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La Liga End of Season Awards: Surprise of the Year – Girona

La Liga End of Season Awards: Surprise of the Year – Girona

This award could have gone to several teams, including Real Betis after they secured a Europa League spot for next season.

At the other end of the spectrum, Malaga for their disastrous campaign that will see them in the Segunda Division come August.

Yet, Girona take this award after surprising even the most ardent fans of the Catalan side and securing survival as well as challenging for a European place in their first season ever in the Spanish top flight.

Relegation favourites survive

Most would have had them as favourites to make an immediate return to the second tier, and while recent results have seen them drop out of the contention for a spot in the Europa League, their performances this year has made teams sit up and realise they are not to be trifled with.

While some will point to their wealthy and well-connected owners, the City Football Group that also includes Premier League champions Manchester City, as the reason for their success, it was largely the old guard that stepped up to the plate.

Christhian Stuani has come of age at 31, having previously failed to make a significant impact at Espanyol, Italian outfit Reggina or Middlesbrough in England.

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Christhian Stuani has been in sparkling form this season, finishing fifth in La Liga scoring chart

Yet, this season, the Uruguayan has netted 21 times in La Liga, more than €100 million-rated Barcelona target Antoine Griezmann (19), as well as Real Madrid duo Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale combined (21). This is coming from a man who cost just over £2m last summer.

Another signing during the close season was Pablo Maffeo, on loan from Manchester City. He was sent out to get experience, after his progress started to stagnate in the City academy and would have only really expected to be second-choice right-back.

Yet, his performances were soon impressing manager Pablo Machín and the fans, quickly becoming first-choice as Girona were reaching new heights in the table.

Girona here to stay

While they had not started the season brilliantly, with just two wins in their first nine matches, Spanish football fans soon sat up and took notice when they beat reigning La Liga and Champions League holders Real Madrid.

After Round 29, Girona were seventh and the talk of a European place was growing, as their magical season continued. Six defeats in their last 10 matches has overshadowed this, but for a newly promoted side to finish ninth with 51 points is an incredible achievement.

For now, the Catalan side will celebrate a tremendous year. But come August, they must continue their work from this season and show that they deserve to remain in La Liga for the foreseeable future.