The best La Liga XI of 2019/20 (non-Real Madrid and Barcelona)

Since the 2003/04 season, only Atlético Madrid have managed to breach the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, with Diego Simeone leading Los Rojiblancos to the league title in 2014.

But such is the dominance of the two El Clásico clubs, that many Teams of the Seasons created by viewers are packed with Bernabéu and Camp Nou talent, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo being mainstays over the past decade.

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We’ve decided to shake it up and look at players who didn’t play for Barcelona or Madrid, but still enjoyed excellent campaigns in La Liga.

Goalkeeper – Jan Oblak

A four time winner of La Liga’s Best Goalkeeper award, Jan Oblak would certainly have a case for featuring in a side that considered both Thibaut Courtois and Marc-André Ter Stegen, but he is the first name on the team sheet in our XI.

His 17 clean sheets this term took him to 105 overall since his arrival from Benfica in 2014 – more than anybody else in that time frame – as Atlético finished third with the second best defensive record in the division, behind only league champions Real Madrid. As well as his impressive shutout tally, Oblak’s save percentage of 77.1 was also the second highest in the league, as well as his goals against per ninety number of 0.72.

Aside from another solid domestic campaign, Oblak helped Simeone’s men to the last eight of the Champions League after a virtuoso display against Liverpool in the last 16, in which the former Benfica made nine saves.

Another fine campaign for the 27-year-old has helped elevate him to ‘best in the world’ status, as the big Slovenian goes toe-to-toe with any shot stopper on the planet right now.

Right-back – Jesús Navas

It feels like Jesús Navas has been around forever. A two-time UEFA Cup winner with Sevilla in the mid-noughties, the 34-year-old rolled back the years in 2019/20, playing 3,371 minutes in the league – more than any other outfield player – helping the Andalusian club to a fourth place finish.

He made fantastic use of those minutes, too. No La Liga defender provided more than his 1.4 crosses or 1.6 key passes per game, leading to seven assists – a league high for a player in the backline.

Navas’ campaign ended in another momentous trophy lift – the twelfth of his career – as his Sevilla side defeated Inter Milan 3-2 in the Europa League final in August, with Navas captaining the side to their sixth title of the 21st Century. Absolutely timeless.

Centre-back – Felipe

A year ago, many people were sceptical of Felipe’s £18 million move to Atlético Madrid from Porto, as the Brazilian defender was brought in to replace the colossal Diego Godín in the heart of Simeone’s backline.

Whilst it was clear he had been a fine defender during three years in Portugal, that sort of money on a 30-year-old was worrying – especially for someone yet to appear in one of Europe’s top five leagues. But the Brazilian has been fantastic for Los Rojiblancos.

Statistically speaking, he made 1.1 tackles, 1.6 interceptions and five clearances per game in La Liga – more than any other Atleti centre-back, as well as both Gerard Piqué and Raphaël Varane.

Whilst it’s very unlikely Atleti will ever make a profit on the Brazilian, if he continues playing this way, they will never want to sell him.

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Centre-back – Mohammed Salisu

After finishing just four points above the relegation zone in 2018/19, another season of struggle was widely predicted for Real Valladolid, as they got to grips with life back in La Liga. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth, as the Pucela finished 13th – their highest finish since 2002 – with Mohammed Salisu at the heart of their impressive campaign.

The 21-year-old Ghanaian displayed a level of composure on the ball beyond his years and, despite becoming known as a hard tackler, Salisu committed only 0.7 fouls per game – fewer than both Piqué and Sergio Ramos.

Like his defensive partner in our XI, Salisu also completed a league high five clearances per ninety, as Valladolid recorded the third best defensive record outside of the Champions League places.

Unsurprisingly, Salisu has had his admirers throughout the campaign, and has now signed for Southampton in a deal worth £10.9 million.

Left-back – Pervis Estupiñán

The duel to take the spot of left-back in our side was a close run thing, but Pervis pipped Real Madrid’s on loan Sevilla star Sergio Reguilón to the position.

Estupiñán had a fine season himself, though, helping Osasuna to a top half finish with some excellent performance and six goal involvements. The Ecuadorian international’s tally of five assists was the third highest in the league for a defender, behind only Navas and Real Betis’ Emerson.

Defensively the Watford loanee also excelled, reclaiming possession more times than any other defender (275), whilst his 2.3 tackles won per game was also the best of any La Liga defender with over 30 starts.

Linked with moves to both Barcelona and Atleti, I don’t see the 22-year-old playing against Wycombe in the Championship next season for his parent club.

Right midfield – Lucas Ocampos

Prior to this season, Lucas Ocampos was threatening to become one of football’s journeymen. Arriving at Monaco from River Plate as a teenager in 2012, Ocompos has embarked on a somewhat nomadic career, appearing for the Principality club and Marseille, as well as loan spells in Italy with Genoa and AC Milan.

