La Liga Player of the Year
Whilst Ronaldo has been performing to his usual high standards, Messi has endured an indifferent season compared to recent years. Injury blighted much of 2013 for Messi, but since his comeback he has not been able to score as many pivotal goals for Barcelona.
The hat-trick against Real Madrid is an exception (Watch Video), though two strikes did come from the penalty spot. Additionally, the blanks against Atletico (all five this season) and Real in the Copa del Rey final are more memorable and have contributed to a frustrating, trophyless season for Messi and his Barca cohorts.
On the other hand, Ronaldo has shown the required consistency which merited a second Ballon d’Or, and although injuries have disrupted his season too, he’s the outstanding leader of a resurgent Real Madrid. His displays in the Champions League in particular have been astonishing, proving his capabilities for the grand occasion, although he has shown equal consistency in La Liga, failing to score in just 7 games this season.
Ronaldo leads the Pichichi standings with 31 goals, three ahead of Messi, and has an overall record of 57 goals in 49 games (before Valladolid). Sandwiched in between those two is another talismanic contender – Diego Costa.
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At the forefront of Atletico Madrid’s resurgence, Costa has been the main man up front. His 28 goals have helped Atletico lead the table for the second half of the season and make him one of the world’s most sought-after players.
Alongside David Villa, Costa has been phenomenal, scoring at crucial times as Madrid eke out narrow wins to maintain their lead at the top. Atletico have managed to forge a team that has been almost unbeatable so far, which makes a number of players contenders for the top honours.
Youngster Koke has been a revelation with 14 assists and six goals, proving he is the future of Spanish football. Koke would make a great addition to the Spain World Cup squad and will surely only get better from this season. In the same team, Thibaut Courtois is a sensational young goalkeeper, leading the Zamora rankings. At the back, all four defenders have been unspectacular yet sensational this year, keeping the best defence in the league and recording 20 clean sheets!
Neymar and Gareth Bale were expected to feature in this list but their time may come next season after a year spend adjusting. Bale has enjoyed his debut season and has featured heavily with goals and assists. An injury free year could see the Welshman rise in a similar way to Ronaldo’s recent trajectory.
Other contenders include the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela from Sociedad, Nolito from Celta Vigo, Markel Susaeta and Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao, and Victor Valdes could have merited an inclusion had he not suffered a horrible knee injury. All have had impressive seasons, but you cannot look past the top three for their incredible scoring records this year.
By: Tom Wellman of La Liga Blog