25 Best La Liga Players of 2013

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2013

25 Best La Liga Players of 2013

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    Barcelona have led La Liga for the whole of 2013, however it has not all been about the Catalan giants.

    Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid—who are toe-for-toe with Barca in the league at the moment—have been exceptional, while Real Sociedad have been breathtaking to watch at times during the last 12 months.

    The following slides look at the 25 best players from the past calendar year in Spain’s La Liga.

    Players who arrived in the summer—Neymar, Gareth Bale etc.—have not been considered, nor have players who departed at the same time—Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado etc.—as the ratings take into account the whole 12 months.

    Clubs have also been restricted to five entrants each to avoid the list becoming overly dominated by the league’s top clubs.

    Finally, a weighting has been given to how a given player’s performances have aided their team’s achievements in 2013.

    Let’s kick things off with some honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions

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    Jonas (Valencia): It’s not been a great year for Valencia. They missed out on the Champions League and have made a sloppy start to the current campaign. However, it could have been worse without the goals of their Brazilian forward.

    Weligton (Malaga): Brilliant alongside Martin Demichelis for Malaga in the Champions League knockout phases earlier this year and also helped his club to a top-10 finish on the back of an impressive defense.

    Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid): Not a vintage year for Ramos at Madrid, but still worthy of a mention.

    Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona): Only five Barca players could make the top 25, so these three guys just missed the cut.

    Filipe Luis, David Villa (Atletico Madrid): As with the Barca players above, Filipe Luis and David Villa miss out due to five Atletico players featuring already.

    Alberto Moreno (Sevilla): Break out year for the Sevilla left-back, earning full international honours in the process.

    Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad/Real Madrid): Influential as Real Sociedad qualified for the Champions League, but has struggled to make the same impact at Real Madrid yet after his summer move.

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    25. Ruben Castro, 32 (Real Betis): Scored nine goals in 18 league games to start 2013 and help Real Betis qualify for the Europa League. However, injuries have curtailed him this season and seen him drop lower than he might have been in this list.

    24. Patrick Ebert, 26 (Real Valladolid): As with Castro, injuries mean that Patrick Ebert only just creeps onto this list. When on form though, he is regularly Valladolid’s hero and it’s perhaps only niggling knocks which have prevented him from moving onto another club.

    23. Piti, 32 (Rayo Vallecano/Granada): Piti has scored 15 goals in 30 appearances for two clubs in 2013. He managed 12 goals after last season’s winter break to help Rayo Vallecano to a top 10 finish and has added three more since his summer move to Granada—watch out for that left foot.

    22. Luka Modric, 28 (Real Madrid): Following his arrival in Spain from Tottenham in 2012, Luka Modric took a few months to show Real Madrid fans what he was all about. However, he’s gotten better and better as the year has progressed and is now recognised as one of Los Blancos’ most consistent performers.

    21. Kiko Casilla, 27 (Espanyol): Having only broken into the Espanyol side for the last game of 2012—a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid—Kiko Casilla has spent 2013 establishing himself as the club’s No.1. Since taking over in goal, Espanyol have moved from bottom of the table to mid-table security. He kept 14 clean sheets in La Liga during the past calendar year.

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    20. Sergio Busquets, 25 (Barcelona ): Barcelona’s dependable midfielder was once again a vital part of a side which has occupied top spot for the whole year. Busquets’ reading of the game has been complemented in 2013 by his ability on the ball as well—he even scored a league goal against Real Sociedad.

    19. Markel Susaeta, 26 (Athletic Club): It might have been a year of two halves for Athletic Club, but it’s been a much more consistent year for their winger Markel Susaeta. He’s missed just one league game in 2013 and has scored eight goals and set up eight more.

    18. Diego Godin, 27 (Atletico Madrid): Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have been exceptional in 2013, and it’s all been built on the basis of a solid defence. Uruguayan Diego Godin has been a major part of what is not only La Liga’s most consistent back four, but arguably La Liga’s best back four too.

