Mikael Susaeta - Atletico Bilbao
Susaeta has come out of the shadows to be one of La Liga's outstanding performers in the first half of the season. He has been a regular starter over the past two seasons, but this year, he is stepping up and taking responsibility. The Bilbao winger's pace and set-pieces have been central to their best work going forward.
His success is made all the more impressive by the company he keeps. In a Bilbao midfield which is packed with incredibly talented young players, it is Susaeta (24) who has taken the mantle as their exceptional player. Ahead of the season, the focus was on the trio of Spanish international Javi Martinez (23), new £7.5 million playmaker Ander Herrera (22), and forward Iker Muniain (19). These three in particular were expected to deliver the creativity and thrust for Bilbao. However, it is Susaeta who has outperformed them all.
He has a reasonable two goals and three assists to his name and it is his superb delivery in particular that has been vital to the success of Marcel Bielsa's side - and seen him cement his place in the side ahead of David Lopez. Naturally, he is a home-grown talent for Bilbao and he is further endeared to the crowd as his stature and style also evoke that of the recently retired legend Joseba Etxeberria.
Bilbao sit ninth in the table and have not quite lived up to the expectations for a side which has shown great promise under new coach Marcelo Bielsa, but they are sure to build on a solid foundation being built by the Chilean coach.
Radamel Falcao - Atletico Madrid
Lots of excitement about the Colombian in the pre-season with the striker being heavily linked with a £40million move to Chelsea. However, the ex-Porto man finally pitched up, rather surprisingly at Atletico Madrid for a club record fee. Chelsea fans might be relieved to know that he has struggled to recreate his Porto form and his ineffective displays have gone some way to seeing manager Gregory Manzano losing his job.
He made a bright start to the season with a hat-trick against Racing Santander and a brace against Sporting Gijon. However, he has had a tendency to disappear and been anonymous for large parts of the season, scoring in fits and starts. Granted, he has nine for the season, but three have been penalties. All in all, his inconsistency has been reflective of a team who site 10th in the table and new manager Diego Simeone will be expecting a bit more from the club's record signing in the new year.
Raul Garcia - Osasuna
The prodigal son returned home to Osasuna in the close-season on loan after a difficult four year spell at Atletico Madrid. The midfield dynamo had made his name as a gifted youngster in the heart of the Osasuna midfield and became a mainstay of the U21 Spanish team. In 2007, as a 21-year-old he made the mistake of many of his fellow professionals and made a big-money (£13 million) move to Atletico. At Atletico, he started well, but his progress all but ground to a halt when he was usurped by former Chelsea and Juventus man, Tiago.
However, since returning to Pamplona, Garcia has been central to Osasuna's success this term. Osasuna went into the winter break in a well earned fifth place. To back this up with some figures, Garcia has scored four and made five from his central midfield role.
Santi Cazorla – Malaga
Perhaps not so much of a surprise but Malaga's marquee summer signing has been almost perfect for the recently moneyed southern side since arriving for £21million from Villarreal. Santi is Malaga's top scoring side with four - three of which were stunning free kicks - and has still found time to busy himself by being central to everything Manuel Pellegrini's side do going forward. The rest of the side have not quite clicked but sitting seventh is no disaster going into the second half of the season. Santi is back in the national squad after missing the World Cup through injury and if he can stay fit will be pushing hard for a starting spot in the Euros.
Michu – Rayo Vallecano
Vallecano have surprised a few with some outstanding performances since coming up from the Segunda this summer and they have been led to success by their talismanic midfielder Michu. Michu – whose real name is Miguel Pérez Cuesta – was snapped up on a free transfer in the summer and has gone on to firmly establish his place in the first team at Rayo. He is the side's leading scorer with six and has 20 shots on target so far – only Messi and Ronaldo have more shots on target. He is still only 25 and a big lad at 6”1'. He has plenty to offer and it is no wonder he was being linked with a big move to the Premier League in November.
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