El Centrocampista

LA LIGA TEAM OF THE MONTH – September 2011

By Olly Dawes

The first month of the 2011/12 La Liga season is now at an end, with plenty of surprises cropping up along the way – Levante are unbeaten and sit proudly in second place, beating Real Madrid in the process.

Real Betis were top of the league for a while but two consecutive defeats have seen the Andalusian side slip to seventh place, still representing an excellent start to their return to La Liga.

But who are the players who have made the biggest impact? Here is the El Centrocampista  team of the month…



Amongst all the Sheikh money and top class signings, Argentinian goalkeeper Willy Caballero has slipped under the proverbial radar following his €900,000 switch from Adelante side Elche last season.

Now 30 years old and with only Under 20 caps to his name, Caballero certainly fits into the category of ‘late bloomer’.

The shot stopper left Boca Juniors because he played just 15 times in 3 years – playing second fiddle to eventual Getafe goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

He racked up 185 appearances for Elche before his big move, and now he has broken a club record by going 480 minutes without conceding a goal, surpassing Pedro Contreras’ record of 425.

Caballero has also posted four clean sheets from six games, prompting interest from European giants AC Milan and Arsenal.


RIGHT BACK: Javi CHICA, Real Betis

An incredible start to the season for Betis saw them hit the La Liga summit, earning plaudits for their seamless transition from Adelante football to Primera standard.

Summer signing Javi Chica has been a stand out performer since his move from Espanyol, providing darting runs down the right flank to supply the ammunition for on-loan Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz – two of which came in the 4-3 thriller against Real Zaragoza.

Still only 26, Chica was certainly a bargain for Betis on a free transfer – whilst Espanyol could be kicking themselves, given their struggles in the right back area.


CENTRE BACK: Adil RAMI, Valencia

Unai Emery’s side sit in fifth place and have impressed in the Champions League, but their new French defender Adil Rami has become a mainstay of ‘The Tinkerman’s’ team and even Laurent Blanc’s French national team ahead of Euro 2012.

Rami continually shows strength and excellent heading ability, whilst plays with a maturity far beyond his 25 year old frame.

The alleged fee for Rami was around €6m – €10m, an absolute bargain for the defender after winning Ligue 1 with Lille.



Smiles are cast across Spain as Levante fans chant ‘Ballesteros seleccion’ – calling for Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque to hand a call-up to the 36 year old centre back, who many ridicule for his portly figure.

Sergio Ballesteros has been a colossus in the heart of the Levante defence and one of the main reasons for the exceptional start to the season Levante have had.


LEFT BACK: FILIPE Luis, Atletico Madrid

After a decent first season at the Vicente Calderon, Filipe Luis continues to impress for Atletico Madrid.

Rated as one of the best left backs in La Liga, Filipe was signed from Deportivo La Coruna in 2010 for around €12m.

Some people say that he has actually made a mistake by pledging his national allegiance to Brazil, his home country – he was eligible to represent Poland too – as he only has one cap to his name and is supposedly unlikely to replace Marcelo or Andre Santos in the Brazil set up, but if he continues to turn in performances like he has this season, he can’t be far off.



One of Malaga’s marquee signings, French international midfielder Jeremy Toulalan has been lauded in the Andalusian press for his anchoring role in front of the back four.

With attacking players like Joaquin, Santi Cazorla, Julio Baptista and Ruud van Nistelrooy in the side, there needed to be a player with defensive capabilities in the midfield and Toulalan fits the bill perfectly.

His leadership and superb passing ability have been the catalyst for an impressive start to the season for Malaga.



The biggest signing for Malaga has hit the ground running. Signed from Villarreal for €20m, Cazorla has been the heartbeat of the Malaga team, lapping up the plaudits from team mate Ruud van Nistelrooy and his former Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini.

Cazorla has already scored three free kicks this season – the record last season was 4 from Cristiano Ronaldo, so place your bets as to how many Cazorla will finish with.

But there’s more to Santi Cazorla than just free kicks.

He’s quick and agile, possesses hawk-eye vision and is devastatingly accurate with both feet – a defender’s nightmare.



The most protracted transfer in football history finally went through this summer as Cesc Fabregas moved back home to Barcelona from Arsenal, and he hasn’t disappointed.

Fabregas has rekindled an incredible connection with Lionel Messi, the pair are dazzling La Liga with skill and technique.

Cesc’s form has been remarkable since making the switch back to the Nou Camp, scoring four and creating four goals in just six games to make sure Barcelona are top of the league.


RIGHT FORWARD: Cristiano RONALDO, Real Madrid

As Real Madrid make a conspicuous start to the season, their talismanic Portuguese forward has continued his form from last season, hitting seven goals and laying on three assists in the six games so far this season.

The counter attacking nature of Real Madrid mean Ronaldo is a fearsome weapon, displaying all the usual pace and power which helped him secure the 2010/11 Pichichi title – and Ronaldo himself even states that he could surpass his 41 goal haul from last year – frightening.


CENTRE FORWARD: Radamel FALCAO Garcia, Atletico Madrid

The Colombian striker was expected to have an immediate impact for Atleti this season, replacing Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero – and what an impact.

After bagging an impressive hat-trick against Racing Santander, Falcao went on to score another two goals just days later.

The €40m price tag was not to be scoffed at, but Falcao earned that valuation with an incredible 72 goals in 87 games for Porto, whilst he was Europa League’s top scorer last year with a mind-blowing 17 goals.

An impressive start to his Atletico career would suggest he hasn’t finished scoring goals just yet.


LEFT FORWARD: Lionel MESSI, Barcelona

The term ‘running out of superlatives’ is used commonly. But I think we actually have now.

What can you say about the little magician that hasn’t already been said?

He makes the absolutely incredible seem like second nature, and produces it on a regular basis. In just six games this season he has eight goals and five assists. Enough said.
MANAGER: Juan Ignacio MARTINEZ, Levante

A relative unknown to most people, the former Cartagena manager took over from the Levante hero Luis Garcia Plaza with an immensely tough task to follow.

So far, he’s eclipsed it. By a long way.

Levante sit second in the league. Unbeaten. Defeated Real Madrid at home. On the smallest budget in the league. An absolutely brilliant start by Martinez’s men, but the toughest task will be prolonging this form over the course of the season.


Bench: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico), Jordi Alba (Valencia), Alvaro Dominguez (Atletico), Xavi (Barcelona), Benat (Real Betis), Juanlu (Levante), Imanol Agirretxe (Real Sociedad)

One Comment

  1. Heath Chesters

    9 October, 2011 at 23:02

    No Granada CF players then…


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