Farewell to Xavi
After more than 500 appearances, 8 league titles, 4 Champions League triumphs, 2 European Championships and 1 World Cup winner’s medal (not a bad haul!), Barcelona legend and mercurial midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez bid an emotional farewell to Barca and Spanish football in 2015, moving on to Qatar club Al Sadd for a little nest egg before retirement.
Fittingly, he bowed out on the biggest stage, coming on as late sub for Iniesta in the Champions League Final and then walking the steps to lift the crown as club captain, following another historic victory for the club he has represented since a boy.
Heartache for Girona
Further down the footballing pyramid, second division Girona were denied promotion in the final seconds of their match with Lugo as the visitors nicked a last gasp goal. In one of the more bizarre finale’s to a season, the match was then stopped 40 seconds from the final whistle after a bottle thrown from the crowd hit an assistant referee. The players then had to return to the pitch 20 minutes later to play out the final 40 seconds – after they had got changed and while the manager was on his way to a press conference.
12 months on from glory, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti was shown the exit door from the Bernabeu. Despite being the man who brought Champions League glory back to Madrid and having secured a World Club Champions crown earlier in the season, Carlo paid the price for Barcelona’s all conquering season at home and abroad.
Rubbing salt in the wounds, Real President Florentino Pérez, when asked why he fired the Italian, replied that he didn’t know.
As Ancelotti left so entered former Valencia and Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez. It’s fair to say that the honeymoon period did not last long with reports of player disharmony and the fans showing obvious disapproval even when they were winning. Not helped by their 4-0 drubbing at home to rivals Barca.
And really not helped at all by…
D/Q from the Cup
Having beaten Cadiz 3-1 in the first leg of their Spanish Cup tie, it emerged that Real had fielded Denis Cheryshev who was ineligible to play.
As a result, Real suffered the ignominy of being disqualified from a tournament they would almost certainly have fancied their chances of winning.
One Brit in – One Brit Out
November saw the end of David Moyes tenure as manager of Real Sociedad following a pretty dire start to the season and increasing pressure from frustrated fans. But, to keep up the quota of British managers in the League, Valencia surprised everyone in early December as they appointed former Man Utd full-back Gary Neville as their new gaffer, where he’ll work with brother Phil trying to revive the flagging fortunes of ‘Spain’s Third Club’.
Messi | Suarez | Neymar
The debate will drain the souls of many a pub dweller I’m sure, but has there ever been a more potent strike force than this particular triumvirate?
From the moment Luis Suarez joined up with his team mates in October 14, after his little enforced rest for having an unauthorised World Cup nibble, Barcelona’s front line was simply devastating. Messi was back to his astonishing best while this time he was ably supported by Neymar and Suarez who tore the league to shreds with some breathtaking attacking.
And then, just for good measure, they did likewise in the Champions League guiding Barcelona to another League and European double to further rubber-stamp their position as the best club side of their generation.