Arsenal & Liverpool Target Isco And The 2012 La Liga Award Winners...
Well another year and another harvest of trophies for Spanish football. Whether it is at club or international level there can be no denying the dominance that Spain has had in the game of football over the past few years. 2012 was an exceptional year for those on the Iberian Peninsula and we take a look at the years biggest winners
Team of the Year – Atlético De Madrid
As December drew to a close last year, Atlético were in a complete state. They had just sacked their Coach Gregorio Manzano after the club had been knocked out of the Copa del Rey against Third Division side, Albacate. Things were not looking good and then the king returned. Diego Simeone turned things around almost immediately and Atlético won the Europa League for the second time in two years. They fought their way up the table, but after conceding some last minute goals they finished in fifth behind Málaga. Over the summer with a few Bosman signings, El Cholo turned the team into unit. Suddenly they could defend and were scoring goals for fun. They added the European Super Cup to their trophy cabinet, destroying Chelsea in Monaco and are currently sitting in second, ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid. The only blot on their copybook is they constant failure to beat the side from the Santiago Bernabeu, but under Simeone they look like they may be able to finally win their first derby since 1999
Player of the Year – Leo Messi
We are truly lucky to be living in the time of such a great. There are still those who continue to doubt his excellence but surely after this year they will have been won over. The Argentine was tied down to a new deal this month and celebrated by breaking Gerd Muller’s record for goals in a calendar year. In just 16 games this season, he has scored 25 goals and that is just for Barca. He has over 90 goals for both club and country in 2012. One argument that his critics have used in the past is his failure to deliver for his country but this year he did just that. Losing the league to Real Madrid and getting knocked out in the Champions League to Chelsea was a huge disappointment for the player nicknamed ‘The Flea’. This time he is determined not be denied.
Young Player of the Year – Isco
There is no denying that Málaga have had one hell of a strange year but while events off the pitch are grabbing all the headlines, on the pitch things have been going like clockwork. Qualification for the Champions League, topping a group which had AC Milan in it and now sitting pretty once again in the CL spots, Málaga are doing well and at the centre of everything has been Isco. Los Boquerones spent big last summer but the former Valencia youth product is the one making the news with some great displays. If Málaga fail to get themselves sorted, a host of clubs will be interested in signing the attacking midfielder.
Spanish Player of the Year – Iker Casillas
Lifted the league title for his club and then the European Championships with Spain. Loved by all Spaniards, he is a national treasure. Iker, or San Iker as he is known in these parts, has won it all and is now in line for seconds. Was beaten by Valdés in my starting XI of the year but Casillas still is the best in the world. His critics claim it is just good luck but how much good luck can one person have. Down to earth, responsible and quiet, he is great role model and a natural leader both on and off the pitch.
Coach of the Year – Diego Simeone
More commonly known in England for an incident involving David Beckham in 1998, the man they call El Cholo was ignored by FIFA when the list of nominations for Coach of the Year was drawn up. A man who uses expressions such as ‘bollocks’, ‘passion’ and ‘men’ regularly in his press conferences has transformed a club known as the hapless losers into title contenders. Two European titles, second in the league and finally a sleeping giant has been woken. Is it any wonder Chelsea are interested?
Goal of the Year – Cristiano Ronaldo vs Atlético de Madrid April 2012
While it was a nice goal and I agree that there were many better goals scored during the year, it was the importance of this goal that sees it pick up the goal of the year. Ronaldo has unfairly had to listen to claims that he is a ‘bottler’. Against Atlético it looked like his team-mates may actually be doing just that as Atleti equalised and Los Blancos looked like they may let their lead at the top slip. But Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and Ronaldo delivered the perfect free kick to make things 2-1 and then added another before Real Madrid won 1-4. It was a crucial moment and win for both Real Madrid and Ronaldo.
Game of the Year – Rayo Vallecano v Granada
Again not because of the football on show does this game get chosen but for the importance it had. It simply came down to whomever won stayed up and a draw might be ok for both sides. As most reporters were in the Santiago Bernabeu to see Real Madrid lift the league this reporter attended a game that had fans on the edges of their seats for 90 minutes or more. As news filtered through that Villarreal were losing, Rayo needed a goal to stay up and Granada were safe no matter what happened as long as the Yellow Submarines lost. Granada fans and journalists urged on their opponents and a last minute goal from Raul Tamudo saw a pitch invasion like La Liga has never seen. Players such as Michu were stripped, leaving the pitch in their briefs and Granada and Rayo fans sang the night away. In the Bernabeu they may have been crowning the Champions, but in Vallecas they celebrated like kings.
Moment of the Year – Carles Puyol demands respect
It is very hard not to like Carles Puyol and in April this year he showed why so many respect him. Against Rayo Vallecano, Thiago scored the fifth and both Dani Alves and he decided to celebrate the goal by dancing in front of the home fans. Puyol was enraged and gave both players a clip around the ear and demanded they apologise to the Rayo fans. Both players came out on Twitter and apologised just minutes after the game and Puyol won praise from everyone and rightly so.
Surprise of the Year – Levante
They topped the table in 2011 for two weeks but many said that they would crash and burn in 2012. They didn’t and qualified for the Europa league for the first time in their history. They are still in the competition, while sitting in the top half of the La Liga table. The team whose diet was once pizza and beer are truly a Cinderella story.
Wish you were here…
Oh how we pine for Michu and Santi Cazorla and while the Premier League is enjoying them on a weekly basis, La Liga misses two of the 2011-12 stars a lot.