La Liga End of Season Awards: Player of the Year: Lionel MessiMay 29, 2018
Another season of LaLiga football has come to an end with a mix of the usual suspects and some surprise names having the biggest say in the final league table.
Here, LaLiga News UK pick our top three for Player of the Year.
Yet again, the Slovenian was Atletico Madrid’s star man as they surpassed expectations to finish second in LaLiga alongside a Europa League crown in the first trophy that he has won since moving to Spain.
His statistics this season were inspired, conceding as many goals as clean sheet he kept – 22 of each. Oblak is key to Diego Simeone’s system and with a reported €100 million release clause, Atletico’s top priority this summer will be to get him committed for the long term.
LaLiga’s best Spaniard, Aspas defies expectations again and again. At 30-years-old he is in the form of his life with 23 goals and five assists in 37 games in all competitions in 2017/18.
The Celta Vigo man has secured a ticket to Russia with Spain’s World Cup squad and could well be first choice in attack for Julen Lopetegui and it’s easy to see why with his pace and strength, let alone determination, giving LaLiga defences a real headache.
The best demonstration of his role was that in the only five LaLiga games which Celta played without Aspas in the starting line-up they failed to win, scoring only twice and conceding 13 times in the process.
LaLiga News UK’s Player of the Year award may come as no surprise. Barcelona completed the domestic double of LaLiga and the Copa del Rey and one man was the mastermind yet again – Lionel Messi.
Yet 2017/18 has been a revolutionary year in the Argentinian’s career, rather than just the usual collection of spectacles that we have come to expect from the world’s best player.
Playing in a deeper role than ever before, Messi has been acting almost as more of a midfielder than a forward, yet he has still blown away the competition and topped all of the scoring charts with his fine return of 45 goals and 18 assists in 54 games, working out as him being involved in a goal every 71 minutes in all competitions this season.
His heat map reflects that, showing just how little game time he spends in the box where he used to poach opportunities. Now, playing in a deeper role, he has become even more influential.
In one of his finest performances of the season, against Girona at the Camp Nou in February, he produced a magical display picking the ball up from deep and looking to burst forward in just one of the nine games in which he was involved in three or more goals.
As he ages and under the tutelage of Ernesto Valverde, Messi has acknowledged the need to adapt his game. Where others, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, become more one dimensional as a poacher in the box, Messi has dropped deeper into a playmaker role that many suggested he could take up.
Resting more than ever before too, Valverde’s decisions to leave him out were at times questioned, and it’s easy to see why despite all of Barcelona’s success, as there are still accusations of Messi-dependence.
It’s easy to argue that they are justified given how much they miss him when he is not in the side. Against Levante, only the second league game he missed all season, the psychological impact alone was enough to inspire the relegation battlers to end the Cules’ unbeaten run with just two games to play.
Some will point to defeat in Rome as the blot on Messi’s season, and they would be correct to do so. But to criticise a player for not proving to be a match-winner who rescues his side in one game as he has been every week would be unfair.
On a night when every Barcelona player disappointed, Messi, for one night in a full season, looked human.
As a generation, we are fortunate enough to be able to watch one of the best, if not the very best of all time. In spite of celebrating his 31st birthday this summer, he’s showing no sign of decline yet and has shown that he’s adapted his game to continue being the best player LaLiga has to offer.