Football365’s La Liga XI of 2019: Messi, Suarez etc

Date published: Wednesday 18th December 2019 9:32

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atlético de Madrid)
Apologies to Aitor Fernández of Levante, who has made the most saves and earned his team the most points, but Jan Oblak deserves the nod in a year in which he picked up his fourth Zamora award as the last line of what is consistently the strongest defence in Spain. The man they call ‘the wall’ has kept 20 clean sheets in 37 league games this season, conceding just 27 goals along the way.


Right-back: Jesús Navas (Sevilla)
The aging ex-Manchester City winger has reinvented himself as a marauding wing-back since returning to Sevilla, and his attacking swagger and defensive awareness have allowed him to flourish in Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui’s system. His crosses and byline cut-backs have seen him pick up seven assists this calendar year.


Centre-back: Gerard Piqué (Barcelona)
His form may have dropped off somewhat in this campaign, but Piqué’s superb performances last season were instrumental in his side’s successful title defence. The Catalan controversy-magnet’s positioning and comfort with the ball at his feet mark him out as one of the most naturally gifted defenders in the league.


Centre-back: José María Giménez (Atlético de Madrid)
The 24-year-old Uruguayan has stepped out of his compatriot and mentor Diego Godín’s shadow to become the lynchpin of the meanest defence in the league. He makes the cut despite spending the last couple of months out injured, which coincided with a run of poor form for his club. His return is eagerly awaited by the Colchonero faithful.


Left-back: Yuri Berchiche (Athletic Club)
The former Paris Saint-Germain and Cheltenham Town star has been a model of consistency in the left back role for Athletic, combining speed and guile with an eye for a pass and an occasional golazo. Strangely overlooked by his national side over the years, the Basque has been linked with a call-up to the selección as a result of his performances this year.


Midfield: Dani Parejo (Valencia)
The embodiment of the resurgence of Valencia in the last few years, and the totem in more difficult times for the east-coast club. Ex-QPR man Parejo is an enforcer, a creator and a goalscorer rolled into one, and his consistently high-quality performances make him one of the stars of La Liga in 2019.


Midfield: Santi Cazorla (Villarreal)
The fact that the bipedal pocket genius is still playing at all after an injury that could easily have seen him lose his leg is amazing in itself. That he is arguably playing the best football of his career is stretching credulity to its limits. 35 years old, recalled by Spain and still pulling the strings in the Villarreal midfield, the Asturian is enjoying a wonderful coda to his career.


Midfield: Casemiro (Real Madrid)
His Madrid team-mate Fede Valverde almost made the cut, but his breakthrough came a bit late in the year to justify his inclusion. Instead, the tirelessly combative midfielder, who is more far skilful than just a mere spoiler, makes the cut for his dependability in a difficult year for Los Blancos.


Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
44 goals and 15 assists in 46 games for Barcelona in a year when he collected his record sixth Ballon d’Or, record-equalling sixth Pichichi award and tenth La Liga title. No other player has anything like these figures, yet 2019 isn’t even close to being his best year. There’s very little to be said about Messi that hasn’t been said already, and even less that can be said that comes close to doing his genius justice.


Forward: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Previously maligned by the Bernabéu faithful, Benzema has silenced his doubters with his resurgence in 2019, scoring 26 league goals and spearheading Real Madrid’s mini-revival. It looked like his days in the Spanish capital were numbered not too long ago, but now he is an invaluable part of a team who would be in much worse shape were it not for the Frenchman’s timely return to form.


Forward: Luis Suárez (Barcelona)
19 league goals in 2019 is a relatively modest return for a player of Suárez’s ability, and it is clear that his powers are gradually waning as time catches up with him, but it still a higher tally than any other player has managed this year (barring the aforementioned Messi and Benzema). The fact that he is compared to Messi doesn’t help his cause, but he links up brilliantly with his Argentinian team-mate, and is still a crucial cog in the highly successful Barcelona machine.


Dan Bridges

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