with his brace on Friday night against Sporting Gijon making it three goals in four days for the Congolese attacker, part of a run in which he’s scored six times in five games.
6 - Only Diego Forlan (11) has scored more braces than Cèdric Bakambu (6) for Villarreal in La Liga ever. Reference pic.twitter.com/EJka6py6BS— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 28, 2017
Spain’s Champions League places have seemed like a foregone conclusion for a while but Villarreal are doing all they can to keep the pressure on fourth-placed Sevilla. Thanks to Bakambu and company, the Yellow Submarine are well-poised to capitalise on any Sevilla slip-up.
2. CHRISTIAN SANTOS (DEPORTIVO ALAVES) – 7.7
Deportivo Alaves rested their regulars over the weekend as they prepare for one of the biggest matches in the club’s history – the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona – and the team’s fringe players stepped up to the challenge. Christian Santos played himself into the reckoning for that cup final, getting a goal and impressing with his all-around play as Alaves romped to a 4-1 away victory over Real Betis.
The Venezuelan will be hoping for more opportunities to prove himself now, and a repeat of his performance against Betis will give manager Mauricio Pellegrino a selection headache.
3. IVAN RAMIS (EIBAR) – 7.6
Yet again, Ramis was imperious in another impressive Eibar display. It may have come against a relegation-threatened Leganes, but Ramis made sure the visitors’ urgency for a win would not unsettle Eibar as they kept a clean sheet.
Eibar’s cruise to a top-half finish this season, not to mention the club’s challenge for the European places, has been one of the more underrated stories in La Liga. Ramis has been a driving force for the club’s remarkable season.
4. SAUL (ATLETICO MADRID) – 7.6
Atletico Madrid may have been looking ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Real Madrid, but the team Diego Simeone put out at Las Palmas showed Atletico mean business in the league, too. Saul was instrumental in the 5-0 win, scoring a goal in the midst of another solid display.
RESPECT: Saul Niguez has admitted he plays every Atletico match with a damaged kidney & risks his health every single game just to play.👏👏 pic.twitter.com/JAQIB08xKU— Football Facts (@FootbalIFact) May 2, 2017
After the game, it’s been revealed that Saul plays every game with a damaged kidney. It just goes to show what a warrior this man is.
5. ROBERTO SOLDADO (VILLARREAL) 7.6
Roberto Soldado looks nothing like the player who struggled at Spurs at Villarreal, where he has begun looking every bit the player Tottenham thought they were buying. On Friday, a goal and an assist kept Villarreal’s push for a Champions League alive.
Soldado suffered an ACL injury in pre-season, but ever since his return has made his team’s attack look even more potent.
For nearly a decade, the received wisdom has been that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best footballers in the world. Now perhaps it is time to revise that opinion.
Ronaldo is now a different player to the box-to-box raider who terrorised defences during the first decade of his career, and although he still provides an extremely dangerous presence around the penalty area he now lacks the all-round game to justifiably be considered as the world’s best player.
And although Messi’s outrageously good Clasico effort demonstrated that his best is still a million miles better than anyone else’s, the Argentine is now nearing his 30th birthday and starting to produce a greater number of ineffective performances.
This season’s Champions League away games at Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus were high-profile examples of Messi struggling to make a positive impact on the big stage. That was at least partly due to tactical deficiencies within Luis Enrique’s set-up, and it will be fascinating to see whether a new coach can inspire Messi to regain consistency next season.
In the meantime, Ronaldo and Messi’s decline (albeit relative and perhaps not permanent in the latter case) has opened up an opportunity for a new face to emerge in the quest to become the world’s greatest player.
There are several contenders, starting with another Barca star in the form of Neymar, whose ability to conjure the spectacular is without compare but whose fragile temperament and disposition for showboating does him no favours in public perception.
This Champions League campaign has also thrust Juventus star Paulo Dybala into the spotlight, and if the 23 year-old can lead the Italian giants to the trophy next month his star will continue to rise – something which Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe will also hope to emulate over the coming weeks.
Although we’re only one-third of the way through the calendar year, there is also a growing case for the rarity of a non-forward winning this year’s Ballon d’Or: Real Madrid left-back Marcelo, whose attacking thrusts have played such a major role in his team’s campaign.
So Neymar, Dybala, Mbappe and perhaps even Marcelo are all vying to upset the long-established Messi-Ronaldo duopoly, while fans trapped inside the English Premier League bubble would probably also champion performers like Eden Hazard and Sergio Aguero.
But perhaps the player with the best claim for the status of being the world’s best is the man who finished third in last year’s Ballon d’Or vote: Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann.
It has been another excellent campaign for the Frenchman, who has netted 25 goals so far and spearheaded Atletico’s march to yet another Champions League semi-final with five goals, including crucial strikes in the first-leg of knockout round victories over Bayer Leverkusen and Leicester.
But Griezmann is the kind of player whose contribution cannot be measured by statistics alone, because one of his greatest assets – and something that makes him even more indispensable for Atletico – is his work-rate and his willingness to sacrifice personal glory for the sake of the team.
Unlike Ronaldo and Messi, whose egos mean they need to have a team built around them, Griezmann is prepared to fit into an existing structure and do whatever his coach demands.
If that means playing on the wing in a 4-5-1 formation, he’ll do it. If it means leading the line on his own, working hard to close down opposition defenders, he’ll do it. If it means dropping deep to help defend the edge of the penalty area before leading counter-attacking charges whenever possession is won, he’ll do that as well – and he’ll do it without complaint or dissent.
That blend of talent and attitude has allowed Griezmann to achieve a lot already, including a place in last season’s Champions League and Euro 2016 finals. But both those games were lost, meaning he is still to won a major trophy.
That needs to change, and there could be no better way for Griezmann to announce himself as the best player in the world by inspiring his team to glory in the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid extended the contract of 21-year-old centre-back Lucas Hernandez to 2022 on Monday, hoping to ward off interest from a host of Europe’s top clubs.
“I am very happy to renew with the club I have spent my whole life with,” said the French under-21 international who has made 20 appearances this season.
“It is great news for all Atletico fans, he is a player with enormous potential with a spectacular future to come,” said Atletico’s sporting director Jose Luis Caminero.
Hernandez looks set to start Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final, first leg at Real Madrid with Atletico missing Jose Maria Gimenez, Sime Vrsaljko and Juanfran through injury.
His brother Theo Hernandez is also in high demand after a stellar season on loan at Alaves from Atletico with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City among those willing to pay his 24 million euros ($26 million) release clause.
The pair’s father Jean-Francois Hernandez also played for Atletico between 2000 and 2001.
* From AFP