Real Madrid's End-of-Season Award Show Marathon, Part 1

Gabe LezraContributor IIIMay 31, 2011

Real Madrid's End-of-Season Award Show Marathon, Part 1

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    MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and UD Almeria at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 21, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    When a season, a year, or anything that marks the passing of time ends, people inevitably look back over what just occurred. We try to make sense of the bad things, remember the good things fondly, and dish out praises (and occasionally harsh words) where they are due. 

    In sports, we tend to give out awards towards the end of the season to commemorate and honor the best individual performances out of all the players in a league—in American sports we have the “Most Valuable Player” trophy, while in European Football we have the FIFA World Player/Golden Ball (which one is it again?). 

    As sports writers—especially beat reporters and journalists who cover individual teams—we like to adapt these awards to talk about the highs and lows of a team’s season. So in this segment (another will come later), I’m going to dish out some of the major positive awards for Real Madrid’s season; next time, I’ll throw out a group of “worsts,” that should complement this list.

     Oh, and I’m going to mesh every award that I can think of into it, so get excited. 

Rookie of the Year: Mesut Özil

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 21:  Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid takes part in celebrations at Plaza Cibeles on April 21, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Real beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia's Mestalla stadium on April 20.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Real Madrid’s young German attacking midfielder played so well in his first season in the Liga BBVA that he simultaneously displaced a world football icon (Kaká) from his starting role, and lead the league in assists. To say that his transfer last summer—for a cool 15 million euros—was a bargain is an understatement: he is a superstar in the making, a cool, calculating organizer who anchored Madrid’s attack. 

Most Improved Player: Marcelo

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    VILLARREAL, SPAIN - MAY 15:  Marcelo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring Real's first goal during the La Liga match between Villarreal and Real Madrid at estadio El Madrigal on May 15, 2011 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    While Marcelo has been a fixture of Madrid’s defensive formation for a few years now, he really began to hit his stride in 2010-2011. His laser-quick runs from the back created chance after chance, and he showed off a strong attacking sense all year. He seemed to be in the right spot on offense more and more as the season went on—this isn’t a little thing either: some of the most promising offensive players in the world have lacked this sixth-sense, this olfato goleador as the Spaniards would say. Marcelo showed that off this year (and he seemed to shore up his defense as the season went on).

The David Beckham Better-Late-Than-Never Award: Karim Benzema

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    MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 19:  Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring the opening goal  during the La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 19, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Gett
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Finally! Karim gets the David Beckham award (explanation: Becks finally justified his spot for Madrid in his last contract year of 2006-2007, where he played a huge role in Capello’s Liga-winning stretch run) because after a season of playing a background role to Higuaín, finally came into his own after the Argentinian went down with a back injury. Karim played with passion and heart, and supplied a number of fantastic goals as well as a few well-timed assists. He was a close second to Marcelo in the Most Improved voting.

Defensive Player of the Year: Iker Casillas

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 21: Iker Casillas of Real Madrid kisses the Cibeles statue on April 21, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Real beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia's Mestalla stadium on April 20.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Do I even need to justify this? San Iker was a rock in goal all year, and remains the best keeper on the planet. Without his hands, Madrid would have lost or tied many, many more games this season. In fact, of all the players on the team, my guess is that Iker would have the highest WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is such a stat existed for football.

The Raúl Gonzalez Blanco Award for Best Youth Team Player: Álvaro Morata

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    ZARAGOZA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 12: Alvaro Morataof Real Madrid jumps for a high ball with Maurizio Lanzaro of Zaragoza during the La Liga match between Real Zaragoza and Real Madrid at La Romareda stadium on December 12, 2010 in Zaragoza, Spain. (Photo by Ang
    Angel Martinez/Getty Images

    So I might be cheating a little bit on this one. Morata played two games with the top squad, for a total of slightly more than a half of play. But he was REALLY good when he played. I remember thinking to myself at the time: “don’t let this guy go, he could be another Raúl.” That’s some high praise. And considering that he came up from Juvenil A just a year prior (and that he debuted for the top side only a few months after his debut for Real Madrid Castilla), his rise has been pretty meteoric. While Madrid’s front line looks pretty strong going into the offseason, it would be very unwise to discount Morata in the future.  

Best Supporting Actor: Mesut Özil

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    VALENCIA, BARCELONA - APRIL 20: Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid celebrates after the Copa del Rey final match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 20, 2011 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    While I already talked a little bit about him earlier, consider this: he surpassed every single player in the league, including Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, in passes that lead directly to a goal. That’s pretty crazy, and really indicative of how good this young man is—and how bright his future is. 

Most Valuable Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and UD Almeria at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 21, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    He is crazy good. Just insanely, insanely good. Like, his numbers this season were some of the best in the history of the Spanish League. Not in the last 10 years. All time. He scored 41 goals in the Liga (beating the record of 38 held by Zarra and Hugo Sánchez), and he became the first player ever to score more than 40 goals in a season in Spain. He won the European Golden Boot award (top scorer in Europe), and became the first player to ever win top European scorer in two different leagues. All told, he had the best scoring season of his career, with 53 goals in 54 matches in all competitions (smashing his previous mark of 42 in 07-08). Oh, and he also had 16 assists, his second-highest mark.