MADRID, Spain, Jul 20 – Real Madrid’s 34th La Liga title owed much to their old guard but Spanish football has witnessed a number of new players exploding onto the scene.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five revelations to come out of the season.
1. Martin Odegaard, Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad have had many success stories this season, with Alexander Isak, Mikel Merino and Mikel Oyarzabal all helping to put them within sight of the top four.
But Odegaard was the architect of their surge, delivering performances of such consistent quality that many believed Real Madrid might recall him early from his two-year loan.
Four goals and five assists hardly does justice to the 21-year-old’s contribution. When Real Sociedad were playing well, he was at the heart of everything and it was no coincidence their late dip coincided with Odegaard’s suffering from tendinitis.
Half a decade after Madrid made him a world sensation aged 16, Odegaard is coming good.
2. Lucas Ocampos, Sevilla
After hopping around five clubs in seven years, Ocampos appears finally to have found his feet.
The 25-year-old is not only Sevilla’s top scorer, he is in the top five in La Liga, with 14 goals in 32 games.
Sevilla signed Ocampos from Marseille and they got a gem because Ocampos has been one of the players of the season, with his running, power, and energy helping Sevilla secure a place in the top four.
With a thundering shot and a feisty attitude, the Argentinian has been a fans’ favourite from the start.
Ocampos has already been linked with another move but with Sevilla in the Champions League, he might finally decide to stay put.
3. Fede Valverde, Real Madrid
Valverde was quieter after the three-month break seemingly took the edge off his fitness but he was the catalyst for Madrid’s recovery early in the season and a pivotal run in the middle.
That 21-match unbeaten streak put Madrid in contention for the title when Valverde was perhaps the team’s most important player.
He injected energy and dynamism into a midfield that had become too one-paced and brought a directness that made Madrid’s attack less predictable.
When Madrid failed to deliver Paul Pogba last summer, many thought Zinedine Zidane had been left short. To his relief, Valverde stepped up.
4. Ansu Fati, Barcelona
It is 11 months since Fati burst onto the scene by becoming the third youngest player to score in La Liga, before sending Spanish football into meltdown by scoring again, 111 seconds into his first start for Barcelona.
At 16 years and 304 days old, he was Barca’s youngest ever scorer but it was not just the records that impressed. He dribbled, shot, nutmegged opponents and took risks.
“We have to take this kid very seriously,” warned Madrid’s Marca while El Mundo declared: “A star is born”.
Eight goals, three since the restart, and 25 league appearances is a remarkable return for a now-17-year-old, with a hugely exciting future.
5. Ferran Torres, Valencia
Torres made his La Liga debut in January 2018 but this has been a breakthrough campaign for one of Spain’s brightest young talents.
Lightning quick and with an end-product to match, Torres has long been attracting the interest of Europe’s top clubs, which could result in a move unless he extends his current contract beyond next year.
His performances this season have done little to dampen enthusiasm around the 20-year-old, who has hit six goals in 43 games, including two in the Champions League.
With Valencia missing out on Champions League qualification and the club again looking for a new coach, Torres appears to feel his future lies elsewhere. There will be no shortage of suitors.