Well another La Liga year came and ended. It was quite disappointing for the most part, but there were quite
Team of the Year- Real Madrid.
Look, anyone that says that there was another team needs to have their heads checked. For those that say Villarreal was worthy of this recognition forgot the 5-0 clock-cleaning at El Madrigal. They were challenged once and Barcelona could not seal the deal. You could technically say that Barcelona were atop the standings for about 15 minutes when Ronaldinho scored one of the goals of the year against Atlético.
Surprise team- Almería
Why not Villarreal you may say? I don’t know… I just wanted to go the opposite direction of the rest of the crowd. Seriously, who expected this side to even end up in the top half of the table? At one point, yes everyone said it was a fluke. No way that a club with only 20 years in existence could keep this up. They were fighting for European spots until the final weeks of the season. My criteria for picking a team in this category is which team does the most with the least. Players that offered the leadership of Aitor López Rekarte, Veliko Paunovic, Albert Crusat, and Santiago Acasiete among others helped them get out of the first half doldrums and get out of the relegation area all the way to fight for a UEFA and Intertoto spot. Working with what they had- the team got their money’s worth.
Disappointment of the Season- Barcelona and Valencia were saved in this category. If Almería did the most with the least, then Zaragoza is their antithesis. Los Maños were supposed to be a big player in the race for the title. Their performance the previous season gave people at La Romareda hope to win a title for the first time since they won the Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup back in 2004. The addition of Roberto Ayala to the defense and to have Pablo Aimar and Andrés D’ Alessandro in the midfield as well as Diego Milito and Ricardo Oliveira as a striker combo. Also their instability atop was key to their eventual destiny. Four coaches in a span of five months. The job was looking like a bad night at The Apollo. Víctor Fernández was gone and then his replacement Ander Garitano lasted a week. Jabo Irureta last lasted five matches and was quickly given the hook.
Only one win on the road was not a good precedent to go into the Son Moix and pull a win out against one of the hottest teams in the league. It seemed like yesterday when theclub proudly announced their plans to restructure in an effort to be successful in the top of the standings. Those results were favorable in the short term as they quickly earned their double in 2004. The repercussions will be great, but the extent is going to be seen throughout the summer.
Tragedy of the Year- Levante
Desperate times call for desperate measure and Levante’s players are in that now. With a special friendly to take place in the coming weeks in order to raise money to help these players get paid is just a microcosm of Levante brass’ ineptitude in running this team. I honestly think that if I were in their boots, I would do the same thing. It would be my anger speaking. When you have family to maintain, the man of hte house has to do everything in their power to make that happen. There are players that were not paid the entire season. Other like Riga Mustapha were not paid since they arrives two years ago.
Survivors of the Year- Sevilla. Coming off winning the UEFA Cup twice, the Copa del Rey, and the Spanish Super Cup, Sevilla looked poised to go for the domestic and Champions League double- then tragedy struck. Young defender Antonio Puerta went down with what seemed to be a seizure and got back up and walked off to be checked up in the locker room. He would then experience a second “seizure” and would be rushed out to the local hospital. Those seizures in reality were myocardial infarctions and the trauma that his heart obtain after multiple episodes on the way to the hospital eventually led to his death a few days later. For them to be able to step on to any pitch, nonetheless in Monaco for the European Super Cup against Milan had to be commended.
Those types of experiences stay in a person’s mind for the rest of their lives. Then add to that the sudden departure of Juande Ramos to Spurs and things were very complicated for the club, yet they battled on. Just their ability to qualify for the knockout stags of the Champions League and battle for European cup spots domestically was praise enough.
Speedbump of the Year- Barcelona. Frank Rikjaard and the team were literally thrown under the bus earlier in the week by Joan Laporta, Txiki Beguiristain, and others in charge of the Catalan giants. In Gol A Gol the other day, Joan Laporta mentioned in unconvincing fashion that Ronaldinho “needed other challenges.” What an unsubtle way to say “don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”
I understand that Laporta or any of his cronies did not score a goal of made a pass, but they were just as responsible to Barca’s lack of success this year. The summer will be very interesting as they will be furiously trying to get “their players”, but by the same token it will be interesting to watch what happens with the club’s relationship with Lio Messio now that he decided to head to Beijing without their blessing. If precedent teaches us anything about Barcelona, if a player does not do what the brass tell them to the future could be a little rockier than normal.
Now their preoccupation with these minute issues them a shot at getting both Ezequiel Garay and Diego Milito. Although they are definitely looking at bringing back Piqué from Manchester United.
Yes, the novella that is the La Liga will now head into a crazy summer as passions will burn uncontrollably and keeping up with the Joneses will be the norm.
So until two weeks from now.