It was always going to be another two-horse race in La Liga this year, and titans Barcelona and Real Madrid dominated it in every way possible, with the Catalans eventually winning their third consecutive league title under Josep Guardiola.

Their excellence was not confined to La Liga however, as both teams made headlines in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, as they wrestled for the domestic cup and contested two memorable outings in the semi-finals of Europe’s gold medal competition. With both clubs’ players putting in displays worthy of praise, the duo naturally see their stars occupy most of the places in this year’s La Liga Team of the Season, in a very attack-focused 4-3-3 formation:

Goalkeeper – Diego Alves (Almeria)

Not a season to remember for one of the world’s best goalkeepers, who was at one time on the notebooks of Real Madrid and AC Milan; Diego Alves nevertheless performed heroics. Despite regularly showcasing his superb individual skills as a shot-stopper, Alves could not stop Almeria from plunging into the depths of the Segunda Division; a hard season for the Rojiblancos even saw the side destroyed 8-0 by eventual champions Barcelona. Intent on staying in the top league however, and on playing Champions League football, Alves was signed by third-placed Valencia as their first-choice keeper for next season.

Right back – Daniel Alves (Barcelona)

Second to compatriot Maicon in the race to be considered the best right back on the planet last season, Daniel Alves overcame his Inter foe in every conceivable way in the 2010/11 campaign. The Brazilian has established himself as one of the best – if not the best – full-backs in the world. Having improved his defensive qualities, while not forgetting his important attacking instincts, Alves has been an important part of Guardiola’s plans this season.


Centre back – Ricardo Carvalho (Real Madrid)

Eyebrows were raised in the Spanish capital when the signing of Ricardo Carvalho was announced by Real Madrid last August, for a fee of €8M. Reunited with Jose Mourinho, his boss at Chelsea, the Portuguese defender looked very much like the man who won the Champions League with Porto seven years ago, with increasing age not dimming his powers. Signs of fatigue were evident during the last few weeks of the season, but that should not be a problem for Carvalho next year after a summer holiday.

Centre back – Carles Puyol (Barcelona)

Similar to Carvalho, Carles Puyol’s legs have not shown any sign of slowing down, despite the fact that the Barcelona skipper has had three non-stop tiresome seasons so far. The-ever-beating heard of the Catalan club, Puyol has been injured for much of this campaign’s second half, but his explosive performances whenever called upon meant that the player was and still is one of the best defensive leaders in Europe. Six shy of his centenary appearance for La Roja, Puyol expressed his desire to play another two years at the heart of the Spanish national team, probably ending his career after the 2012 European Championship, a trophy he and his companions will be eager to defend.

Left back – Marcelo (Real Madrid)

After really coming to life under Manuel Pellegrini last season, the 2010/11 term proved to be Marcelo’s best campaign to date with Real Madrid. Back in his natural left-back position under Mourinho, the Brazilian was one of the coach’s pillars throughout the season, despite being heavily linked with an exit from the club when the former Chelsea coach arrived in the Spanish capital. Improving every aspect of his game, the ex-Fluminense starlet turned out to be Madrid’s answer to Daniel Alves. Forming an effective understanding with Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank, Marcelo is finally growing into the image of a certain historic former Real Madrid and Brazil left-back, the man he was signed to replace back in 2007 – Roberto Carlos.

Right midfielder – Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal)

It was widely thought the train had missed “Santi” Cazorla when he snubbed the chance to jump ship and land at Real Madrid in August 2008. The ambidextrous winger was vital in Villarreal’s struggle with neighbours Valencia towards a third-place finish in La Liga and their good run in the Europa League; alongside comrades Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar, Diego Lopez and Borja Valero, the reigning “Don Balon” holder for the best Spanish player in La Liga. A future beyond El Madrigal is possible for Cazorla, but should the Yellow Submarine manage to hang on to their current crop of players, they can be even more successful next season.

Central midfielder – Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)

Call him the “New Diego Maradona”, the “German Lionel Messi”, or even the “German Zinedine Zidane”, but what is certain is that Mesut Ozil has established himself as a world-class player in the past year. A stellar performance with Germany at the World Cup prompted Real Madrid to purchase this young diamond for just €15M, in a move that turned out to be La Liga’s best piece of business this term. Playing just behind the striker in Madrid, Ozil developed into a superb playmaker, racking-up 17 assists in the league alone – just one less than Lionel Messi. Questions have emerged over his fitness and habit of going missing on big occasions, but should he manage to conquer those final hurdles, the German will surely be Zidane’s successor at the Bernabeu.


Left midfielder – Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

The man whose goal earned Spain their first ever World Cup victory in Johannesburg last July continued his solid form, proving to be a key figure in Barcelona’s exploits, as the team picked up the league for the third successive year and won the Champions League. While midfield maestro Xavi started to show signs of age of and fatigue, it was Andres Iniesta’s clock that kept ticking as the dynamo was at the heart of things for his team, managing to erase lingering concerns about his previous injury record and playing the near entity of this league campaign, scoring eight goals in the process.

Right winger – Angel di Maria (Real Madrid)

Madrid’s most expensive signing last summer at a basic €25M, Angel di Maria’s arrival was meant as a balancing weight for Cristiano Ronaldo on the opposite flank. While “Fideo” – Spanish for “noodle” – is not on Ronaldo’s pedestal, the slim Argentinean still managed to pose a serious threat, cutting in from the right hand side as he forged a marvellous three-man line with Ozil and the Portuguese. Six goals and eleven assists in 35 league outings remain impressive figures. Alongside Ozil, Di Maria is expected to be one of the Merengues’ main pillars for the upcoming seasons.

Centre forward – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

The world has run out of superlatives to describe its best player. Once again, Lionel Messi has firmly fixed himself as the globe’s top footballer this season, guiding his team to a La Liga and Champions League double. Make no mistake, Barcelona would not have been so successful had it not been for the daunting footwork of the diminutive forward, who claimed a whopping 52 goals and 24 assists in 54 competitive outings this season, with his second goal against Real Madrid in Barcelona’s first Champions League semi-final encounter one for the ages. To put it simply: Life without Messi is inconceivable at the Camp Nou.

Left winger – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

His club might not have won all there is to win, but 2010/11 was a landmark in the career of the Portugal captain. Cristiano Ronaldo took his time to find his scoring boots, but once he did, he never looked back. Everywhere for his club on every occasion, he put four past the likes of Racing Santander and Sevilla – amidst other hat-tricks – and claimed the winner that earned his team a Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona. Having ended his second season in Spain with 40 league goals – 53 in all competitions – he broke the record previously held by Telmo Zarra and Hugo Sanchez at 38, claiming the Pichichi award for top La Liga goalscorer as well as the European Golden Boot. With 86 strikes in just two years at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

Manager – Josep Guardiola (Barcelona)

Ten full titles at the end of his third year in charge of his boyhood team really says it all for Josep Guardiola, a coach who is just at the beginning of his managerial career. Ever modest, the former Barcelona defensive midfielder has won the hearts of supporters and adversaries alike with his gentlemanlike behaviour. Two Champions League accolades and three La Liga titles so far mean that the Catalan is one of the most wanted managers in world football, but it is inconceivable to imagine the Camp Nou without its bald tactician. Having revolutionised the game with his team’s "tiki-taka" tactics, he has made the Barcelona shine like a beacon of beauty.