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FC Barcelona: Handing out Club's End of Season Awards

Xoel CardenasContributor IIIMay 15, 2012

FC Barcelona: Handing out Club's End of Season Awards

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    Ladies, get your dresses ready. Gentlemen, go get your tuxedos. It is time to hand out some awards!

    The season is over for FC Barcelona (minus the Copa Del Rey) and now we must look back at the best and worst of El Blaugrana’s 2011-12 season.

    Some of the categories include Best Midfielder, Best Goal, and Worst Loss. There are some unorthodox awards as well.

    While this may not have been the greatest overall season for Barcelona, there were plenty of players that deserve recognition. It was a very tough process to select the winners.

    Without further ado, let’s start the 2011-12 FC Barcelona End of Season Awards.

Biggest Surprise: Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello

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    It seems like every year there is a new rising star coming from La Masia.

    This year, we saw two rising stars.

    Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello established themselves as first team players in just a few months. Cuenca started the season off with a fine showing after injuries to Alexis Sanchez and Pedro forced Pep Guardiola to go to the B-team to find replacements.

    Issac Cuenca made his debut in La Liga in October 25 of last year against Granada—the same game Pedro would go out with an injury. One week later, Cuenca scored his first goal in La Liga in a 5-0 beating of RCD Mallorca. Since then, Isaac has only improved and has shown signs of great things to come.

    On January 31, Cuenca signed an extension with the club until 2015.

    When Pedro went down with an injury in January, Pep Guardiola called up Cristian Tello to fill in. Tello made his Liga debut in the 75th minute of a 1-1- tie against Villarreal in January. He was the spark plug Barcelona needed much earlier in that game. Cristian passed by defenders with ease as he quickly became the threat of the last 15 minutes of the game. Followers of La Liga were very impressed with Tello’s play.

    He was just getting warmed up.

    Tello has shined the brightest out of the Barça youngsters. His speed, playmaking ability and goal-scoring have been without a doubt the team’s biggest surprise. Tello made his Champions League debut against Bayer Leverkusen. Within two minutes of him entering the game, Tello scored a goal. He added a second goal to give him a brace in the 7-1 win highlighted by Leo Messi’s manito.

    Tello and Cuenca easily earned spots on the first squad and seemingly have a bright future with FC Barcelona.

Biggest Disappointment: Pedro

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    The award for Biggest Disappointment belongs to Pedro Rodriguez.

    Pedro has always been a lock to rack up goals ever since he became a full-time first-team player in 2009. Unfortunately, Pedrito had a season to forget. The same man who became the first player to score a goal in six different competitions in one season couldn’t buy a goal this season.

    As much as other players on Barcelona – like Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique – have had disappointing moments this year, Pedro is the unfortunate winner of this award due to the lack of goals he produced.

    Goals which this team so desperately needed from him.

    Perhaps it was the signing of Alexis Sanchez that got Pedro mentally shaken. Let’s not forget injuries put Pedrito on the bench as well. Of course the rise of Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello made Pedro a second choice for many games.

    This season Barcelona needed the goals Pedro has made in the past. Pedro averaged 22 goals a season for the past two years. This season, Pedro made only 11.

    Let’s hope he bounces back in 2012-13.

Best Defender: Javier Mascherano

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    This year was the worst defensive year for Barcelona under Pep Guardiola. Injuries to Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique weakened the back line. The Eric Abidal situation was tough for everyone. In January, Andreu Fontas was lost for the season with a knee injury and Maxwell was sold to PSG.

    But let’s not forget that this defense, even when healthy, could not stop the counterattack and lacked speed.

    With all this being said, the only bright spot for the defense this season and the award for Best Defender goes to a man that is not even a true defender: Javier Mascherano.

    El gefecito has been solid all year. Javier replaced essentially everyone in the back line at one point in the season. He played LCB, RCB, and LB. Mascherano’s toughness and his midfielding traits came up big in many situations. There was many times where he’d come up himself and play a bit of midfield, setting up plays. Everything from last minute slide tackles to clearing the ball away on the line, Mashcerano did it all this season.

    It will be interesting to see how Tito Vilanova will use Javier Mascherano in 2012-13 as Barça will certainly sign new defenders. Nevertheless, Mascherano will be ready to play either CDM or CB.

    Congrats on a fine season, gefecito.

Rising Star to Look Out for in 2012-13: Martin Montoya

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    The most promising young defender on FC Barcelona is right back Martin Montoya. Martin joined La Masia at the age of nine and was promoted to the B-squad in 2009. Montoya made his debut with the first squad last year. Martin was a part of Spain’s U-21 national team, which won last year’s U-21 European Championship.

