Once again, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo stood above the rest. But in La Liga, laden with world-class footballers, it’s impossible to ignore the rest of the pack.
20. Yeray Alvarez (Athletic Club)
Off the pitch, Alvarez won a personal battle after being diagnosed with a testicular tumour. On the pitch, the Basque centre-back formed an admirable partnership with Aymeric Laporte and was the titanium in Athletic Club’s back four.
19. Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)
After some dark days in Italy, Morata tallied 15 goals and four assists this season. Unfortunately, and impressively, those numbers were produced in 1,334 minutes. The Madrileno forward is clearly one of the most lethal scorers in Spanish football, but he is yet to be given a real chance at Real Madrid.
18. Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
Having renewed his contract until 2021, Rakitic is no longer being linked with a move away from Barcelona. At one point this season, a lack of playing time was an issue for the Croatian midfielder. That’s all in the past. He bagged eight goals and five assists, and professed he wants to play for the Blaugrana “forever.”
17. Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Marcelo’s value at Real Madrid can’t be understated. The Brazilian left-back is a model of consistency, shining season after season while his afro parades up and down the left side of the field. He joined Los Blancos a decade ago and enjoyed another phenomenal campaign, notching 10 assists.
16. Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Atletico Madrid may have regressed this season, but Godin was at his best, commanding European football’s most resilient defence with an iron fist. Few defenders are as intimidating in the air, which is why he can also be relied upon for a few goals.
15. Bruno Soriano (Villarreal)
Soriano’s vision appears to be getting better with age. The midfielder, who will be 33 years old in June, captained Villarreal to a top-five finish in La Liga and was the conductor of the Yellow Submarine’s symphony, passing the ball through channels nobody else on the pitch could see.
14. Gerard Moreno (RCD Espanyol)
Moreno scored some beauties this season, and boasted 13 goals and four assists by the end of the campaign. The Catalan forward is employed by a mid-table club in RCD Espanyol, but he is establishing himself as the type of striker who is worthy of La Liga’s behemoths.
13. Ignacio Camacho (Malaga)
Camacho grew at Malaga this season. The Aragonese forward is one of two players who remain from the squad that nearly reached the Champions League’s semi-finals in 2012-13, and his loyalty to Los Boqueneros means he is loved at El Estadio La Rosaleda.
12. Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)
Niguez played through the pain and excelled. The Valencian midfielder, who passed blood every day for two years after a kidney burst, was the heart of Atleti’s squad this season and impresses more and more with each passing campaign.
11. Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad)
Real Sociedad tallied more points this season than any other since Antoine Griezmann’s departure from the club, and Illarramendi was responsible for the success. The Basque midfielder, back at his boyhood club after testing the waters at Real Madrid, can dictate the tempo of play like few others in La Liga.
10. Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)
Outside of Real Madrid and Barcelona, nobody scored more goals this season than Aspas, who drew blood 18 times. The Galician forward enjoyed the best campaign of his career since he joined Celta Vigo at 9 years old, and is a homegrown hero at Balaidos.
9. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Ramos, Real Madrid’s saviour, manufactured seven goals this season. How many other centre-backs in La Liga can say that? The answer: none. The master of mischief bears the soul of a striker, and seems to score when Los Blancos need it most.
8. Isco (Real Madrid)
Isco is something else. Having waited patiently for a chance to break into Real Madrid’s starting lineup, the Spanish midfielder exploited Gareth Bale’s injury with breathtaking performances. He is undoubtedly one of the best footballers at the Santiago Bernabeu and there are few players who are blessed with his footwork in La Liga.
7. Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann is never done improving. This was yet another season in which the French playmaker-slash-striker captivated audiences with his displays at the Vicente Calderon. He is, as Filipe Luis put it, “a genius.” Atleti’s supporters will be praying that he commits his future to the club.
6. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Kroos is finally standing out at Real Madrid. The German midfielder notched 12 assists this season and was quietly indispensable as Los Blancos won La Liga for the first time in five years. Only Ronaldo played more minutes than the German midfielder, and, in a nod to the latter’s importance, the two players were often ahead of the club’s biggest games.
5. Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
A competent defender and a capable attacker, Luis was the best player in La Liga’s best defence. For the fifth season in a row, Atleti conceded fewer goals than any other club. The Brazilian left-back was impenetrable at the back and terrifying going forward, embodying the type of full-back that Brazil is known to create.
4. Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Suarez, as complete a striker as they come, continued to take a bite out of La Liga’s defences this season. It might not have been a 40-goal campaign like 2015-16, but 29 goals and 13 assists can only put a smile on the faces of Barcelona’s supporters. The Blaugrana possesses the planet’s best No. 9.
3. Neymar (Barcelona)
Don’t look at how many goals Neymar scored in La Liga this season. Look at how the Brazilian phenom led the league in key passes per game, dribbles per game, and fouled per game. The product of Santos Futebol Clube is making football fun and, while he should probably stop applauding fourth officials, is a joy to watch.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
The whistles can no longer be heard. Ronaldo, who holds more goals to his name than any footballer in Real Madrid’s history, made fools of his critics this season. It felt like the Portuguese virtuoso broke a different record each week, and he adjusted his game with ruthless efficiency to deal with the test of time, loitering in the penalty area rather than the left side of the pitch. Just when it felt like he had nothing left to accomplish, he evolved into a No. 9.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Real Madrid won the war, but Barcelona won a battle that marked one of the finest games of Messi’s career. The Argentinian genius produced the winning goal in the 92nd minute of a wonderful edition of El Clasico, conquering the capital of Spain to remind supporters who’s the king of Spanish football. The image of him holding up a shirt in the Santiago Bernabeu’s northwest corner is the stuff of gods.
* You will receive the latest news and updates on your favorite celebrities!