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Three breakout stars from the 2020/21 La Liga season

Three breakout stars from the 2020/21 La Liga season
© Reuters
Sports Mole takes a look at three of the star performers of the La Liga season that went under the radar this campaign.

As the La Liga season came to a close, Atletico Madrid held on in an intense title race to win their first league trophy since 2014.

They were helped to the title by the somewhat usual heroes, with Jan Oblak solid as ever in goal and former Barcelona striker Luis Suarez netting 21 league goals, while other star performers across the league included Lionel Messi with 30 goals and 11 assists and Karim Benzema, who hit 23 league goals and nine assists.

However, we will take a closer look at some of the underrated stars who put themselves firmly on the map this season, just as punters can benefit from taking a closer look at La Liga odds rather than sticking to the big three sides.

Although he was already highly-rated coming into this season, Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde firmly put himself among the world's strongest defenders with a standout season in La Liga.

The Frenchman featured in 34 of Sevilla's 38 league games, and his effect was definitely shown, as Los Nervionenses conceded five goals in the four games in his absence while only shipping 28 in the 34 games that the 22-year-old played in.

Playing a hand in 17 clean sheets in those 34 games, or 50% of Sevilla's La Liga matches with Kounde in the back four, the French defender made himself a crucial cog in a strong defensive unit, warranting links to the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal as a result.

After an excellent breakout season, Sevilla will definitely do well to keep Kounde going into next campaign, considering his immense ability both in defence and on the ball.

Villarreal's Pau Torres pictured in March 2021© Reuters

Despite being at Villarreal since 2017, centre-back Pau Torres was rarely afforded game time, having made just 42 appearances for the Yellow Submarine before this season, as well as spending time out on loan with Malaga.

The Spaniard has certainly cemented himself in the Villarreal side now though, having played a key role in a strong side that went on to lift the Europa League trophy.

Similarly to Kounde, Torres makes the back line far more solid when he appears, with Unai Emery's side conceding 10 goals in the five league games that Torres missed, while shipping just 34 goals in the 35 games that he was part of the back line for.

That shows that the 24-year-old has made himself the key man in a resolute defensive outfit, while he also put in a standout performance in the Europa League final, as Villarreal drew 1-1 with Manchester United and went on to win on a penalty shootout.

That has led Torres to a spot in Spain's Euro 2020 squad, and he is strongly fancied to start in the absence of captain Sergio Ramos, given his excellent season in the top flight.

Huesca's Rafa Mir in action against Real Madrid on February 6, 2021© Reuters

Following a poor loan spell in the Championship with Nottingham Forest at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign, Wolverhampton Wanderers opted to recall forward Rafa Mir and send him to Spain to join Huesca, who then sat in the Spanish second tier, on a two-year loan deal.

Mir helped his new side to promotion in the second half of the season with nine goals in 18 appearances, but it was his form in La Liga which really caught eyes, as he quickly adapted to the demands of top-flight football.

Despite Huesca eventually succumbing to relegation, Mir hit an impressive tally of 13 goals in 38 games, and especially commendably record considering he was playing in a side lacking quality and creativity.

The highlight of Mir's season came in January, as he hit a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Real Valladolid, and he would go on to net consecutive braces in February, firing his side to a 2-0 win over Levante and a 3-1 victory over Elche.

While he was not quite able to single-handedly save the Oscenses from the drop, the 23-year-old has shown that he is more than cut out for La Liga, and he could thrive even more if a top-half side were to take a punt on the ostracized Wolves man.

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Atletico Madrid forward Luis Suarez pictured on March 10, 2021
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Sports Mole's La Liga Team of the Season - Messi, Suarez, Benzema
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Thursday's key events

· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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