Despite being a close fought encounter, the La Liga title once again swayed back to Barcelona, who eventually beat Real Madrid to the coveted prize by 15 points. With Tito Vilanova spending a chunk of the season battling cancer, and making his return later in the season, it was an admirable effort from the players to keep momentum whilst they’re coach was ill. Another factor was Jose Mourinho – he was busier trying to play mind games with rivals and winning the Champions League than actually concentrating on the league, ending with him leaving the club and being replaced by Carlo Ancelotti.
As mentioned, Barcelona won, reaching 100 points. Real finished further back and 9 points back in 3rd place was Atletico Madrid, who enter the Champions League for the first time in a while; however losing Falcao will be a blow, despite replacing him with David Villa for 1/12th of the price. Amazingly, after just two seasons back in the top division, Real Sociedad, like Athletico Bilbao – a Basque based team, crept into fourth after an extraordinary season.
Strangely the Europa Spots went to 5th, 7th and 9th after a mixture of events. Valencia finished 5th, simple. Malaga finished 6th, but have been banned from European competitions for a season after going several months without paying wages due to their mega-rich owner pulling out funding. Betis finished 7th, so took the 2nd spot. The Copa Del Rey final was R. Madrid vs At Madrid – so both were already in Europe, so the final spot went to the next league team. 8th went to Rayo Vallecano – but like Malaga struck money problems, so Sevilla, after what was for them was a terrible season, got into Europe in 9th!
Mallorca, Deportivo and Zaragoza were the three to go down, the latter of them being relegated weeks from the end, the other two were fighting up until the last day, but failed. Replacing them are Elche (Segunda Champions), Villarreal (Back after one season) and play-off winners Almeria. All three have experience of the division, so hopefully for them they will do well. Villarreal had a tough time after going down, their newly appointed coach died within weeks of being given the job, and slipped down the league but fought their way back to secure 2nd. Hearty congratulations go to them!
The most improved sides were Sociedad, led by Xabi Prieto – they had a fantastic season, battling with Valencia for the 4th Champions League berth, and thanks to ex-Arsenal man Carlos Vela (14 goals), Imanuel Agirretxe (13 goals) and 10 goals and countless assists from Antoine Griezmann, fourth place was secured on the last day of the season, a 8 place rise, 12th to 4th. The other side to catch the eye were Vallecano, rising from 15th to 8th, but unfortunately losing their Europa League place on financial issues.
The three most disappointing teams were Mallorca, who finished 8th in 11/12, dropped out of the league in 18th. Levante were also down from last season, going from Europe and 6th to mid-table in 11th spot. Osasuna were poor this season, dropping from 7th to 16th
Atletico Madrid won the clean sheet league, with an amazing 20 out of 38 games – much thanks go to a solid defence and Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois, who has had 2 years with them and a 3rd about to begin, playing 74 times. Real Madrid manager Mourinho praised his performance after the 2-1 AET defeat in the Copa Del Rey final, saying “He made many fantastic saves” – probably through gritted teeth, knowing Jose. They were up from 5th this season to 3rd, a huge step up, although losing Falcao could affect them.
Top goalscorer went…yes Messi. 46 goals for the Argentine was down on his 80 odd from last season but still an impressive feat, with injuries striking the Award Winning Superstar. Ronaldo followed with 34, and Monaco new-man Falcao, who was at Atletico, came 3rd with 28. Two other notable mentions go to Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado who had 25 and 24 respectively – both however are leaving the division for English Clubs. In terms of assists – Andres Iniesta won with 16m Mesut Ozil and Messi tied with 13 for 2nd and Karim Benzema/Cesc Fabregas tied for 3rd with 11.
Our player of the year award goes to Messi – an obvious choice but after 46 goals and 13 assists it could go to nobody else!