    Some fans may not be familiar with Martin. He is a promising kid with good speed, great tackling skills and is very versatile on the pitch. Some have called him Barcelona’s next Dani Alves.

    Speaking of Dani Alves, with the recent rumors of the Brazilian being on the market, Montoya would become the new starting RB. Part of the reason Barcelona could sell Alves is because of Montoya. Martin is very talented and many Barça scouts say he is ready to be a starter. Nevertheless, Alves will more than likely stay at FCB with Montoya replacing him one day as the full-time RB.

    Recently signing an extension until the summer of 2014, Montoya will have the time to show his skills with the first squad. He will be given plenty of playing time and Martin will only improve.

    Look out for Martin Montoya to become the next young star for Tito Vilanova in 2012-13.

Biggest Error: Lionel Messi’s Missed Penalty vs. Chelsea

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    The award for biggest error goes to Lionel Messi and his missed penalty kick against Chelsea in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

    There’s nothing else that needs to be said. Lionel Messi missing the penalty kick is not the sole reason for Barça’s elimination, but it was a significant reason why they were eliminated.

    Let's not forget that if it was not for Messi’s brilliance all year round, Barcelona would not have even gotten that far.

    That being said, it is still the biggest error in the season.

Player That Needs To Step Up Next Season: Cesc Fàbregas

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    This past season was not the best in Cesc Fàbregas’ career. It seems like Cesc has not played consistently well since scoring the third goal against Real Madrid in December.

    While Cesc did not play well, part of Cesc’s problems were not his fault. Due to the team’s vast injuries, especially after David Villa’s injury at the FIFA Club World Cup, Cesc was asked to play LW. At first, it seemed like it would work out, but it later became apparently clear that having Fàbregas not play his natural position hurt his effectiveness on the pitch.

    Still, even when he played as a midfielder, he struggled as he made too many bad passes and missed too many open shots when he would come up to shoot.

    Cesc will need to step up next season for various reasons. For one, as Xavi gets older, it will be Cesc who will be rotated more to substitute and in the future replace him in the starting midfielder lineup. Fàbregas will need to continue his on-the-pitch chemistry with Lionel Messi as it was effective at the beginning of this past season, only to fade out towards the end. Fàbregas does not need to score goals; he needs to be the player that he was at the beginning of the 2011-12 season; accurate passes, awareness of position on the pitch, as well as (honestly) better shots on goal.

    Time to step up and merit his €34 million price tag.

Player Who's Best Days Are Done: Carles Puyol

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    As much as I love Carles, it is evidently clear his best playing days are done. Carles Puyol is no longer an every-game CB. His age has finally caught up to his game this year, and at 34, he can no longer keep up with speedy forwards.

    I’m not saying Puyol needs to be let go. I’m just saying Puyol needs to be replaced as a regular starting defender, especially when facing off against forwards who are particularly fast—which is most games. Puyol can handle strong forwards like Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente but he cannot run with players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Muñiain of Bilbao, and others.

    I’m not going to pretend that injuries didn’t stop Carles from having a good season. He was out many times with issues. Recently, Puyol had successful knee surgery which will keep him out of the Copa Del Rey Final as well as Euro 2012 for the Spanish National Team.

    But still, an increased amount of injuries is just another reason Puyol’s regular playing days are done. I’m sure Tito Vilanova—who is more of a “strictly business” type of coach than Pep is— will consider making Xavi the new captain of El Blaugrana.

    Sorry to be cold-hearted, but at the end of the day, football is a business. Carles’ age, lack of speed and injuries are bad for Barça’s on-the-pitch business.

    I love Carles, but it’s time to look out for the betterment of the team. 

Most Underrated Player: Victor Valdes

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    The Most Underrated Player Award  for 2011-12 goes to VV – Victor Valdes.

    The Catalan keeper conceded only 28 league goals in the 2011-12 season. Valdes won the Ricardo Zamora Trophy this season for having the lowest goals-to-games ratio in La Liga in a season. VV had a goals-to-games ratio of 0.8 goals a game. It is Victor’s fourth year in a row winning the Zamora Trophy.

    Not bad for the man most people say is the third best goalkeeper from Spain. Then again, Valdes is not Spanish, he’s Catalan.

    VV is a bit shaky when the ball comes back to him, but nevertheless he has remained solid when facing attack. If the Barça defense was stronger this season, Valdes would have allowed even fewer goals. The defense has had the worst season in five years. Naturally, Valdes will look bad with a terrible defense allowing opponents to come through and take shots on goal.

