State of the Liga: The Season in Review [UPDATED]

Goodbye Almería, Hércules, and Deportivo la Coruña. I’m not one to bemoan the drop, but rather to celebrate the promotions, so, welcome Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, and whoever wins the promotion playoff.

Betis may have lost to us 5-0 in the Copa del Rey, but they also beat us 3-1 and looked pretty good doing it. Sure, the final score suggests otherwise and maybe if we’d tried harder in the second leg we would have clobbered them again, but they looked good and were certainly entertaining. If they can continue to play that way next year we’ll have a nice mid table team on our hands that is quite capable of picking off the upper echelon teams. And I’m also looking forward to the Andalucian Derby.

As for Rayo Vallecano, well, welcome back to the top flight, boys! Haven’t seen you since 2002-03 when you crashed out in 20th with 32 points and a league-worst 31 goals scored. That was the year, if you remember, that Real Sociedad nearly took the title and Barça ended up 6th. The crazy thing about Rayo is they went from the top flight to the Segunda B in just 2 years, finishing the 2003-04 Segunda season in 21st and dropping once again. It took them 4 years to crawl back to the second tier, coming in 1st in 2007-08. They went 5th in 2008-09 and then 11th last year before finishing second this year and securing promotion.

Awards and stats:

Champion: Barcelona (96 points)
Scoringest Team: Real Madrid (102)
Scoringleast Team: Deportivo la Coruña (31 goals)
Stingiest Defense: Barcelona (21 goals)
Open the Floodgates: Almería (70 goals)

Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid (40)
Best goalie: Víctor Valdés, Barcelona (20 goals allowed)
Manager of the year: Luis Garcia, Levante
Player of the year: Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Youngster of the year: Iker Muniain, Athletic Bilbao

Highest scoring game: Real Madrid 8 – 1 Almeria (Jornada 38)
Lowest scoring game: Anything with Depor in it.
Best game: Barça 5 – 0 Real Madrid (but maybe I’m biased)
Worst game: I think I fell asleep during something involving Zaragoza and Depor. Not sure, though.

I know I’ve crapped on Depor quite a bit in this post and on Twitter over the last couple of days and I’ve gotten a little bit of flack for it, but I’m not entirely sure why. Basically what I’ve said is that Depor deserved to go down and I won’t miss them. It’s not that I have anything against Depor in general, but this year’s version was so deadly boring and uninteresting that I feel quite a bit of antipathy towards them.

And yes, I remember SuperDepor and I remember EuroDepor and I already miss the silky brilliance of Juan Carlos Valeron, but no team deserves to be in la primera. It’s a privilege earned on a yearly basis and if Levante can do it with a budget amounting to a handful of reals and 2 pieces of Bubble Yum (watermelon!), then why can’t Depor score more goals than Lionel Messi? Sure, Caicedo is better than Riki or Xisco, but be honest, who has the better squad? The argument that Getafe should have gone down instead is fine forgets that Getafe at least scored goals and while they don’t have any fans and have just been bought by a foreign investor, there’s at least hope that next year they’ll put together a decent showing. With Depor, I wasn’t convinced there was reason for hope.

As for Hércules, I don’t know what to make of them. They made some brilliant signings, played some decent games to start the year off, including the shocker against Barça that left us all a bit overconfident about their chances of success (at least in retrospect). It’s easy enough now to see the gaping holes in the squad, but at the time, at the beginning, there was Trezeguet and Valdez, there was potential there and when the Valdez’s second settled into the Camp Nou net, what kind of a fool would have pegged them for the drop? It was all working and then it wasn’t.

Poor Almeria, maybe, but mostly poor Almeria. Can’t lament the 20th placed team too much, really, even if watching Piatti try to growl people to death is pretty awesome. Some measure of “eh, come back when you care to play better than my intramural team” is necessary for a squad that was beaten 0-8 at home and 8-1 on the road by two different squads. My intramural team was pretty badass, though. A dynasty in which we won 7 of 8 titles over 2 years (2 outdoor and 2 indoor seasons per year). So maybe Almeria is more like the hippie team that fielded stoned kids in outdoor and got trounced. I scored 7 goals against them. That’s how bad they were. Almeria is like that.