    17. Benat, 26 (Real Betis/Athletic Club): Alongside Ruben Castro, Benat Etxebarria was a large part of Real Betis’ success in the first six months of 2013. It earned the Basque midfielder a move back to Athletic Club, although he’s not quite hit his Betis levels at San Mames just yet.

    16. Willy Caballero, 32 (Malaga ): Nine clean sheets in 2013 have come on the back of countless wonder saves from Malaga stopper Willy Caballero. His inspirational form has continued since the summer exodus at La Rosaleda, and he’s been tipped to link up with Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, via Goal.com.

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    15. Inigo Martinez, 22 (Real Sociedad ): Alongside Atletico Madrid, Real Sociedad have arguably been the most impressive Spanish side in 2013. They qualified for the Champions League and, while their attacking players drew plaudits, regularly relied on their impressive young defender Inigo Martinez—a move to one of La Liga’s bigger clubs might not be far away.

    14. Miranda, 29 (Atletico Madrid): Together with Diego Godin, Miranda has formed La Liga’s finest centre-back partnership. The Brazilian arrived in the Spanish capital from Sao Paulo on a free transfer in 2011, but has looked like a £20 million defender in 2013.

    13. Victor Valdes, 31 (Barcelona ): He hasn’t always been highly rated outside of Barcelona, but Victor Valdes’ reputation has grown in 2013—his last full year with the Catalan club. He managed 11 clean sheets in the league, while performances against Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa and saves against Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis linger in the mind.

    12. Xabi Alonso, 32 (Real Madrid): Xabi Alonso’s importance to Real Madrid has been emphasised since his return from injury in the last few months. Los Blancos have functioned much better in 2013 when they have had the Basque midfielder operating from deep, and will be desperately hoping he decides to renew his contract at the Bernabeu.

    11. Antoine Griezmann, 22 (Real Sociedad): La Real’s young French forward has ended 2013 in flying form, at last showing the potential people have been waiting for him to fulfill. The year bore 18 goals, with 11 coming in 15 games in this season so far—he could yet have an impact for France at the World Cup at this rate.

     

10. Xavi

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    Club: Barcelona
    Age: 33
    Position: Midfield
    League appearances 2013: 26
    League goals/assists 2013: 3/5

    Despite his years, Barcelona remained as reliant as ever on Xavi throughout 2013. The midfielder is a vital cog in their system and they have yet to find the answer to a future without their pass master.

    Villarreal manager Marcelino summed it up perfectly* in his press conference after watching his side lose at Camp Nou recently. “The game changed when Xavi came on,” he said. “Barca play with a different rhythm with him in their midfield.”

    *Quotes obtained from the press conference by this writer.

9. Ivan Rakitic

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    Club: Sevilla
    Age: 25
    Position: Midfield
    League appearances 2013: 35
    League goals/assists 2013: 12/13

    Where would Sevilla be without their midfield maestro?

    During a year which has seen them lose some of their best players, Ivan Rakitic has managed to remain a shining star in Unai Emery’s side, helping them end the year in seventh position in the La Liga table.

    If he carries on producing performances of such high quality though, you have to wonder how much longer it will be before he’s the next man sold at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

8. Thibaut Courtois

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    Club: Atletico Madrid
    Age: 21
    Position: Goalkeeper
    League appearances 2013: 38
    Clean sheets 2013: 20

    The Chelsea goalkeeper is half way through his third season on loan at Atletico Madrid, yet he is still only 21-years-old.

    During 2013 he boasts the phenomenal record of having kept 20 clean sheets in his 38 La Liga appearances—and he hasn’t missed a single league game.

    Already considered one of the best ‘keepers in the world, it surely won’t be long until he is widely considered as the best ‘keeper in the world—where his future lies is going to be an interesting topic next summer.