    Even with this year’s struggling defense, Valdes remained strong between the posts.

    With so many great players on this team, it is no surprise Valdes is overlooked and underrated by many. Some say VV doesn’t see much attack, thus his stats are inflated because Barcelona control ball possession in every game. I understand this argument but Barcelona’s ball possession should not be used against Valdes and his game. Yes, the ball possession keeps opponents away from VV, but Valdes has held his own and has played well under attack. He’s played against goal-scoring teams like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and others within the last four years and has performed well in most of those games.

    Valdes has been the keeper since 2002. If he was not any good, Sandro Rosell or Joan Laporta would have gotten rid of him by now. It’s hard to make a case against a keeper that has been a starter for three UEFA Champions League title runs (2005-06, 2008-09, 2010-11) and has played well in big games.

    Victor is now tied with legendary Barcelona keeper Antoni Ramallets for the most Zamora Trophies won with five.

    FYI: Iker Casillas has only won the Zamora Trophy once (2007-08).

Player Who Will Be Missed the Most: Seydou Keita

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    One award I have to give out is to the player you know is not going to be part of the team next season and who will be missed.

    This award goes to Seydou Keita.

    Keita came to the Catalan club in 2008 from Sevilla. In almost four years, Keita has made over 180 appearances and scored 22 goals in all competitions.

    According to reports, AC Milan and other teams are interested in signing Seydou Keita for next season. The Mali international has been the defensive midfielder that Pep Guardiola gone to for those grind-it-out games. Pep even mentioned a special thanks to Seydou in his announcement press conference a few weeks ago.

    "Keita has been my ethical and moral barometer," Pep said. "I watched him to see if I was doing a good or bad job."

    Now with Tito Vilanova in charge and with no emotional attachment to Keita, the Mali international will more than likely be let go.

    Keita always has some sort of calming effect every time he steps on the pitch. It just seems like the game gets a bit more controlled when he’s playing. His long strides and his good defensive play will be missed at the Camp Nou.  

    His quiet leadership will surely be missed both in the locker room and on the pitch. My hope as a Barcelona fan is that the club can find a player with Keita’s traits.

Best Midfielder: Sergio Busquets

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    Sergio Busquets gets the award for the Best Midfielder for the 2011-12 season. 

    Busquets is one of the best one-touch midfielders in the world. Xavi may be FC Barcelona’s midfielding heartbeat, but the backbone of the midfield is Sergio Busquets. People tend to forget that many of those goals Messi and others made this season started out with Sergio Busquets bringing it up to midfield and setting up the offense.

    Andres Iniesta and Xavi’s greatness along with Busi (boo-see) being a relatively quiet player makes people tend to overlook his game. It seems like his flops and controversies are what makes his name come up. As much as I love Sergio Busquets and his game, let’s be fair, his on-the-field overdramatic actions take away from his excellent play. This season, he had his moments of drama, but overall Busi did well to lower the antics.

    Sergio may not be the typical defensive midfielder we are used to seeing; athletic, very strong, and an “enforcer” type of player. But that’s what makes him so special; because he’s not a typical defender. Perhaps the greatest attribute about Sergio Busquets is his grace and elegance of his passes and it showed again this season. At 91.3 percent passing accuracy, Busquets is one of the most accurate passers in European football.

    With injuries to Xavi and Andres Iniesta in the season as well as an inconsistent Thiago and Cesc Fàbregas, Busi was the most consistent mid this season. Busi’s passes were on target and his on-the-pitch awareness of setting up plays was important, especially when Xavi and/or Iniesta were not on the pitch with him. Sergio's defensive help was huge as well as the Barcelona defense struggled terribly in 2011-12. If Sergio doesn’t help out the back line in many of this season’s games, Barcelona would have suffered more losses than it did.

    Props to the underrated Busi for being the Best Midfielder of Barcelona's season. Check out how Busi owns Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil in the video as Busi pulls the okie-doke on Ozil who falls down trying to steal the ball.

Best Win: Barcelona Defeats Real Madrid 2-1 in the Copa Del Rey Quaters, 1st Leg

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    While there were solid victories in La Liga and in the Champions League, including the 7-1 beating of Bayer Leverkusen where Messi scored five goals, but that was the best performance by Barcelona, not the best win as far as significance. The 4-0 defeat of Santos in the FIFA Club World Cup was extremely significant, but that game was not close and it did not have the glamor a Clásico. While the Super Cup 3-2 victory over Real Madrid was a close second, it was too early in the season and the defense did not play well in that game.

