La Liga awards 2012-2013

Real Sociedad boss Philippe Montanier on the touchline on March 24, 2012
© PA Photos
Sports Mole hands out its end-of-season awards following the completion of the La Liga season.

It has been a season of goodbyes in La Liga with Jose Mourinho departing Real Madrid, Eric Abidal waving farewell to Barcelona and Philippe Montanier exiting Real Sociedad despite leading the club into the Champions League qualifiers.

It proved to be a successful season for Barcelona, meanwhile, with the Catalan outfit regaining the title from Real Madrid. However, the campaign ended in disappointment for Deportivo La Coruna, Real Zaragoza and Real Mallorca, who were all relegated on the final weekend of the season.

Here, Sports Mole hands out its end-of-season awards following another pulsating La Liga campaign.

Overachievers – Real Sociedad
For a team that only returned to La Liga in 2010, it has been some season for Sociedad. The last couple of campaigns have been largely disappointing with 15th and 12th-place finishes suggesting that they would once more struggle this term. However, that has simply not been the case with Montanier's youthful side securing a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds after finishing fourth. They will be without their French boss next season, who has agreed to join Rennes, but the vacant managerial position has suddenly become very attractive for possible targets. On a shoestring budget, somehow the club have placed themselves among the European elite.

Underachievers – Athletic Bilbao
For a team that took apart Manchester United in the Europa League in the 2011-2012 season, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bilbao, at worst, would secure a spot in the top eight this term. The transfer saga surrounding Fernando Llorente, who will move to Juventus next month, certainly did not help proceedings in the early part of the season, while youngsters such as Iker Muniain and Ander Herrera failed to fulfill their potential. It remains a squad bursting with talent, but a 12th-place finish was simply not good enough for the Basque outfit.

Best goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid)
Goalkeepers have certainly hit the headlines in Spain this season with Real Madrid's Iker Casillas dropped for the final months of the campaign, while Victor Valdes announced his intention to depart Barcelona earlier this year. Among the drama, it has been Courtois who has emerged into the finest shot-stopper in the league. The on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper was part of an Atletico side that conceded just 31 goals in their 38 league matches, with the Belgian keeping an incredible 20 clean sheets in the process.

Best defender – Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Real Madrid vice-captain Sergio Ramos is unlucky to miss out on this accolade, while Real Sociedad's Inigo Martinez has also had a fine season. Godin's teammate Miranda has also enjoyed a productive campaign, but it has been the Uruguayan who has impressed the most. The 27-year-old, once regarded as purely a physical presence, has moulded his ball-playing skills this season. Based on his form over the past eight or nine months, he has been the pick of the bunch in La Liga.

Best midfielder – Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
It has been a poor return in terms of goals for Spain's best player at Euro 2012 with just three strikes in the league. However, unsurprisingly he tops the assist table in the division with 15 in La Liga. The form of club and international teammate Xavi dipped in the final few months, but Iniesta continued to produce performances of the highest level. There is a reason why he is widely regarded as the third best player in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Best striker – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Flip a coin between Messi and Ronaldo and the best striker will be revealed. The former may have scored 46 league goals to Ronaldo's 34 this season, but neither can be separated once more. The Portuguese just shades this accolade, however, based on his performances when his side were struggling in the early part of the campaign. When those around him struggled for inspiration, Ronaldo was so often the saviour. Without his goals, Madrid would have finished a lot further than 15 points behind Barcelona.

Outstanding youngster – Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
The Frenchman was forced to sit out the final few weeks of the season after picking up a knee injury, but he did make a total of 15 appearances in the league. Signed from Lens in 2011, the centre-back has firmly established himself as one of the best defenders in world football at the tender age of 20. There is little doubt that the youngster is the future of not only the Madrid back-line, but his national team as well.

Senior citizen – Juan Carlos Valeron (Deportivo La Coruna)
For a player nearing his 38th birthday, you could be forgiven for thinking that Valeron would play a bit-part for Deportivo this season. Well, that has certainly not been the case. The majority of his 33 league appearances have been from the start, which is an indication of his importance to the side. Never blessed with the greatest of pace, Valeron enjoyed a simply wonderful season for the recently-relegated club, with supporters across the country acknowledging his form in the latter stages of the season. He has announced that he will leave the Spanish club later this month, but luckily for us, he is not yet retiring from the game.

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