With the conclusion of the 2017/18 La Liga season, we’re handing out of end-of-season awards and this time we look at the signing of the season.
SIGNING OF THE SEASON
Geoffrey Kondogbia (Valencia)
Any regular La Liga viewers will have screamed in the direction of Didier Deschamps when the France squad was announced minus Kondogbia.
The 25-year-old has emerged as one of Europe’s most complete midfielders this season, resurrecting his career on loan at Valencia following a disastrous spell with parent club Inter Milan.
Los Che hope to make the deal permanent in the summer and it’s no surprise considering he led the way in practically every statistic.
There are very few players in world football who are able to mesh the athletic gifts of power, pace balance and agility with intelligence, technique and touch.
A masterclass season from the Frenchman.
Marc Bartra (Real Betis)
Real Betis’ expansive style in a 3-4-2-1 naturally puts a lot of pressure on the back thre,e but the signing of Barta from Borussia Dortmund in January proved to be a masterstroke. He would often spark Betis’ attacks from the back and has become far more assured defensively, as well.
Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
Costa’s impact is perhaps more indirect than direct but when the Spain international was free to play after the club’s transfer ban, he helped Antoine Griezmann flourish. The Frenchman struggled in the early part of the campaign as the lone spearhead but alongside Costa the terrible, the pair formed one of the league’s perfect partnerships.
The departure of Brazilian Diego Alves left a sizable hole for Los Che, but his countryman Neto has emerged as one of the outstanding stoppers in La Liga. His €7 million deal from Juventus is looking like an absolute bargain and he made the second-most saves in Spain this season with 110. He was desperately unlucky to miss out on the travelling party to Russia this summer.
With the conclusion of the 2017/18 La Liga season, we’re handing out of end-of-season awards and this time we look at the flop of the season.
FLOP OF THE SEASON
Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
To rewind back to last summer, the forecast for Barcelona was one of gloom after the shocking departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
That they went on to be so dominant domestically this season is a credit to boss Ernesto Valverde, especially given the man brought in to replace Neymar has been a huge disappointment.
Dembele’s season was of course disrupted by a troublesome hamstring, but when fit, he’s well, not looked the right fit for the Blaugrana.
For a player costing €147 million (Dh635.3m), his passing is well short of the standards expected at Barca while his talent, of which there can be no doubt, has been well short of the sort of consistency needed at this level.
Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid)
Why Ceballos left Real Betis to join a talent-rich Real Madrid midfield is baffling, but despite his obvious quality he’s managed only 397 minutes in La Liga this term. His lack of playing time has been well documented and the Spaniard has been one of head coach Zinedine Zidane’s least-used players.
Vitolo (Atletico Madrid)
His transfer to Atletico Madrid from Sevilla was a massive soap opera, but his performances have lacked quite the same entertainment. Because of the club’s transfer ban, he spent the first-half of the season at Las Palmas and plundered just once in the league. Another solitary strike followed when he did switch to Atleti, to end a disappointing campaign.
Jose Ziganda was given the unenviable task of replacing Ernesto Valverde at Athletic Bilbao and his side slumped to a degrading 16th-placed finish. The team have struggled to find any sort of consistency and it’s not to no surprise that the club confirmed they’ll be searching for a new boss this summer. Eduardo Berizzo is hotly tipped to take over.
With the conclusion of the 2017/18 La Liga season, we’re handing out of end-of-season awards and this time we look at the manager of the season.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Quique Setien (Real Betis)
In any other season, Ernesto Valverde would warrant the award when you consider Barcelona blitzed the league and were unbeaten until the penultimate matchweek.
But Setien steered Real Betis – who finished 15th last term – into sixth and did so by implementing a brand of football which is arguably not just the most entertaining and enterprising in Spain, but the whole of Europe.
He was revelation during a two-year spell with Las Palmas and it was surprising no bigger club picked him up last summer.
It has been to Betis’ gain because his high-risk style brings big reward, after all they did beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Setien is undoubtedly the best manager for any neutral fan.
Ernesto Valverde (Barcelona)
After the chaos of last summer following Neymar’s departure, Valverde was a pillar of calm. He substituted substance over style with his 4-4-2 – also used at times by Luis Enrique – moving away from the Barcelona DNA of 4-3-3, but it was hugely effective as they actually improved this season to guide the runaway champions to an almost-unbeaten season.
For the 13th time in five years, Los Che were under new management but they’ve got the right man with Marcelino. He’s changed the club’s culture, style and system and it’s paid dividends with Valencia jumping into the top-four after their mid-table finish last season.
Paco Lopez (Levante)
Paco Lopez deserves a huge amount of credit for the job he’s done with Levante this season. He was in charge of their reserves up until March with the team destined for the drop, but eight wins from 12 fixtures – including the signature 5-4 defeat of Barcelona – sealed Spanish top-flight football for another season.