But his £13.5 million switch to Sevilla last summer appears to be a match made in heaven – with the 26-year-old scoring 14 times and providing three assists (20 in all competitions), as he finished the season as the club’s top scorer.

His tally of 2.5 shots and 2.1 dribbles per game see him rank in the top 10 in La Liga for both categories too – whilst his 14 goals (his best ever scoring season) is only topped by Lionel Messi in terms of wingers in the division.

He even tried his luck in goal when, after scoring what would go on to be the winner, he replaced the injured Tomáš Vaclík for the final few moments against Eibar in July. He went on to make a stunning last minute save to deny opposition goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović, and claim all three points for Los Palanganas.

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Centre midfield – Yangel Herrera

The season’s surprise package was newly promoted Granada, who were sat first in the league by November and would eventually go on to finish seventh – qualifying for Europe for the very first time, and only behind Real Sociedad on goal difference.

At the core of this success was 22-year-old Yangel Herrera, who embodied everything the Nazaríes were throughout the campaign. Tenacious and hard working, the Manchester City loanee completed the second most amount of tackles in La Liga per game at 2.9 – behind only teammate Maxime Gonalons’ 3.3 – as well as a league high of three fouls per ninety.

This level of aggression is one of the reasons why teams such as Barcelona, Athletic Club and Valencia struggled against the Andalusian outfit – with a combination of Herrera, Gonalons or Yan Brice suffocating teams in a low block before taking advantage of the turnover.

Herrera’s fine campaign has attracted attention, as Valencia look set to take the Venuzuelan on loan ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

Centre midfield – Santi Cazorla (C)

In 2017, Santi Cazorla was told he may never walk again after gangrene ate away at over eight inches of flesh of the achilles tendon on his right leg. But in 2020 – he absolutely waltzes into our best La Liga XI, as skipper, after a virtuoso campaign for Villareal.

The Spaniard ended his second spell with The Yellow Submarine with 11 goals and nine assists from just 29 starts, with his combined goal involvements total of 20 being the fifth highest in the division, whilst only Cristiano Ronaldo contributed more of players in the top five leagues who are over the age of 33.

But for the neutral, being able to watch the magician on the ball has been an absolute treat in itself. His ability to glide past opposing players like they’re not there certainly hasn’t waned since his early 2010’s heyday, despite the chronic injury problems that robbed Cazorla of several seasons.

The 35-year-old has now linked up with former Spain teammate Xavi at Qatari side Al Sadd, bowing out of European football with perhaps his greatest ever season.

Left midfield – Mikel Oyarzabal

Whilst he may play out wide in our XI, Mikel Oyarzabal is far from an orthodox winger. Not necessarily blessed with the pace of a Leroy Sané or Adama Traoré, the Spaniard is much more comfortable with the ball close to his feet – similar to Isco, for example.

This craft led the 23-year-old to his best season yet, as the Real Sociedad wide man scored ten and assisted 11 in the league for his boyhood club – the fourth highest combined total in the division.

His ability to drift across the front line into half-spaces caused teams problems throughout the campaign, as Oyarzabal linked up superbly with an exciting looking Sociedad attack that contained Martin Ødegaard and Alexander Isak.

With both Manchester sides and Bayern Munich linked, it doesn’t seem like Spain’s latest magician will be at the Anoeta for much longer.

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Attacking midfield – Martin Ødegaard

A common misconception in football is that Martin Ødegaard is a ‘failed wonderkid’, or a ‘whatever happened to him?’ story. But that’s far from the truth, as the Norwegian has just enjoyed another fruitful loan spell away from the Bernabéu – this time at Real Sociedad – as he continues his steady if not meteoric evolution into a fantastic footballer.

His 18/19 season at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland was one of huge development in the youngsters game. Playing predominantly on the right, Ødegaard recorded the division’s third highest key passes per game total at 3.4, whilst also leading Vitesse’s squad in terms of dribbles per game and assists.

This display of maturity and improvement earned him a loan move to one of Spain’s better sides in Sociedad, where he bagged seven goals and nine assists in 36 games in all competitions – only the aforementioned Oyarzabal and Isak managed more for La Real.

After an incredibly impressive first season in one of Europe’s top five leagues, I don’t think the 21-year-old will be short of suiters this summer – including those at the Bernabéu.

Striker – Gerard Moreno

The top scoring Spaniard in the country’s top flight, Gerard Moreno enjoyed a stellar season for Villarreal – bagging 18 goals in the league, finishing behind only Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema in the race for the Pichichi.

The 2019/20 season began with five goals in the 28-year-old’s first four games, setting him on his way for his best ever goal scoring campaign which included strikes against Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Real Betis.

As well as being the sides top goal scorer, Moreno was also a chief creator with his six league assists bettered only by the aforementioned Santi Cazorla’s nine at the Estadio de la Cerámica.

A clinical finisher who has the ability to make intelligent runs and find himself in the right place at the right time, Moreno is the obvious candidate for our striker spot.

The Author

James Pendleton

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