La Liga Best XI for the 2013/14 season
A thrilling La Liga season came to an end after Atletico Madrid were crowned as champions on the last matchday. Real Madrid were already out of contention while Barcelona had to register a win to snatch the title away from Atletico. Atletico needed a draw to secure the title and that is exactly what they did against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Diego Simeone’s men won their first title in 18 years. It was a complete team effort throughout the campaign from the Rojiblancos players who were finally rewarded with a silverware for their efforts. And it was a deserving one indeed.
Keeping that in mind, we have compiled a list of the best 11 players in La Liga this season. Who got in and who got surprisingly excluded?
We take a look at the assembled lot who have been selected on the basis of their stats, and most of all, the impact they had on their teams this season.
Goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois played his third consecutive season in front of goal for Atletico Madrid. The Belgian keeper has been growing steadily since his loan move from Chelsea in 2011. But this year was significantly different from the previous couple of seasons as his team finally dethroned Real Madrid and Barcelona to become La Liga champions.
And it was heavily down to the crucial saves he made specially during the business end of the season. The 22-year-old proved to be pivotal in fixtures where Atletico won on slight margins. With a total of 70 saves in the league, he has kept 20 clean sheets in 37 games which clearly indicates why Atletico edged out the tight encounters.
His most memorable games included the away fixtures against Madrid and Barcelona. At the Bernabeu, Atletico held on to a 1-0 lead as Ronaldo and co were denied by some brilliant keeping from Courtois. While Barcelona failed to register a single goal at the Calderon as Simeone's resilient side held them to a stalemate. Courtois was definitely quite ahead of any other goalkeeper in the Spanish league and deservedly was the undisputed no.1 in this season.
Defenders – Juanfran – Godin – Pepe – Luis
Juanfran was the most consistent right back in the league compared to any other player in that position. The Spanish international appeared in 35 games for the Rojiblancos and has provided 4 assists this season.In all of Atletico's matches, he has been a constant threat down the right flank, taking the initiative to make those incisive runs and always ready to provide attacking support to the forwards. The crosses he has provided into the box have been effective for the likes of Diego Costa and Arda Turan to capitalize and convert their chances.
He was immense in his defensive duties as well and has looked focused all the time. The organization at the back and the co-ordination with his team-mates has helped in nullifying the threat from opposition wingers. With an average season rating of 7.11, the 29-year-old has given his hundred per cent every match and his efforts have been fruitful towards Atletico's successful season.
While there have been many defenders who have been outstanding throughout this campaign, Diego Godin has surpassed each and every one of them. The Uruguayan has been a rock solid figure at the centre and his partnership with Miranda has been almost impenetrable.The 28-year-old has started in 34 games for the red and whites which includes 4 goals and 1 assist. The most notable feature of Godin has been his aerial prowess coupled with his impeccable sense of timing to tackle the opponent forwards.
It was already a great season for the centre-back, but that turned into a perfect one when he headed Atletico's most important goal of the season against Barcelona, at the Nou Camp, to cancel out Alexis Sanchez's strike and win the La Liga on the final day for the Calderon faithful.
Pepe missed the business end of the season with injuries. But Real Madrid's decent defensive record in this campaign compared to their previous seasons was largely due to the Portuguese's brilliant displays for the Los Blancos. Pepe returned to his full form after suffering from an injury last season. The 31-year-old was as combative as ever and saved Real on numerous occasions. The tackles have been superb and he has been effective in attack as well.
In the 30 games he has played in La Liga this season, Pepe has scored 4 goals and assisted 3 for the capital club. Perhaps the most crucial goal from Pepe came against Osasuna which saved Real's blushes as they secured a point instead of a defeat at Pamplona. Pepe's absence was felt mainly in the games where Real Madrid faltered and thye eventually ended up at 3rd place in the table.
Atletico Madrid's left-back, Filipe Luis, was the strongest candidate ahead of players like Jordi Alba, Marcelo and Benat. The Brazilian had a fine season defending and providing attacking support down the left flanks. His strengths have been man-marking the opponents, providing key passes and an unbelievable work rate. He finished the season with a 7.24 rating which reflects just how consistent he has been for the Calderon outfit.