    The best win was a game that unfortunately due to the 2nd leg and the competitiveness of that game, the 1st leg has been forgotten by many.

    Just a few weeks after defeating Real Madrid 3-1 in Liga action, Barcelona were forced to go back to the Santiago Bernabéu to battle Los Blancos in the Copa Del Rey Quarterfinals.

    It was time to avenge last year’s loss in the Copa Del Rey final.

    The game got off to a horrible start as Cristiano Ronaldo drove down the pitch and beat both Gerard Pique and Jose Manuel Pinto to give Real a 1-0 lead just after 11 minutes into the game.

    Barcelona had chances to tie the game but missed out on great chances including an Alexis Sanchez header that hit the crossbar.

    The Barça players went into the locker room down 1-0.

    In the second half, Carles Puyol tied the affair as el capita charged in and put the Xavi corner kick pasted Iker Casillas.

    Barcelona controlled the game after that. Ball possession was theirs and the Real attack was contained. It was like a repeat of the December game. Overall, a complete game by the defense as well.

    In the 77th minute, Lionel Messi attracted all the Madrid defender’s attention which left Eric Abidal wide open. Messi lobbed the ball to Eric who stepped up and put it passed Casillas to make it 2-1 Barcelona.

    It was Abidal’s best moment of the season as he would leave in March to undergo a liver transplant. Today, Abidal is recovering and may be released from the hospital within the next two weeks.

    Barcelona won 2-1 with no controversy on El Blaugrana’s part or no questionable referee calls. The second leg was the most competitive Clásico of the season with the game ending in a 2-2 tie at the Camp Nou. Barcelona sent Jose Mourinho’s team out of the Copa Del Rey with a 4-3 aggregate win.

    Because FC Barcelona has a chance to win the Copa Del Rey as well as the fact that Barcelona struggled towards the end of the season – including the 1-2 loss in the April Clásico and their elimination in the UEFA Champions League – the 2-1 victory at the Bernabéu in January is the Best Win of the season.

    Barcelona could have a new Best Win of 2011-12 if they defeat Athletic Bilbao on May 25 and win the Copa Del Rey.

Worst Loss: 2-2 vs. Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Semis, 2nd Leg

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    What can we say about this game?!

    Barça had a 2-0 lead against Chelsea in stoppage time of the first half, with an extra player—at home as well!

    What happened?!

    I guess Chelsea happened.

    Chelsea knew they could only win this semifinal one way: defense and counterattack.

    Mission accomplished.

    They defended with everyone and when the few opportunities they were able to counterattack, they succeeded in scoring. You cannot be mad at that.

    While it was technically not a loss, let's be honest, the 2-2 tie was essentially a loss. FC Barcelona were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League. Only a few days prior, Real Madrid came into the Camp Nou and essentially won La Liga win a 2-1 victory. 

    Worst. Week. Ever.

    Worst Loss of the season.

    Check out Fernando Torres' goal called by Sky Sports. I love former Manchester United player now Sky Sports analyst Gary Neville's moan when Torres score.

    As much as this goal is tough for Culés to watch, I can't stop laughing at Gary's moan.

Best Goal: Lionel Messi vs. Atletico Madrid

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    While Dani Alves’ goal against Real Madrid comes a close second, the award for Best Goal goes to Lionel Messi and his golazo against Atletico Madrid in round 25 of La Liga.

    Tied at 1-1 in the 81st minute, a free kick was given to Barcelona. Xavi was originally going to take the kick but Messi asked his teammate if he can have a crack at it. Messi fooled everyone as he quickly took the free kick and curled in the ball in from 25 meters away passed a stunned Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

    GOLAZO!

Culés Award: Pep Guardiola and Eric Abidal

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    The Culés Award goes to the person that we, the Barcelona fans, feel deserves to be recognized for embodying the heart, passion, trust, and spirit of all Culés.

    The award goes to two men who will never be forgotten by Culés: Eric Abidal and Josep Guardiola.

    Abidal started 20 games in La Liga for El Blaugrana this season. One of Éric’s best moments this season was the goal he scored against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of the 2011 Copa Del Rey quarterfinals. The Frenchman’s goal was the game winner and ultimately was the difference in the aggregate score.

    On March 15, Eric Abidal underwent a liver transplant after nearly two year of complications with his liver. Abidal's strength under tremendously difficult circumstances along with his career at FCB is something special. He's the iron man of FC Barcelona.

