Liga’s Player of the Year: The contenders

There are no high-profile Player of the Year awards in Spain – at least nothing as impartial and respected as the PFA and Football writers. If there were last night’s Atletico Madrid heroes Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin would have both featured on the short-list. Pete Jenson looks at the contenders for the player of the season in Spain.

Atletico Madrid’s top scorer this season has continued his transformation from talented winger to free-scoring central striker and he might have to take that metamorphosis into the Euros as France look to cover the absence of Karim Benzema. There were times when it seemed that Griezmann who had minor disciplinary problems when he was younger and came with a reputation for slightly inconsistent brilliance might not fit in to Diego Simeone’s boot camp but nothing could have been further from the truth. The king Benzema is dead… long live El Principito, Griezmann.
It is little wonder that there was only one player Diego Simeone insisted should not be sold last season – Diego Godin. Once again the Uruguayan has been one of the main reasons why Atletico Madrid have taken Spain and Europe by storm on the foundation of an unbreakable defence. He defends but he also leads and Manuel Pellegrini knew that last summer when he tried in vain to persuade City to pull out all the stops to sign him and not Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi. Barcelona’s Gerard Pique has held the Barcelona back four together this season but Godin’s contribution has been enourmous and he just gets in ahead of him.
Having scored 45 goals so far this season in 46 games in all competitions Suarez is just two behind the Brazilian Ronaldo’s haul in the 1996-97 season of 47 goal in 49 games. He is second highest scorer in the league behind Ronaldo and that is some record in a side where you share a forward line with Leo Messiand Neymar and take almost none of the free-kicks and penalties. He has been even better than in his first season and no-one has played more mintues. He has also been the one forward whose end of season form has not faded.
The only man with more league goals than Suarez and while it is true that many of them in the first half of the season seem to come against Espanyol he delivered in the Clasico with the goal that turned the league on its head. He started the season with one foot out of the door but as the weeks have gone by and the goals have flown in it’s more and more difficult to find anyone at Real Madrid who thinks the club should cash-in – you simply can’t put a price on a player who for the last six seasons has scored 30 league goals. And more importantly they can sell James Rodriguez and Isco to swell the spending coffers instead.
He was practically checked in and waiting to board at the start of the season but when the David De Gea signing fell through Keylor Navas was told to turn around and come home. He has made sure no one at the club has missed De Gea this season. He remains primarily a shot-stopper as opposed to the complete package commanding his area and playing out with his feet when necessary. But Real have been poor at the back for so much of the season, a heroic shot-stopper has often been exactly what they have needed.
His 11 goals in 21 starts have put Celta within touching distance of a European place and ensured he will be in Vicente Del Bosque’s squad for the Euros. It is little wonder that in January Luis Enrique was desperate to sign the former Barça B striker. The Catalans’ run-in in would have been far more comfortable had they added him to their squad at the turn of the year. It remains to be seen if the decision not to – forced on them by their own financial regulations governing their wage bill – will end up costing them the title. Meanwhile Barça’s loss is Celta’s gain and with just six games left they look like comfortably qualifying for next season’s Europa League.

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