In a thrilling season of La Liga where the league title was still to play for on the final day, there were plenty of memorable moments and performances at both ends of the scale from the brilliance of Real Madrid to the despair of Granada.
The season will be remembered as the season of Real Madrid as the Bernabeu club won their first league title since 2012 and still harbour hopes of a double alongside the Champions League, but it should also be noted as Luis Enrique’s final season at the Nou Camp and another important goodbye as Atletico Madrid move away from the Vicente Calderon stadium after 51 years on the banks of the Manzanares.
Read on below to find The Boot Room’s end of season awards for La Liga in the 2016/17 season…
Player of the Year – Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
A player of the year from Barcelona when Real Madrid won the league? In many ways, this is an award to the Real Madrid squad. Zinedine Zidane superbly managed a squad of superstars, rotating them often, in a way which meant that none of them particularly stood out as a star performer. Many will point to Cristiano Ronaldo’s form, but in truth the Portuguese forward only turned up for the last six weeks of the campaign.
Nor does Cristiano’s record compare to the Argentineans, with 40 goals and 12 assists for CR7 compared to 53 goals and 18 assists for Lionel Messi, who averaged a goal a game in all competitions with a ratio higher than that in La Liga.
However, it would be an injustice to ignore the real quality displayed by Messi this season. The Barcelona number 10 has repeatedly single handedly won games for the Catalans, with incredible displays against the likes of Sevilla and Villarreal earning points on his own.
With his team still clearly dependent upon his quality to obtain results, it is hard to imagine that they would have been anywhere near Real Madrid at the end of the season had he not been in such incredible form. Playing in a deeper role than ever, and still scoring over 50 goals, it is time to acknowledge that Lionel Messi is the best player of all time.
Coach of the Year – Mauricio Pellegrino (Deportivo Alaves)
Whilst an honourable mention must go to Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pellegrino has worked wonders at Alaves. Promoted last season after 10 years in the second division, they secured a ninth place finish, only nine points off of a European place and above the likes of Valencia and Celta Vigo.
As if that isn’t impressive enough, the Argentinean has also led his side to a Copa del Rey final after beating the likes of Celta Vigo and Deportivo A Coruna on their way to the final, somehow managing to balance a cup campaign alongside a remarkable display in La Liga, something that a number of bigger clubs have struggled with previously.
Whilst victory over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final was always unlikely, reaching the final alone was a major achievement for the club and only their second ever cup final after they were beaten in the UEFA Cup final in 2001 by Liverpool on their way to the treble. With just the 15th largest budget in the Spanish top flight, it indicates real progress.
Fluent in English after a brief spell at Anfield as a player, Pellegrino will be linked with a number of bigger jobs this summer and has been strongly linked with Celta Vigo ahead of next season, with Eduardo Berizzo having declared that he will leave the club with a move to Sevilla likely.
Newcomer of the Year – Carlos Soler (Valencia)
Liked by Gary Neville in his brief spell in Spain, Pako Ayestaran promoted the young midfielder to the first team, but it was Voro who gave him a real chance with the offer of regular first team football. Since making his debut against Real Sociedad in December, the 20-year-old has started every game where he’s been available.
With three La Liga goals, the holding midfielder has shown that he isn’t afraid to break forwards or play in a more advanced position if needed, with his energy and determination showing just how far he can go in the game in his debut season.
Having recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Mestalla until 2021 with a release clause worth £69 million, it is unlikely that he will move on any time soon. With Marcelino set to take over at the club, that could be a good thing.
The ex-Villarreal boss developed a reputation for putting his confidence in young players like Denis Suarez, and Soler could become his next big project. Interest is likely, with Barcelona and Manchester United already having been linked, but regular football and trust could be exactly what the Spaniard needs.
Signing of the Season – Pablo Piatti (RCD Espanyol, on loan from Valencia)
Signed on loan with a view to a permanent deal, Piatti had been sidelined and discarded at Mestalla. Making just nine La Liga starts last season, expectations weren’t particularly high when the 28-year-old moved to Barcelona in the summer.
With 10 goals and 11 assists in 31 league games, the Argentine winger has shown his quality and returned to his position as one of Spain’s most exciting wide players, firing Espanyol to midtable after years of fighting off relegation in the bottom half.
A goal and two assists on his debut against Sevilla was impressive enough, but continuing that form has shown that he was one of very few new additions in La Liga to make a substantial impact for his new side.
Game of the Season – Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona
The ultimate display of quality and class, few games in world football could provide more than El Classico, and it didn’t disappoint at the Bernabeu in April as Lionel Messi’s injury time strike earned his side three points to reignite the title race and give them a shot of catching Real Madrid in the last month of the season.
Real Madrid had opened the scoring, with Casemiro putting the favourites into the lead, but Messi reacted quickly to draw his side level. When Ivan Rakitic gave his side the lead in the 73rd minute, it looked to be a pivotal moment until James Rodriguez struck with just four minutes left to score what looked to be one of the most important goals of the season.
Messi’s strike in injury time was one of beauty as Barcelona moved the ball from back to front, showing the kind of quality that made them contenders and would surely have won them the league had they produced the goods on a more regular basis and put the cherry on the cake of a thrilling game.
Goal of the Season – Kevin Prince Boateng (Las Palmas vs Villarreal)
A real team move saw Kevin Prince Boateng give his UD Las Palmas side the lead against Champions League chasing Villarreal as the visitors worked their way into the box with some exquisite one touch football to penetrate the defence of the Yellow Submarine.
A beautifully chipped ball caught out the defence before Tana back-heeled a volley into the path of the former AC Milan midfielder who swung a sweet volley of his own to send the ball flying into the bottom corner after a stunning team move showed the style of the Canary Island outfit.
It was not enough to earn the three points for Boateng’s side and may have lacked the individual quality of some other efforts, such as Fernando Torres’ fine overhead kick against Celta Vigo, but it was an incredible goal from the midfielder.
You can watch the goal for yourself here.
Team of the Year
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