After 380 games and 951 goals, the LaLiga season has concluded, so now it’s time to dish out the awards from a season which surprised many observers.
Here is the best XI of the campaign, with the special Squawka caveat that there can only be one player per team. So, alas, no Vinzema combination here.
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GK: Bono (Sevilla)
When Los Hispalenses signed Marko Dmitrović last summer, many thought Bono would be displaced as Julen Lopetegui’s number one. Indeed, the Serbian started the opening game of the season, but soon the Moroccan found the form he was looking for and cemented the position. Sevilla have the best defensive record in La Liga, and Bono is a significant reason why. He kept 13 clean sheets in 31 games, conceded just 24 from an xG of 37. He becomes the first Sevilla keeper to win the prestigious Zamora Trophy, and is only the second African to do so, after Cameroonian Jacques Songo’o in 1996/97.
RB: Juan Foyth (Villarreal)
In truth, this is the hardest position to pick from, largely due to the dearth in quality in this position, in stark contrast to the opposite side. Many of the usual suspects have either been injured or out of form for large parts this season. Foyth has been dependable and versatile for Unai Emery this season. Able to pass and dribble out from the back with accuracy, he gives an added dimension to the Villarreal backline when he plays. Diligent in his defensive work, Foyth is a solid all-rounder.
CB: Ronald Araújo (Barcelona)
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It has been another season of transition for Barcelona, with Xavi replacing Ronald Koeman. Their strong run in early 2022 helped propel them back into the top four, and Araújo’s form was a critical factor, and his recent renewal was greeted with jubilation around Camp Nou. Physically imposing and dominant in the duels, the Uruguayan is a forceful presence at the back for Barça, something they struggled with on a consistent basis. Now tied down, and still just 23, Araújo is set to become a leader in Xavi’s progressing team. His possession game still needs work, but he is seen as more of a Puyol than a Piqué, something culés will love to see flourish.
CB: Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad)
The young Frenchman has been a stalwart for Imanol’s side this campaign. Almost an ever-present, no other outfielder played more minutes than Le Normand (3330), and is an unassuming but unerringly effective central defender at the heart of a defence which kept more clean sheets than any other team in the league (20). Calm and composed, he may consider himself unlucky to be overlooked by Didier Deschamps for the upcoming internationals.
LB: Javi Galán (Celta Vigo)
A tough category to stand out in, with depth across the division. Touted as the bargain of the summer, the man from Badajoz has lived up to that billing at Balaídos. No player in the league attempted (108) or won more tackles than Galán (66), and he is inside the top three for touches, progressive carries and carries into the final third. He is an elite carrier, helping Celta turn defence into attack quickly and effectively. If he can just add more final third output to his game, he will be in conversations talking about the best full-backs in Europe – he is that good.
CM: Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)
Manuel Pellegrini’s mercurial maverick has really found a home at Betis and is producing his best form. There are few players in LaLiga as aesthetically-pleasing as Fekir right now, and his contributions back up the eye test. Six goals and eight assists makes this his best season in Spain in terms of direct goal involvements, and his creativity probably should have yielded even more. He created 83 chances for teammates this season, as well as generating 161 shot-creating actions (third in the league, but 23 more than his tally last season). Fekir dovetails beautifully with Sergio Canales, enabling Betis fans to dream of another fantastic season ahead.
CM: Carlos Soler (Valencia)
Another impressive season from the homegrown star, adding to speculation that Valencia’s board may look to cash in this summer. Soler has shown extra maturity this season, assuming more of a leadership role alongside José Gayà, characteristics which have seen him break into the Spain setup. 11 goals and five assists from central midfield speaks to his ability to make things happen in attacking areas, with his precise penetrative passing helping Valencia to unlock defences. Valencia should not countenance offloading him this summer.
CM: Iker Muniain (Athletic Club)
The captain has led from the front in more ways than one this season. Muniain has produced ten assists this season, the highest tally of his career, and based on expected assists, he leads the entire league. He has also created more chances (108) and produced more shot-creating actions (172) than anyone else in the league this season. If he had more clinical finishers playing in front of him, he would have stood out even more. He has also made the difference in crucial moments. He scored a late free-kick equaliser away in the Basque derby, before scoring and assisting in the 4-0 rout in the reverse fixture in Bilbao. Muniain is magnificent.
FW: José Luis Morales (Levante)
Every neutral was devastated to see Levante relegated, not least because it meant fans will be deprived of one of the best attackers in the league: El Comandante. Having produced 20 goal involvements (and 14 since the turn of the year), the veteran 34-year-old has spearheaded Levante’s unlikely charge for survival. Ultimately, they fell just short, but Morales gave everything. An icon for the club, even for neutrals he will go down as a cult hero in LaLiga history.
FW: Raúl de Tomás (Espanyol)
With a player as prolific as R.D.T. in their ranks, safety was an absolute minimum for Los Pericos this season. He delivered his part, firing 17 goals in – curiously – 17 separate games. Only Karim Benzema scored more than R.D.T. this campaign, and he is another who has shot up the national team pecking order as a result of his performances. This tally put him in a share with Iago Aspas for the Zarra Trophy, having won the Segunda edition last season too. The rumour mill will be turning this summer, with plenty of higher-end sides keen on acquiring his goalscoring touch.
FW: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
If there can only be one player from the champions, it has to be Karim Benzema. A remarkable season once again, averaging a goal per game across all competitions. His goal tally of 27 is his personal best in a LaLiga season, and he laid on a further 12 for others too. An all-round machine at the heart of Carlo Ancelotti’s side, he also becomes the first Frenchman to win the Pichichi award, which had been a procession for some months now. Many assumed another French forward would inherit this next season, but Benzema is still the Karim of the crop.
Best Overall Defender: David Alaba
To come into a new league as a replacement for a gigantic icon of the club, many would have failed to meet expectations. Alaba surpassed them all. The goal in the first Clásico at Camp Nou where he stormed down the left and smashed it in was a statement.
Best Overall Midfielder: Iker Muniain
Best Overall Attacker: Karim Benzema
Best Young Player: Vini Jr
A breakout season to end all breakout seasons. He smashed all of his previous Real Madrid tallies combined and then some, including scoring 17 goals and claiming 10 assists – a double-double. He formed a telepathic understanding with Benzema, and was electrifying and at times, unplayable.
Most Underrated Player: Enes Ünal
The Turkish international had only scored 22 goals in four seasons in LaLiga. This time around, he bagged 16 in a single campaign, 48% of Getafe’s total. Quique Sánchez Flores worked miracles in South Madrid, and sparking his frontman was pivotal in their season.
Best Player Overall: Karim Benzema
No surprises here. Not only Real Madrid’s best player by a distance, but the standout player in the league and probably Europe too. The frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or and justifiably so.