With another season in the books, it’s time to put together the 2019-20 La Liga Best XI.
We’ll try not to give every spot to a member of Zinedine Zidane’s championship-winning squad, but no promises. The formation here is a 4-4-2 because after no-brainers Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema up top, there were more deserving midfielders than strikers this year.
La Liga best XI of the season
Here’s a look at the whole squad on the field.
Keeper: Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid
It takes a lot to unseat Jan Oblak and/or Marc-André ter Stegen as La Liga’s top goalie, but Courtois was incredible this year. The Belgian finished the season with 18 clean sheets in 34 games. In addition to outperforming both Oblak (17 clean sheets in 38 games) and ter Stegen (14 in 36), Courtois helped his team give up just 25 goals in 38 games, a huge reason they won La Liga.
It helps Courtois’ case that in the rare games he missed, like the finale vs. Leganés (two goals allowed) and the Copa del Rey quarterfinal loss to Real Sociedad in February (four goals allowed), the RM defense was not nearly the same. All in all, it was an easy decision to go with Courtois.
Back line: Sergio Ramos (RM), Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (RM), Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
Did we mention the RM defense was incredible this year? The 25 goals arguably speaks for itself, but let’s point out that it probably would have been 23 if Los Blancos had anything to play for on the final matchday. So the question was not whether multiple members of this backline deserved a spot, but whether it would be two or three on this list. Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane both had compelling cases for inclusion, too, but we went with Ramos and Mendy.
Ramos was as good as ever at the age of 33 at his main job of defending. In addition to that, it’s hard to overstate the significance of his 11 (!) goals, even if six were via PKs. That’s a massive contribution on any team, but it was particularly important for a title-winning club that didn’t get much offense from anyone other than Benzema.
Ferland Mendy also had a strong season for Real Madrid, particularly after the break. The 25-year-old promises to be a problem for Los Blancos’ La Liga rivals for years to come.
Gerard Piqué remains a solid piece for a Barcelona team that too often seems to be Lionel Messi and a bunch of question marks. The 33-year-old has still got it and is probably his team’s second-most important leader after Messi.
Sevilla’s Navas gets the final spot for helping Spain’s third-best defense allow just 34 goals in 38 games (giving up less than a goal per game seems to be a winning formula) while also chipping in seven assists and starting all but one of his team’s games.
Midfield: Casemiro (RM), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad), Thomas Partey (Atleti)
Casemiro is another big reason Real Madrid was so tough this year, and I haven’t seen many of these lists that don’t include him.
The rest of the all-La Liga midfield was more interesting because a slew of La Liga players stood out this season. I’m thinking about Santi Cazorla (11 goals and nine assists for Villarreal) and Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal (10 goals, 11 assists), to name a few.
But while Lucas Ocampos did not get on my radar until late this season, he was an easy player to include here. Let’s start with the 14 goals and three assists he tallied. More importantly (for entertainment value, at least), he successfully buried a no-look PK on July 12 vs. Mallorca. Check that out here. That was five days after he stepped in at keeper in an emergency and delivered a game-saving save against Eibar.
Lucas Ocampos vs. Eibar last night:
56′: Scores to give Sevilla the lead
90+7′: Replaces injured goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik
90+8′: Makes a huge save to prevent equaliser
90+11′: Sevilla win 1-0
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 7, 2020
So yeah, keep an eye on this guy moving forward!
Martin Odegaard also gets a spot here despite his team’s disastrous finish. We’re probably not introducing anyone to the Norwegian at this point, but there’s a reason he was one of the biggest names outside Spain’s big three for most of the season.
The final midfielder in our XI is Thomas Partey, who earns his spot for his defensive contributions to Diego Simeone’s team. When this squad was on, (against Liverpool and down the stretch), Partey was a huge factor. His WhoScored ratings in the two-leg upset of the Reds – 7.59 in Leg 1 and 7.9 in Leg 2 – backed up what we saw in those contests. And with an overall WhoScored rating of 7.55 in eight UCL games, he’s a big reason his team is still alive in that competition – and favored (+120) to knock off RB Leipzig (+245) in the quarters.
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Karim Benzema (RM)
There’s very little to say here. Messi is the best player in the world, and while his goals (25) were down this year – by his absurd standards – he still led Spain in that category. The Argentine also broke Xavi’s longstanding record for assists in a season with 21. It shouldn’t be possible for one player to be directly involved in 46 goals, but nothing that Messi does makes sense.
Benzema has been outstanding each of the past two years without much scoring help. In two years playing outside Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow, Benzema has shown he’s still one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe at the age of 32. A year after producing 21 goals and six assists, he delivered 21 more goals this season and eight assists.