In the end Barcelona’s two point advantage over second placed Real Madrid in the final La Liga standings was a pretty fair reflection of how the Catalan side had been just about superior over the full course of the campaign.
Looking back over the 38 games there is a feeling that Madrid perhaps, man for man, have the better individual players, but by the end it was Barca who had gelled together as the best team. That sense is borne out by four Bernabeu players, compared to just three from the Camp Nou, featuring in WhoScored.com’s best ranked XI of the 2014/15 La Liga campaign.
Madrid’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was the top ranked individual player at Christmas (9.1/10), but his (relative) dip in form over the second half of the season, coupled with Lionel Messi’s surging performance levels saw the Barca star end 2014/15 as Spain’s highest ranked player (8.84).
Neymar (7.96), James Rodriguez (7.85) and - perhaps surprisingly - Gareth Bale (7.66) round out an ‘all-big two’ top five in terms of performers over the 38 games.
The best player outside Spain’s old firm was Valencia centre-back Nicolas Otamendi (7.59), who is partnered at the back of La Liga’s best XI by Diego Godín of Atletico Madrid (7.37). In a season that has perhaps lacked a standout individual goalkeeper, Villarreal’s Sergio Asenjo (6.93) is between the posts. Madrid and Barca provide the full-backs with Marcelo and Dani Alves, while veteran Atleti midfielder Tiago is in deep midfield.
Ronaldo’s late burst saw him seal a third ‘pichichi’ title as La Liga’s top scorer with 48 goals. The Portuguese also had the most shots per game (6.4), most headed goals (12), and most penalties (10). Nobody scored more goals from outside the box (5), although his teammate James also managed the same total. The Colombian also came joint-top of the key passes ranking with 2.7 per game, the same tally as Celta Vigo’s under-the-radar success Nolito.
Messi did manage to overhaul Ronaldo in the assists table - as the Argentine took that prize with 18. The Blaugrana talisman also topped the lists for completed dribbles (4.6) and through balls (0.9) per game.
The man with the most average passes per game was Rayo Vallecano’s Roberto Trashorras, with 77.7, something which will surely please a player who told WhoScored.com earlier in the season that he checked regularly on, and is proud about, such achievements.
Former Barca youth teamer Trashorras also averaged the most long balls per game of any outfield player (10.7) over the campaign. However, he was edged out by one-time teammate Xavi Hernandez, who came out on top - once again - of the pass completion table, with 92.7% of the veteran playmaker’s passes finding their target during his final season in La Liga.
On the defensive side the standout performers in many areas are much less high-profile, although Barca’s Alves did make the most tackles (4.1 per game).
Rayo’s Abdoulaye Ba made most interceptions (3.9) while Ion Ansotegi of Real Sociedad hoofed the ball clear more than anyone else (7.4 clearances per game). Meanwhile, Villarreal’s Victor Ruiz and Atletico’s Gimenez were joint top of the blocks table - 1.0 per game each. Three players share the dubious honour of having scored two own goals during the season - Barca’s Jordi Alba, Deportivo La Coruna’s Sidnei and Granada’s Diego Mainz.
Other lesser known names appear in different categories. The player shown the most yellow cards was Espanyol’s Victor Sanchez with a massive 18 bookings in 34 games. 11 players were shown two red cards, with Malaga’s Weligton winning this category on the tie-breaker of most yellows too accompany that ‘feat’ (13).
Espanyol’s Lucas Vazquez was fouled more often than any other player - at 3.2 times per game. Atletico’s Koke puts in the most crosses (2.2 per 90 minutes), but Deportivo’s Oriol Riera won more aerial challenges (6 per game) than anyone else.
There are also some categories it might be better not to standout in. Elche forward Coro was the lowest ranked of the 306 players who have featured regularly with a mark of just 6.08/10. Coro’s clubmate Jonathas was caught offside more than anyone else (1.9 times per game), had more unsuccessful touches than anyone else (2.8 per game) and no player committed more fouls (also 2.8 - level with Cordoba’s Florian And one).
Elche fans are probably not too worried about any of that, however, given Jonathas’ 14 goals and 7 assists went a long way to keeping them up, while Coro was usually on the bench. It all shows that, for a team at the bottom, irregular moments of individual skill or success can go a long way to helping their team reach their objectives.
At the top though, it requires excellence week in week out to take the title. Messi won the man of the match award a phenomenal 25 times over the course of 2014/15, while playing in all 38 games (one as sub). Such consistency makes the Argentine WhoScored.com's player of the season, and helped Barca regain the title in La Liga.Published 28 May 2015, 16:48 IST