Yes, any single XI of the year will have its fair share of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atlético players. Any potential MVP line-up will include the obligatory Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann… but not us!
Here’s our shot at the best eleven players of the season who do NOT play in the top three teams. Remember: we can only pick ONE player per team and we’re using a 1-3-4-3 tactic.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic)
In a disappointing season for Athletic, one of the scarce happy moments came when Kepa extended his contract to stop a move to Real Madrid. Even in a tough year for Athletic, Kepa has been consistently great under pressure and managed to prevent matters getting worse. And he’s only 23!
Álvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad)
Another young prospect (22), the way Odriozola broke-out in La Liga was impressive enough last season to expect greatness from him. He has become the king of the right-wing: a defender who is able to recover, play and seek the space when attacking, as well as crossing balls with precision.
Djené Dakoman (Getafe)
His role was never to stand-out; in fact, the less he stands-out, the better for his team. One of Getafe’s secret weapons in their quest for European spots this season (they finished in the 8th, which is pretty good), Djené excelled as one of the most solid, quick and blunt center-backs in the league.
Clement Lenglet (Sevilla)
Young (22) and with seemingly endless potential: weathering a lot of problems in a rocky season with three managers (Berizzo, Montella, Caparros), Lenglet was one of the saving graces for a Sevilla side which ultimately didn’t get a pay-off for their hard work. The full-back has impressed enough that Barça seem keen on signing him.
Rodrigo Hernández (Villarreal)
One of my top overall players of the year, the way this midfielder has grown over the past season has been uncanny and surprising. He masters all of the qualities required in his position, and then some: physical prowess, passing, technical quality, box-to-box runs. Atlético Madrid have hit the jackpot with his signing.
Gabriel Pires (Leganés)
Even if Leganés didn’t surprise everyone in the same rousing way as last year, the Brazilian has completed yet another outstanding season in Butarque. As long as players with his gravitas and personality remain with Leganés, they shouldn’t worry about relegation in the future even if their miracle coach leaves the club.
Fabian Ruiz (Real Betis)
Real Betis, one of La Liga’s most welcome surprises, founded their spectacular winning streak on this relatively unknown midfielder who was playing in the second division last season with Elche. Real Betis brought him back from his loan to hand him the steering wheel of Quique Setien’s project, and he never disappointed. One of the biggest breakouts of the year.
Geoffrey Kondogbia (Valencia)
Pocketing opposite midfielders left and right became second nature to Valencia’s biggest and most impactful signing of the 2017-2018 season. ‘King Geoffrey’s’ solid reliability and physical power gelled naturally with Dani Parejo’s crafty playmaking to become a sensational couple, leading Valencia straight to the fourth spot.
Alfonso Pedraza (Alavés)
Loaned by Villarreal this season, Pedraza’s arrival in Alavés couldn’t have happened under worse conditions with managerial changes a plenty. But then Abelardo was handed the reins of the team and turned Pedraza into one of its biggest assets on the left.
Jose Luis Morales (Levante)
‘El Comandante’ suffered in the middle stages of the season when Levante were unable to win a single game. But, with Paco Lopez’s arrival to the bench, Morales became the leader that the Granotas needed. His stats in the last ten games are absolutely crazy – 10 goals and eight assists making him one of La Liga’s biggest players from March onwards.
Cristhian Stuani (Girona)
As it used to happen with Diego Forlán back in the day, some ‘Uruguayos’ just get better with age. Stuani, now 31, has ended his 33-game run this season with 21 goals, an all-time high for him and one of the main reasons for Girona having fought to the end to become a European contender in their first season in the top-flight.
Iago Aspas (Celta)
The Magician from Moaña completely destroyed Levante in matchday 38 and increased his stats to an amazing 22 goals and five assists, making this his best year with Celta in Primera División. Undisputed leader and beacon of hope for a Celta side which found themselves in no-man’s land territory too soon, his reward should come in the next few days by being chosen for Spain’s national team at the 2018 World Cup.