Moving way on up, it’s Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla that made the Europa league while Atletico Madrid and missed out because of head-to-head (all 3 ended with 58). Espanyol only got 1 point out of the last 12 available and ended up 9 points back of the other teams, which makes the evil, terrible parts of my heart (all of it) happy. Though I don’t particularly care about the Europa League, just like I don’t care about the NCAA NIT. But we’ve been over this.

This is the final table:

  1. FC Barcelona
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Valencia
  4. Villarreal
  5. Athletic Bilbao
  6. FC Sevilla
  7. Atlético Madrid
  8. Espanyol
  9. Osasuna
  10. Sporting Gijon
  11. Málaga
  12. Racing Santander
  13. Real Zaragoza
  14. Real Sociedad
  15. Levante
  16. Flame-broiled Getafe Team Dubai
  17. Mallorca
  18. Deportivo
  19. Hércules
  20. Almería

What was your favorite part of the season? Mine was when Abidal came back. Least favorite? Mine was any of the Madrid games I watched in which they won.

UPDATE: Atleti is actually in the Europa League thanks to the Copa final being between two CL qualified teams. Thanks for the totally civil and helpful manner in which you pointed out this oversight, Luke.

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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

185 Comments

  1. Reaper
    May 25, 2011

    The state of La Liga depends on the number of players going in and out of teams like Valencia, Pathetico, Villareal and Sevilla

    • nzm
      May 26, 2011

      That’s incredible to watch – Barca DNA anyone?

      Even the LB passes backwards like in the first team! 🙂

  2. Reaper
    May 25, 2011

    Separately, completely off topic, it would be very interesting to know what most of the BFB family were doing for a living. I know that Kxevin is a journalist (Chicago Tribune), if i got that right.

    I am an attorney at an LPO (Legal Process Outsourcing) called Pangea3 working out of Mumbai, India.

    • deepak_jose
      May 25, 2011

      Hi Guys,

      I’m also a close follower of barcelona and liked the idea of updating about profession and location. Good to know barca fans from their respective countries(got sick of watching matches with EPL fans ;-))
      I’m living in bangalore.

  3. Reaper
    May 25, 2011

    We’re using Arsenal’s training facilities? Really? Talk will surely erupt about Fabregas again. Could that possibly be Pep’s plan to keep his team out of the spotlight while they are readying themselves?

  4. Leckan1
    May 25, 2011

    Or maybe just maybe, we use it because they have a top-notch training facility and we’re stuck in London for a few days. Not much choice really.

  5. Helge
    May 25, 2011

    Wow, if we pay 4m for Kiko as a new B team player and do not make use of our buy-back option for Botía which is half as expensive, I’ll lose quite some faith in the transfer policy of Zubi & Co.

  6. Helge
    May 25, 2011

    Cesc analyzes ManUtd’s possible tactic / line-up for the Wembley final:
    http://ow.ly/52nlF

    What do you think about it?
    Makes sense to me, this is a realistic prediction from Cesc. Even though it means that we won’t see Chicharito from the beginning.

    • Blow-Grenade
      May 25, 2011

      That’s a cool pic. I am sure Pique had called Cesc and got a full low down on ManU.

  7. just listenin
    May 25, 2011

    Was away yesterday and late to the conversation on favorites, so many great highs and lows touched on by everyone. Does seem the highs and lows are all bracketed by King Eric’s announcement, and triumphant return. I remember when the news first broke I walked downstairs to tell my wife, and she said from my expression “Oh jeez, I thought something happened to someone in our family” – feels like it.