7. Carlos Vela

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    Club: Real Sociedad
    Age: 24
    Position: Forward
    League appearances 2013: 35
    League goals/assists 2013: 15/11

    Mexican international Carlos Vela has been the pick of a talented group of players at Real Sociedad during an impressive calendar year.

    The former Arsenal man regularly scores and creates for a La Real side who play expansive attacking football.

    His goals helped the Anoeta outfit qualify for the Champions League last season, and he will hope to score plenty more as Sociedad look to complete another top four finish in 2014.

6. Isco

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    Club(s): Malaga/Real Madrid
    Age: 21
    Position: Midfield
    League appearances 2013: 35  
    League goals/assists 2013: 11/3

    First for Malaga, and more recently for Real Madrid, Isco has been one La Liga’s most exciting players during 2013.

    His form for the Andalusians persuaded Los Blancos to fork out around £30 million for him last summer, beating Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City to his signature.

    Isco immediately set about repaying some of that price tag too, scoring the winner on his debut against Real Betis and continuing to produce a string of fine performances in a Madrid shirt.

5. Koke

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    Club: Atletico Madrid
    Age: 21
    Position: Midfield
    League appearances 2013: 37    
    League goals/assists 2013: 4/13

    Koke’s continually impressive performances continue to tempt scouts of Europe’s top clubs to the Vicente Calderon to keep tabs on his progress.

    Manchester United, via The Mirror, are said to be among the clubs keen to try and lure him away from Atletico Madrid.

    However, he remains a Rojiblancos player for now, and he remains one of their most consistently brilliant performers—his relationship with Diego Costa in particular has led to several goals in 2013.

4. Alexis Sanchez

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    Club: Barcelona
    Age: 25
    Position: Forward
    League appearances 2013: 31
    League goals/assists 2013: 16/9

    It took a while for Alexis Sanchez to settle at Barcelona following his transfer from Udinese, but 2013 has been a good year for the Chilean international.

    He has scored 16 goals in 31 appearances—just under a goal every other game—and has assisted a further six.

    His crowning moment of the year came in the recent El Clasico fixture against Real Madrid, though. With the score delicately poised at 1-0, Alexis delightfully chipped Diego Lopez from 20 yards to seal the three points for the Catalans.

3. Diego Costa

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    Club: Atletico Madrid
    Age: 25
    Position: Forward
    League appearances 2013: 36
    League goals/assists 2013: 27/4

    Radamel Falcao’s sale to Monaco hardly seems relevant any more given the outstanding 12 months that Diego Costa has had.

    The year has bore 27 goals for the Atletico Madrid forward, including 19 in just 17 league appearances so far this season—he leads the Pichichi race heading in to 2014.

    The Brazilian-born 25-year-old has also confirmed his intentions to play for Spain at next year’s World Cup, and only an injury prevented him from making his La Roja bow in 2013.

2. Lionel Messi

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    Club: Barcelona
    Age: 26
    Position: Forward
    League appearances 2013: 26
    League goals/assists 2013: 28/11

    Injuries have dominated Lionel Messi’s past 12 months, but he has still racked up some impressive stats when he has managed to string a run of games together.

    He averaged over a goal a game in La Liga in 2013 and also contributed a large amount of assists to aid Barcelona’s cause.

    Expected back at the beginning of 2014, both Messi and Barcelona will hope that he can avoid the problems which held him back from replicating the record-breaking year which he had in 2012.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Club: Real Madrid
    Age: 28
    Position: Forward
    League appearances 2013: 33  
    League goals/assists 2013: 38/11

    Few would argue that Cristiano Ronaldo has been La Liga’s stand out player in 2013.

    The Portuguese international scored 10 more league goals than anyone else over the past 12 months, as he averaged more than one goal every game.

    It could well be form worthy of lifting the Ballon d’Or next month; although Ronaldo will also hope 2014 brings trophies to Real Madrid after the club experienced a baron year in 2013.