Real Madrid Midseason Awards: Best Summer Signing
Real Madrid have been exceptional throughout the first half of the 2011-12 campaign. Los Blancos finished the 2011 year as leaders of La Liga, and qualified for the Champions League Round of 16 with a perfect record.
In his second season as Madrid manager, José Mourinho has the team poised to overtake rivals Barcelona as Spanish and European champions.
Although Madrid's success has been a collective effort, a few players have stood out as both valuable and irreplaceable to Los Blancos.
Here are the results for the second Real Madrid Midseason Award, Best Summer Signing.
*Note: Award given based on performances, not potential.
2nd Runner-Up: Raphaël Varane
French starlet Raphaël Varane has been impressive in limited playing time this season. Although Sergio Ramos and Pepe look to be Madrid's preferred centre-back pairing for the next few years, the youngster has the quality and potential to challenge for a spot in the starting XI in the near future.
Still only 19 years of age, Varane has shown great composure on the ball and athletic ability. With height and good pace at the back, the Frenchman has been excellent when called into action.
The Madrid central defender has not played a major role this season, but he has clearly been one of the standout signings of the summer.
1st Runner-Up: José Callejón
Real Madrid youth product José Callejón has been a great contributor since returning to the club this summer. The former Espanyol player has not been a regular in Mourinho’s first-choice starting XI, but he has managed nine goals in all competitions.
Out of the fringe players in the squad, Callejón has arguably been the best of them all. With great pace and composure in the box, the Spaniard is always a threat to get in behind and through on goal.
In an era dominated by international superstars and “Galáctico” signings, Callejón has emerged as a youth system player capable of breaking into the first team. Mourinho has two world-class wingers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Ángel di María, but Callejón has shown the ability to be effective out wide and deadly in the box.
Winner: Fábio Coentrão
Although he was Real Madrid's most expensive signing of the summer at €30 million, Fábio Coentrão has been the most impressive new arrival throughout the first half of the season.
The Portuguese international has emerged as Mourinho's jack-of-all-trades, showing the ability to cover for Marcelo at left-back and play in a defensive midfield role as well.
With his tenacity and quickness, Coentrão has become an effective ball-winner in midfield. As a more defensive option to Marcelo at full-back or a workhorse in midfield, the former Benfica star's versatility is a huge asset to Mourinho's squad.
The amount of €30 million may seem like a large sum for a utility player, but Coentrão's importance to Real Madrid cannot be understated.
Varane and Nuri Şahin look set to be future stars at the Santiago Bernabéu. They could emerge as the best signings of this past summer over the next few years. However, neither have played in enough matches to claim the award at this point.
Providing solid, wholehearted performances in defense and midfield, Coentrão has been Los Blancos' best summer signing.