    A couple of other personal favorites were, Messi’s crazy Mallorca chip to himself or bounced of his chest up to his head header, or double header, whatever the heck it was goal from the scoop from Keiteeee! Yikes, I still am not sure what exactly he made that ball do.

    And on celebrations, next to Villa’s clasico, and the Messi/Iniesta Arsenal, and the Pedro/Villa waterslide, well there were a lot. The Keita reaction after scoring against Levante was very funny, he looked like a guy who just had a goal disallowed or something. Nails a missle off a radar guided perfect Xavi pass and then just walking along casually, kind of blinking and smiling slightly, very cool cat.

  8. stowe
    May 25, 2011

    too many comments!

    Who is the guy in the banner with the black shirt on the far right?

    • Jnice
      May 25, 2011

      Pep.

      • Eklavya
        May 25, 2011

        Guardiola.

      • K_legit
        May 25, 2011

        i Sala

  9. 90sbaby
    May 25, 2011

    I’ve been reading this blog for awhile and have added few of you on twitter if that’s alright with you, I don’t know to much about this twitter business seems a little feminine to me if I’m honest makes me feel like a groupie following celebrities but looks like everyone is doing it so I got curious.

    Is the real Rayhudson on there?

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      May 25, 2011

      what’s your twitter account?

      mine is @nanda59…

      I think we only have @philschoen on twitter…

      you don’t have to follow celebrities 😀
      there’s a lots of Barça players on twitter and news sources like from journalists, barça fans, stats, etc…

  10. 145culegirl
    May 25, 2011

    Nice article.My favourite game has to be all games in the months last week of October,November and December where the team was just destroying every opponent including RM.

    The most happiest moments were when Abidal came on Puyol in the second leg of semifinal against RM.I wonder why no one mentioned this but I had the same shivers when Xavi against Levante(?) equalled Migueli’s all-time appearances for the club.

    There are not many bad games but I felt really worse after the team’s loss to Arsenal(2-1).We beat ourselves in that game.

    The team’s celebrations in each game are electrifying so every goal celebrations were superb.

    Most agonising moments were in the months of Jan,Feb and mid-weeek of March where we had no Puyol,lost Abidal and every defender was getting injured in the game they played.Dope allegations,allegations of UEFA supporting Barca,referees supporting us(of course these are proven wrong).We had only two genuine defenders apparently only one if we take Alves out.

    But the team acted really well to all these and came out on top.A win at the CL final will be a cherry on the top.Honestly,I think this year was the most emotion-filled campaign.2008/09 was the most happiest year in terms of trophies but this year apart from football we had absolutely rollercoaster of emotional campaign.

  11. 90sbaby
    May 25, 2011

    @Barcagirl my tag on there is @Memories_of

    I’ve hit the follow button on a few of the well known La Liga journalists.

    Appreciate some recommendations, are the real Barca players on there?
    They most likely will be communicating in Spanish I’m gonna try learning the language over the summer.

    • Vj
      May 25, 2011

      Puyol, Pique, Dani and Thiago are there.. Browse a bit of @barcastuff and you’ll find them..

  12. 90sbaby
    May 25, 2011

    Correction twitter is: @memories__of

  13. barcarolle
    May 25, 2011

    Bye bye Valdano. A Mourinho victory, but a sad day for Real; decisions like this further erode the traditional culture of Madrid, but I guess when you choose the way of Jose there can be no apostates.

    • Vj
      May 25, 2011

      So Valdano got the worse end of the ‘shit on a stick’..

  14. Humphrey Bogart
    May 25, 2011

    So with the most expensive squad in history Mou achieved as good as nothing but to get Valdano, like him or not, who stood always by the club even in its darkest hours, sacked, wow, Perez must be really really desperate

  15. May 25, 2011

    Will Abidal start at Wembley. Ok he may not be fully match fit and also may have only played in insignificant matches after his return. i would still prefer him at left back as a 50% fit Abidal is really good and covers for the centre backs when they are exposed. Secondly it also moves Puyol back to centre where he will have better control on Pique. Barca should proceed cautiosly with 94 final as a reminder of what could happen if we get deluded by this favourite tag.

