Real Madrid won the Champions League again and Leo Messi was magnificent, but there’s no room for them in the 2018 La Liga winners and losers from Paco Polit
3) Javier Tebas
I don’t actually know if ‘losing’ is the right word for someone whose salary is $1.4 million plus bonuses every season after seeing his contract as LaLiga’s president extended last February. But we can find several big missteps in the year about to end: controversy surrounding his particular relationship with the Spanish Federation, awful scheduling of games, a huge gap between the money granted to big and small teams from TV rights.
However, his biggest headache throughout 2018 was his sudden idea of holding a La Liga game in Miami, which found fierce opposition from both Luis Rubiales (RFEF) and Florentino Pérez (Real Madrid), two individuals who can’t stand each other. The power struggle ultimately ended in nothing as both Barça and Girona declined the chance of playing in January 2019 in the USA… but something tells me he will try again soon.
2) Athletic Club
Let’s face it: the year about to end has been awful for Los Leones. Between the end of last season and almost half of the current one, they have only picked up 36 points. Not enough for such a high-profile and historic team.
It seemed as if ‘Toto’ Berizzo would be the man to turn things around, but his appointment was followed by one of the most anti-climatic and lackluster runs in recent history. Let’s see if 2019, with a new president on the board of directors (Aitor Elizegi), means better news for Athletic, a team who (remember) have never played in Segunda. Like, ever.
1) Julen Lopetegui
To have two of your biggest dreams at hand… and see them shattered because of your own incompetence. No, 2018 won’t be a year to be remembered for the Basque manager. It’s true that things looked up in the first few months, when he coached an impressive Spain who were undoubted title-contenders for Russia’s World Cup.
But… as in that Indiana Jones movie, “he chose… poorly.” Preferred stardom over duty and signed for Real Madrid while still being hired as Spain’s manager. 24 hours later, he was unceremoniously sacked. A firing which took place in similar fashion five months later in Real Madrid, “the job of his life”. Lopetegui, unluckily for him, is our undisputed loser champion of the year.
Winners of 2018
3) Paco López
Landed at a Levante UD in turmoil and finishes the year as one of the managers who have had a biggest impact on their club. For many, many weeks, his debut run on the Granota bench not only got them far away from relegation spots, but turned Levante into the best team in Spain, making him the coach with best stats and points picked up, even besting Barça and Real Madrid.
Levante’s epic 5-4 win versus the Culés managed to end the impressive unbeaten run of Ernesto Valverde’s Barça last season. This year the novelty has worn off, but Levante sit comfortably in the middle section of the standings.
2) Betis and Quique Setién
It has been a year of ‘entrenadores revelación’. Quique Setién is not a newcomer, though: his career has suffered his fair share of ups and downs, and after his stint at Las Palmas there was buzz surrounding his first season at Real Betis. The buzz was more than deserved: Betis have been one of the best teams of 2018 and, at the same time, one of the most entertaining and fun to watch. They don’t just win, they do it in style. Now with the team fighting for the Europa League, one of the biggest questions of 2019 will be if they have the tools to fight for bigger challenges.
1) Deportivo Alavés
Biggest and most impressive side in Spanish football, period. Yeah, Sevilla and Machín are doing a great job, in the same way Atlético and Barça have kept their consistency throughout all competitions.
But they are ‘big’ clubs, with plenty of money and a budget to boot. Alavés don’t have as near as much money as the big powerhouses, but with ‘Pitu’ Abelardo at the helm, they picked up an amazing 60 points over the last twelve months, sitting now in the fifth spot in LaLiga and marveling every single Spanish football fan. Congratulations!