The end of another season and, once again, it is the Spanish who are on top, ruling the roost over the rest of the European heavyweights. And, while cases can be made for the drama of the Premier League, the passion of the Bundesliga or the Juventus inspired renaissance of Serie A, here are just a few reasons why La Liga continues to be King of the big leagues in Europe.
The Marvel of Messi
OK, so it’s an obvious place to start but you simply cannot ignore the fact that any league that contains Lionel Messi simply has to be a must watch for any true football fan. And in 2015 the mercurial Argentine seemed to raise the bar of excellence into levels of near absurd genius. This was the year Messi, at age 27, notched his 400th career goal as well as becoming the league’s all-time record goal-scorer. But more than that, his continued brilliance and sense of timing (the winner vs Atletico, his wonder strike in the Champion’s League semi-final) ensured that Barcelona returned to the pinnacle of club football at home and abroad.
For all those who still, bafflingly, need proof that there’s more to the league than the ‘Big 2’ of Barca and Real Madrid then look no further than the exciting boys from Seville. 5th place in the league may not be a major achievement in itself but, add to that a victory in the Europa League (sending them into next season’s Champions League) and some exhilarating football from Bacca, Banega and Vidal made Unai Emery’s side one of the most exciting teams to watch anywhere in Europe in 2015. HIGHLIGHT: coming back from 2-0 down against Barcelona to claim a point against the champions elect.
Volleys of Abuse
Nothing beats a good volley and the season was littered with some spectacular airborne strikes throughout. From Pablo Hernandez’ cheeky heel for Celta Vigo, Berjon’s stunner for Eibar or James Rodriguez delicious strike for Real Madrid. And then there was Chory Castro, doing a Van Basten for Sociedad against Deportivo.
S N M Spanking
La Liga fans had to wait until October before the full unveiling of Barcelona’s new formidable strikeforce of Neymar, Messi and new signing Luis Suarez and it wasn’t until the turn of the year before they hit the straps, so to speak. But it was certainly worth the wait. The SNM partnership rattled home an astonishing 122 goals between them as they helped Barcelona to another remarkable treble winning season and reclaiming their position as top team in Europe.
Whatever the season, Real Madrid are nothing if not interesting. At times this year, Los Blancos were irresistible. Ronaldo went past the 40 goal mark yet again while they claimed a World Club championship. But a thumping to Atletico and the surrendering of their Euro crown to rivals Barca somewhat sullied the mood at the Bernabeu with fans turning on star man Bale and the season ending with coach Ancelloti getting the chop.
Coaching Soap Operas
No league is worth its salt unless you’ve got some colour in the coaching arena. From the emerging talents of new hot-ticket Emery at Sevilla to the arrival of a certain David Moyes at Real Sociedad the men at the helm have, as ever, had more than their share of air time over the season. The ever unpredictable Simeone writing off his own team’s (Atletico Madrid) chances of defending their title when just a point off the top (eventually being proved correct) while new Barcelona boss Enrique looked a cert for the chop after losing at Sociedad before guiding his team to one of the great seasons in their history. And then there’s poor Ancelotti. Hailed a hero a year ago and the man to create a new Madrid dynasty, by the end of the season he was on the receiving end of the white hanky treatment from the fans and seeking employment at pastures new.