  16. May 25, 2011

    Once Mourinho was hired the hand writing was on the wall for Valdano. He’s an RM legend thrown in the trash.

    But this is what Mourinho has done in the past. He tries to consolidate power at all costs and makes sure that the director of sporting is removed or made powerless.

    Di Stefano reasoned concerns are belittled by some Madristas now. Valdano has been removed. A promising spanish talent like Canales is forgotten and now looks to be sold because there is no room to develop young players or a long term project that will be for the good of the club.

    They have bet everything on Mourinho and his dire methods. And all Mourinho cares about is winning in Europe to try to make his own argument for being the “greates” manager because he’s won in multiple countries.

    If they don’t win now Perez will have no latitude to operate. They’ve signed over the entire club to him and in the process they are willing to set aside pieces of their tradition, like Valdano.

  17. 90sbaby
    May 25, 2011

    I know Pique and Alves are a definite to start than you have CB and LB I’m not sure on?

    Puyi and Abi can play at either CB/LB convincingly will both start in their natural positions? Can they handle a final of such importance considering the serious scare Abi had to overcome and Puyi’s injuries and fitness issues.

    We also got Adri fit at LB, defensively though… I don’t know?

    Also Mascherano performed admirably partnering Pique at CB.

    The counter attacks/crosses/set pieces/corner kicks is what Barcelona need to look out for I’d feel comfortable with Mascherano in the starting line up either at CB or DM?

  18. 90sbaby
    May 25, 2011

    Did Madrid fans really take to/respect Valdano? I’ve never seen anyone talk highly of him from what I heard over the years he was more of a problem, a yes man type of figure for Perez.

    I expect Madrid fans to see this as a blessing/a long time coming and will further put Mourinho in their good books.

  19. blitzen
    May 25, 2011

    So it’s official, then, Valdano has been sacked. Perez said he wants to restructure the club to resemble an English one and that Mourinho will head the sporting side now.

    “The experience of this just completed season demonstrated a need for more autonomy, including within the coaching unit,” Perez said from the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

    “He demanded an autonomy on the sporting side like that which works with English clubs. I think for the sake of the institution that this is a reorganization that has to be done.”

    Translation: Mou gets what Mou wants.

    Madness. If Mourinho was insufferable before, he will be 10 times worse now. Perez, what have you done?

    • Nik
      May 25, 2011

      Ugh, it’s going to be like the four clasicos the entire season next year. I’m sure the tabloid football journalists are thrilled.

      • blitzen
        May 25, 2011

        Well at least I’ll still have Crackovia!Mourinho to console me.

      • Nik
        May 25, 2011

        lol, that is true.

        I hope Barca’s PR & legal team get a relaxing offseason, because I have a feeling they’ll have their work cut-out for them when the season kicks off in August.

    • blitzen
      May 25, 2011

      In part:

      Valdano explained why Benítez and Mourinho were to blame for the demise of flair and creativity. “The lives of Mourinho and Benítez have crossed in a world that is ever more scrutinised and exposed by the media, which is why they look at each other with such distrust,” he wrote, “but they have two things in common: a previously denied, hitherto unsatisfied hunger for glory, and a desire to have everything under control.

      “Both of those things stem from one key factor: neither Mourinho nor Benítez made it as a player. That has made them channel all their vanity into coaching. Those who did not have the talent to make it as players do not believe in the talent of players, they do not believe in the ability to improvise in order to win football matches. In short, Benítez and Mourinho are exactly the kind of coaches that Benítez and Mourinho would have needed to have made it as players.”

      • Barcaleya
        May 25, 2011

        Oooooh – nice one.

        I’m on Valdano’s side.

        Loser though he is at the moment.

        I hope he gets vindicated 😀

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