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Midfielders – Luka Modric, Gabi, Koke, Rakitic
Luka Modric emerged as the orchestrator for Real Madrid under Carlo Ancelotti. Ever since the Italian took over, Modric has found a new dimension to his game alongside Xabi Alonso in a 3-man midfield. The Croat’s responsibilities increased in the centre of the pitch and he has been the perfect playmaker for Los Blancos. He has been at the heart of almost all of Real’s move.
Modric has provided 6 assists this season and his only goal was a long range effort against Getafe. Aside from statistics, his impact on the field was clearly notable from the way he build up the play and kept the midfield shape intact while distributing the ball. He was equally immense in helping his team in defence. Modric experienced a great second season and he features as the deep lying playmaker of the team
Gabi has served as Atletico’s midfield general this season. The Spanish international has been a focal figure for Diego Simeone. His experience in the middle was a crucial component for the team as they were organized and compact under his leadership. His biggest strength is the amount of concentration he possesses in each and every game. Long balls and set-pieces are the key components of his play.
Overall, Gabi has assisted 8 times in the league while scoring 3 goals in the process. Perhaps, the most important strike was the long range effort against Real Madrid where he scored a screamer from 40 yards. Defensively, he has delivered week after week, saving his team in close called encounters. Gabi’s terrific display this season sees him line up alongside Modric at the centre of midfield.
Koke has been simply brilliant for Atletico this season. The 21-year-old has been foreseen as Xavi’s successor in Spain’s midfield and he has lived up to that reputation. Although versatile on the pitch, Koke’s preferred position is on the right flank where he has mostly featured for the Rojiblancos for this season. His young energetic legs have installed dynamism in Atletico’s style as his work rate enables him to create, score and track back while defending as well.
In attack, Koke has provided 13 assists and netted 6 goals for his team. That clearly depicts how valuable he has been in the road to Atletico’s successful season. The success rate from corner kicks was mainly due to the perfectly provided deliveries in the box by the Spanish international. 80 percent of the passes he made were vital to Atletico in creating scoring chances. Koke gets to start in the midfield alongside his team-mate Gabi.
Rakitic has scored 12 goals in 25 appearances. He also has 10 assists to his name. He is very quick with his passing, especially his first touch passes. He carries the team forward from his attacking midfield position. He has been their main man conducting the attacking plays and apart from his La Liga performances, his Europa League campaign should also be mentioned where Sevilla won the title this season.
His most important performance this season was against Real Madrid at home when Sevilla 2-1 His key pass was instrumental in Bacca’s winner. He lines up alongside his compatriot Luka Modric in midfield.
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Forwards – Diego Costa, Cristiano Ronaldo
If Diego Simeone was the King of Atletico fighting for the crown of La Liga, Diego Costa was his biggest warrior on the field. The Brazilian born striker filled in for the departing Radamel Falcao and took charge of the attack on his shoulders. Since he became the first option for the Rojiblancos, he has transformed into a world class prospect leading the forward line for Simeone.
Costa regularly found the net for his team converting chances at a brilliant rate. His finishing qualities have massively contributed towards Atletico’s title win. The Spain international finished the tournament as the third highest scorer of the league behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He may lack good temperament and discipline on the field, but the quality he provides in the striking department makes him a threat for any opposition. Costa leads the attack in the two-man forward line.
On an individual perspective, Cristiano Ronaldo ended yet another brilliant season. The Portuguese notched 31 goals this campaign and finished as the top scorer of the league. He has excelled in providing support to his team mates too as he has 9 assists to his name. Injury has troubled the Real Madrid winger which forced him to be sidelined in the last few games. Real Madrid ended their season on 3rd place behind Barcelona.
Ronaldo’s goals came in at crucial points. His performance away at Elche among controversial decisions saved Real’s blushes. The last minute winner against Levante gave Madrid crucial three points while the back flick against Valencia kept his team in the title hunt. The 2014 Ballon d’Or winner is undoubtedly a goal scoring machine and he starts alongside Diego Costa in the attack.
Substitutes: Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale, Alexis Sanchez, Iturraspe, Aymeric Laporte, Dani Alves, Benat