El Centrocampista

LA LIGA’S BEST – October’s Player of the Month

By Jamie Milligan

The leaves are falling, the temperatures are plummeting and the nights are drawing in…

All meaning we are well and truly into the 2011/12 La Liga season!

Whilst others may complain about the weather, I was in my element during the past month, and what a month of Spanish football it was.

We saw history being made, stunning comebacks and wonderful individual performances.

Here I give my shortlist of the players who have impressed me most over the last four weeks and, for the record, I have chosen to exclude players from Barcelona and Real Madrid for a little bit of variety.


Sergio Ballesteros:

The big man was in phenomenal form throughout October. Ballesteros, who is quickly becoming a cult figure, was a key component of the history-making Levante side which topped La Liga for a brief period last month.

As the inspirational captain of a plucky and talented side which wiped the floor with the much fancied Malaga and Villarreal, Ballesteros is an easy pick. His dribble past three players at el Madrigal was the highlight of a great month for Levante.


Iker Muniain:

A key player in a resurgent Athleitc Club side, Muniain was for me, a standout throughout the month of October. Though he scored just twice during that time, the tricky little forward’s stunning individual performance during Athletic Club’s 3-1 victory over Osasuna was as complete as a performance as I have ever seen from a player.

He impressed me again against Atletico Madrid and scored a good goal against Valencia, but it was his standout display against the Pamplona side that impressed me most.


Fernando Llorente:

Another one of Marcelo Bielsa’s reborn Basque stars. Llorente was in lethal form during October, bagging four goals. A deadly double in the Basque derby against Real Sociadad was followed up by a brilliantly unselfish performance against Osasuna, where Llorente did everything but get on the score sheet.

He then scored two goals, the second of which was a beautiful header, against Athletico Madrid last week. The month ended in frustrating fashion for the big striker, when he drew a blank away at Sporting, but October was still a terrific month for Llorente and his team.



The first of two goalkeepers included in my shortlist. The first time I saw Roberto was as early as last week against Barcelona. Though he was beaten by a Xavi wonder strike, the Granada shot-stopper dealt with everything else the champions threw at him.

However, it was his performance in last weekend’s Andalusian derby that convinced me to include him. 1-0 down to Sevilla, Roberto kept Granada in the game with a string of incredible saves, the best of which was an incredible hatrick of blocks. If he can continue to perform at that level Granada’s chances of remaining in Spain’s top flight will be increased significantly.


Javi Varas:

The Sevilla keeper completes my October shortlist. I was planning on only including one goalkeeper, but after watching Varas against Barcelona and Sporting Gijon, I simply had to alter my plans and make space for two. After inspiring his side to victory over Sporting, Varas went one better and kept a clean sheet at the Camp Nou, putting on the most impressive display of goalkeeping that I have seen in years.

Barça could have played on for a week and still wouldn’t have scored such was the quality of Varas’ performance. There were shades of Davey Crocket at the Alamo in Varas’ performance; one man defiantly refusing to buckle to wave after wave of attacks. He remains the only goalkeeper in my memory to win a duel with Leonel Messi.




  1. Iain McMullen

    3 November, 2011 at 09:55

    There have been some great individual performances so far this season – but I would probably go for Sergio Ballesteros.

    He has been immense for Levante and part of the reason why they have surprised everybody.

    Iker Muniain has been fantastic too – it is alway good to see him maturing (although he still has a way to go…).

    The goalkeeping display put on by Javi Varas at the Camp Nou was probably the best single performance of the season so far as well.

    If we were to include the top-two then I think Gonzalo Higuain has been magnificent – without mentioning the obvious inclusion of the ‘other’ two….

  2. Heath Chesters

    3 November, 2011 at 15:32

    Obviously I’ll be biased, but I’ll temper that by going on performances I’ve seen first hand at matches I’ve been to.

    Roberto was superb for Granada in the matches against Barcelona and Sevilla. His shot stopping and reactions are probably his best attributes.

    His only down side though is his lack of stature for a goalie, which occasionally raises questions about his lack of aerial ability and reach. Very much a fans favourite at Granada though and the occasional lapses he has are far outweighed by the vital saves he makes during games.

    So getting my bias out of the way, I have to agree with Iain about Sergio Ballesteros. He’s been truly inspirational this season for Levante, who themselves as a team are fully deserving of the praise they’ve received so far. Shame they lost at Osasuna, but I’m quite sure they’ll bounce back. Great team spirit they have there at the moment.

  3. Jamie

    3 November, 2011 at 16:59

    Yeah, Ballesteros is a bit of a legend. If I were to pick anyone though it would have to be Munain. Again, like Heath, I may be a little biased, but I thought Munain was exceptional last month. His performance against Osasuna was remarkable.

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