    There is a very high likelihood that Éric Abidal may not be able to play professional football again. All Culés are saddened to think Abi may never play again, but the most important thing is his health.

    If Éric never plays a game for FC Barcelona again, let me say thank you for the great memories, Éric. We Culés love you and you will always be remembered at the Camp Nou. We hope to see you at the Camp Nou soon, visiting the place you made tremendous plays at, for many years to come.

    What can we say about Pep Guardiola that hasn't already been said? He’s been The Godfather of FC Barcelona.

    Does that make Tito Vilanova “Michael Corleone”?

    Pep has brought Culés the greatest FC Barcelona team ever seen, a football revolution, class, style, and 13 perhaps 14 titles in four years just to name a few.

    I’ll repeat what I said in my article dedicated to Pep, “Thank You Pep Guardiola! A Tribute.”

    Thank you for giving us four years of the greatest football we've ever seen.

    Thank you for giving us three Liga titles.

    Thank you for giving us two UEFA Champions League titles.

    Thank you for giving us one team that the world will never forget.

    Thank you for bringing us a total of 13 (potentially 14) titles in only four years.

    Thank you for making FC Barcelona, Catalunya, and the Camp Nou the place where football magic happens.

    Catalunya is your homeland. The Camp Nou is your home. We understand that you need to leave. Just promise us that you will eventually find your way home.

    On behalf of all Culés, thank you Josep “Pep” Guardiola, for the memories that will live in the minds and hearts of all Culés forever.

Best Forward, Best Performance, Best Player: Lionel Messi

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    Finally, the last awards go to one man and one man only.

    Lionel Messi wins the awards for Best Forward, Best Performance, and Best Player of 2011-12.

    Out of all the forwards, Lionel Messi stayed health and scored the most goals. Enough said about that category.

    The performance of the season came in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matchup against Bayer Leverkusen on March 7. Messi was a man possessed as he dominated the pitch and gave us a performance for the history books as Messi became the first player in UEFA Champions League history with five goals in a game. He also became the first player to have five goals in European championship (prior to the UCL era) competition since Soren Lerby of Ajax hit five in the 1979-80 season. Messi’s manito on Leverkusen was clearly the Best Performance of the season.

    Lionel Messi scored 72 this season. 72 goals! Think about it. He scored more goals on his own than more than half of the teams in La Liga scored as an entire team. Messi scored more goals than entire teams around Europe did as well. Messi has contributed in 100 goals in all competitions for FC Barcelona this season: 72 goals and 28 assists. Messi made a new world record for being the first football player ever to score 72 official goals for his club in a single season in the history of football. 

    These are just some of the records Messi broke or made this season.

    Messi racked up 50 goals in La Liga; winner of the Pichichi Award. Leo is the winner of the European Golden Boot and the current front-runner for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or. If Messi were to win the Ballon d’Or, it would be his fourth in a row and he’d become the only player in the award's history with four.

    If you want more, click here to read my previous article on Messi’s incredible season.

    While this was FC Barcelona’s most disappointing season in recent memory, this was perhaps Lionel Messi’s best season ever. Messi carried the offense all year – especially with all the injuries to key players throughout the year. Messi willed team to wins all year.

    Messi has had statistically the best and most record-breaking season a footballer has ever had in history.

    What more do I need to say?

    Lionel Messi was the Best Forward, had the Best Performance, and was the Best Player for FC Barcelona in 2011-12.

    Messi is simply the best.

Conclusion

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    Thank you for reading. Here’s to a great 2012-13!

    Do not worry Culés. Just because the season is over does not mean the Barça articles are over. Remember that the Copa Del Rey Final is just a few days away and I will keep you updated with all the information you need to know leading up to the game on May 25th.

    I’ll also continue to keep you updated all summer long with FC Barcelona rumors, transfers, signings and so on. It will be a busy summer for El Blaugrana.

    Also, I will be covering Spain for Euro 2012 for Bleacher Report. Look out for my articles on La Furia Roja as they look to repeat as European champions. Vamos Roja!

    Ole-le,

    Ola-la,

    ser del Barça és

    el millor que hi ha!

     

    XoelThe Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report and Featured Columnist for Spain for Euro 2012.

    Follow me on Twitter:@XoelCardenas

     

    Don’t forget to check out my other columns:

    FC Barcelona Interested In Signing Sergio Araujo

    Euro 2012: 3 Candidates to Replace Carles Puyol in Spain's Starting XI

    Messi Breaks More Records & Deserves Ballon D'Or 

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