El Centrocampista

Heroes of the 2011/12 La Liga season

After eight months of drama, controversy, and a fair amount of fantastic football – last week’s Copa del Rey final brought the domestic season to a close for the clubs in the Spain’s top flight. And while many will be waiting in anticipation for the upcoming European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine; club football fans  maybe dreading the thought of being without their la liga for the next three months. In a slightly tongue-in-cheek special this week Richard Thorburn casts a look back at the season to name his  heroes and villains.
In a decision that will win no awards for originality,  it’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Involved in a season long battle with Lionel Messi, the former Manchester United player came into his own towards the latter end of the campaign. With over 63 goals scored for club and country since last summer, Ronaldo is starting to fulfil the frightening potential that persuaded Real Madrid to part with £80 million for the Portuguese star and the player was the defining factor in Jose Mourinho’s side romping to their first league crown in four seasons.
Okay, picture the scene. You’re 3-2 down with only minutes remaining and you’ve just won a free kick on the edge of the opposition penalty area. It’s the perfect chance to flood the box with players and hope a good delivery may takes a deflection and go in. Not for Malaga however. In a cunningly disguised free kick, the ball is pulled back to Eliseu whose shot rifles into the top right hand corner to leave Villarreal speechless. Go on, have a look for yourself here.
When Diego Simeone was appointed manager of Atletico Madrid in December, he found himself at the helm of a side that were vastly under performing. Despite investing heavily in the summer, Atleti were languishing in mid table and had the worst away record in the whole of La Liga. Fast forward five months and Simeone has not only guaranteed European football for next season, but has guided his troops to Europa League triumph in Bucharest. Although there were other candidates; most notably Manuel Pellegrini, Juan Ignacio Martinez and Mourinho himself, Diego Simeone gets just did enough to make him the stand-out boss of the campaign. Excitement levels are already building at the Vicente Calderon as to what he can do with a full season next term.
Widely expected to be fighting it out for relegation this season, Levante instead surprised everybody by securing a sixth-placed finish and European football for the first time in the club’s history.   The Valencia based outfit even enjoyed a brief spell at the top of the table in September and spent the majority of the campaign in the top four before losing a little ground. Proving that experience can sometimes be invaluable, the team with the highest average age in the league defied all odds to register their highest ever finish in La Liga.
The name ‘Michu’ may not mean too much to most people outside Spain, but to fans of Rayo Vallecano he has been the difference between staying up and an instant relegation back to the Segunda division. Having arrived on a free transfer from Celta Vigo in the summer, Michu notched up an impressive 15 goals over the season, an achievement that has not gone unnoticed. A number of clubs are rumoured to interested in acquiring the 25-year-old’s service, including Premier League heavyweights such as Manchester United and Chelsea.

Sergio Ballesteros rose to almost-cult status in Spain when he out-ran Cristiano Ronaldo to a ball mid-way through the first half of Levante’s match against Real Madrid in October – not bad for a 36-year-old who weighs more than 15 stone.  The veteran Ballestero was immense over the course of the season and provided inspiration to all who suffer from ‘spare tyre’ syndrome.
Not one to shyaway from controversy, this season has seen Mourinho criticise his own players, club legend Alfredo Di Stefano, numerous referees and opposition managers, Lionel Messi, Barcelona, and bizarrely once even  Real Madrid’s fans. Love him or loath him, it is always lively whenever the ‘Special One’  is around and his decision to remain at the Santiago Bernabeu is good news for journalists everywhere.
Granada supporters have been fantastic all season and the club’s visit to Real Madrid in January provided one of the real spectacles of the campaign as 5,000 Andaluz fans travelled to the Bernabeu. Supporters of the newly promoted outfit have waited a long time for the opportunity to visit La Liga’s elite and snapped up the tickets within 48 hours of going on sale. They were back to invade Madrid on the final day of the season as well as  Granada took on Rayo at Vallecas. They played a huge part in Granada’s retaining their top flight status and were very much the proverbial ’12th man’.


Agree or Disagree? Get in touch below with your thoughts!


  1. Piebe de Oro

    31 May, 2012 at 10:22

    Mr Richard Thorburn is obviously a Real Madrid and C. Ronaldo fan and cannot be objective. (please do your homework)

    Lionel Messi is the best player to have grace the football fields of this planet.

    He has broken all the footballing records, his technique is comparable to none. He is the king of the beautifull game Mr Thorburn, take of your ronaldo tinted spectacles

    • Jafar

      31 May, 2012 at 13:20

      Interesting read because clearly he is the biased one not you, no you think Messi is better so it’s impossibble that you are wrong.
      Actually no that’s not true. And just by saying that Messi is the best player in history, what you are essensially saying, makes you the biased one, he might well be the best player in history but that doesn’t guarantee that everyone will think that he was the best player in La Liga this season.

      For as far as I know most people have Ronaldo as their best player of the season, unless all of the are biased and ”Madrid fans” you should just accept that other people have a different opinion. And the best player is so opinion based it might as well mean nothing.
      Messi for most is better than Ronaldo but I would still say that the player of the season is Ronaldo and not Messi and I’m a Valencia fan and really despise Madrid.
      Just don’t act like a sore loser and life with it.

  2. petr

    31 May, 2012 at 19:24

    If Granada’s fans were their ’12th man’, does that mean Falcao (whose 88th minute winner for Athletico over Villareal kept Granada up) is their ’13th man’? (:

    • Heath Chesters

      3 June, 2012 at 21:57

      I think Richard probably means throughout the season, petr.

      The atmosphere has been fantastic at Nuevo Los Cármenes all season. Averaging over 95% capacity crowds for home games (highest percentage in La Liga this season), plus big followings to away games, the fans have certainly made the most of their first season at the highest level, for 35 years.

      If only more tickets had been available for the trip to Rayo Vallecano, more would have travelled. The atmosphere during and after that game, both sets of fans celebrating in the streets outside… that was something special, for both Rayo and Granada fans.

  3. Richard Thorburn

    3 June, 2012 at 13:44

    “Lionel Messi is the best player to have grace the football fields of this planet.

    He has broken all the footballing records, his technique is comparable to none. He is the king of the beautifull game Mr Thorburn, take of your ronaldo tinted spectacles”

    There can be little doubt that Lionel Messi has been the best La Liga player of the past decade – he is brilliant. In fact if you cast an eye over my previous articles, I am just one of his biggest advocates.

    BUT…..Ronaldo has been marginally better this season. There is no shame in that, they are both exceptionally gifted players. And that is being completely objective.

    Truth be told, the Spanish side that I follow dont even play in La Liga.

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