La Liga year in Review: MSN put BBC in their place and Spain sees a "British Invasion" of managers
Raf Diallo looks at the story of La Liga during the calendar year11:06 Monday 28 December 2015, 11:06 28 Dec 2015
What a difference a year makes. 365 little days … to paraphrase the song made famous by Dinah Washington.
When it comes to the Barclays Premier League, to give it its full name, our yesterday was Blue at the start of the year but while the hue remains the same, it’s the Leicester of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez who have been the real story of 2015.
While their run to the upper reaches of the table this season will never be forgotten, the first half of the calendar year bore witness to a great escape from relegation thanks to the not-so-media-friendly Nigel Pearson.
But while cross-channel action captures the attention for traditional reasons, it’s been an interesting year of football on the continent, spanning the end of last season and the start of the current campaign.
Ever since Barcelona added Luis Suarez and Real Madrid acquired Gareth Bale, it’s all been about the MSN vs BBC forward-line battle.
However, throughout 2015, it’s the Messi-Suarez-Neymar trio who have made the biggest mark in history.
Going from losing 1-0 to David Moyes’ Real Sociedad in their first match of 2015 to winning the Champions League title five months later, that front three were immense with Suarez and Neymar scoring in the Champions League final, Lionel Messi bamboozling Bayern in the semis and the world’s best player finishing with 58 goals for the season in all competitions.
After beating Real to the title, they are well positioned to attain their objectives this season after continuing their good form this season. Suarez and Neymar are growing in influence on the pitch as the year has progressed, without impacting on Messi’s standing - an achievement in itself and something unlikely to happen if Cristiano Ronaldo was the main man at the club.
It's also worth remembering that, even though the Argentine started the year with tensions with manager Luis Enrique, a balance seems to have been struck that looks to be working on and off the pitch.
However, one major influential figure did ride off into the sunset - and then into the searing desert heat of Qatar. For European football fans, it has been a privilege to watch Xavi, and the perfect send off was to see him finish his spell in Europe with yet another treble of major trophies.
Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez waves to the fans during celebrations at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain Sunday June 7, 2015 after winning the Champions League final against Juventus (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
As for the aforementioned BBC, Gareth Bale’s 2015 has not been impressive at club level in comparison to his achievements with Wales, while Karim Benzema has become embroiled in a scandal which threatens his Euro 2016 hopes.
As for Ronaldo, he has still been smashing in goals by the bucketload, but the second half of the calendar year has seen him become a bit of a flat-track bully; he scores goals aplenty against weaker teams, but they're few and far between for him against major opposition.
He did not find the net in the defining Clásico of the year in November when Barcelona humiliated them 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu and it only shed further gloomy light on the errors and hubris of club president Florentino Perez.
His whims meant the club started the year Carlo Ancelotti, the man who delivered them their much sought after décima and is finishing it with Rafa Benitez...maybe. The former Liverpool boss has not yet convinced that he is the chap to make Real turn the tables on Barça and may already be set for the chop with Jose Mourinho hovering around looking for a job.
Outside of Spain’s traditional top two, so much else has been happening in La Liga during 2015. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid continue to be the third force that can upset the applecart. Sevilla’s second Europa League win in a row and consequent Champions League appearance in Manchester City’s group means they continue to be a force.
Real Sociedad's then-manager David Moyes, right, shakes hand with Barcelona's head coach Luis Enrique, during their La Liga match at Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian, northern Spain, Sunday, Jan.4, 2015. Barcelona lost the match 1-0. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
But this year has all been about the mini-British influx into Spain’s managerial hotseats, or, to resurrect a term last used when the Beatles were topping the charts - a mini British Invasion.
Moyes made his first post-Manchester United steps by taking over Sociedad at the tail end of 2014, and this year started off with a bang as his team managed to pull off the aforementioned backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win at home to Barça.
That’s about as good as it got, as a poor start to this season cost him his job. But as one ex-Man United figure left, another joined with Gary Neville making the surprise move to Valencia where brother Phil was already on the coaching staff.
It’s still early days for Neville at the Mestalla, so he can’t really be judged until next year when he has had time to firmly input his ideas.
Elsewhere, it’s been a good year for clubs from Galicia, in the North-west of Spain.
Celta Vigo finished eighth last season, while Deportivo de la Coruna ended a period yo-yoing divisons by surviving the drop. The first half of this season sees both clubs well placed in the top half of the table, with Celta fourth and Depor sixth, and it’s good to see the latter back in the upper reaches years on from their La Liga-winning peak at the turn of the Millennium.
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