Guillem Balague picks his players of the season in La Liga
By Guillem Balague & Nick Wright
Last Updated: 07/05/18 2:57pm
Who have been the best players in La Liga this season? And what about the best young players? Guillem Balague makes his selections…
I have chosen five standout players in each category, and where better to start than with Lionel Messi after his man-of-the-match display in El Clasico on Sunday?
Messi has now scored more than 40 goals in all competitions in nine consecutive seasons and he is, without doubt, the major reason why Barcelona have been able to secure a La Liga and Copa del Rey double this term.
He has matured, become a leader and papered over some of the cracks in a squad that needs refreshing. His title-winning hat-trick against Deportivo last week summed up his season, and the stats highlight his influence in La Liga.
Messi has not only scored the most goals and provided the most assists this season, but he has also attempted the most shots, created the most chances and completed the most successful dribbles.
My next pick is Iago Aspas. Some might call him a Liverpool flop but he is Spain's deadliest frontman, Aspas has been a man reborn since rejoining boyhood club Celta Vigo three years ago.
He has improved with every season, taking his goal tallies from 14 to 19 to 20. Only Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez have scored more goals in La Liga in the current campaign, and Aspas could now win a place in Spain's World Cup squad.
One of the players competing with Aspas for a place in Julen Lopetegui's 23 is Valencia's Rodrigo. This season, the Brazilian-born forward has lost weight, nailed down his place as a striker and won the confidence of manager Marcelino.
He has been instrumental in Valencia's rise into the European places, with Aspas the only Spanish player to have scored more La Liga goals. He has also scored twice in four appearances for the national team.
My final two picks for the best senior players in La Liga this season are goalkeepers Jan Oblak and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Oblak has produced another outstanding season for Atletico Madrid, with some top European teams now happy to pay his 100 million euro buy-out clause, while Ter Stegen has arguably been Barcelona's best performer after Messi.
Oblak and Ter Stegen have kept 21 and 18 clean sheets respectively - making them the top two goalkeepers for shut-outs in any of Europe's top-five leagues.
Now onto the best young players, and we'll start with Rodri of Villarreal. The 21-year-old midfielder has caught the eye this season, with Atletico Madrid clinching a deal worth 25 million euros to take him back to his boyhood club in the summer.
Rodri is being touted as a natural successor for Sergio Busquets in Spain's national team, for whom he made his debut back in March, and it's easy to see why.
The stats show that only three players in La Liga have made more passes than him this season. His total of 2252 is actually higher than Busquets.
It's been another impressive season from Real Madrid's Marco Asensio, too. The 22-year-old shot to the world's attention with his sensational goals in the Super Cup matches against Barcelona at the start of the season, and his continued good form is probably what will finally persuade Madrid to sell Gareth Bale.
"I think he is capable of making the difference," said Zinedine Zidane after Asensio's recent goal against Bayern Munich.
"He always goes for goal and he always plays direct. He's got pace, a good shot… He's got a bit of everything."
My final young player picks are Atletico Madrid duo Saul Niguez and Jose Maria Gimenez, who have impressed in La Liga and helped Diego Simeone's side to the Europa League final.
Also, Real Betis youngster Fabian. The 22-year-old has contributed three goals and six assists from central midfield this season, with Barcelona considering paying his 30 million euro buy-out clause.
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