Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated Spanish football in recent years. However this season, many players who ply their trade outside the top two in La Liga have come under the spotlight for their fantastic displays, proving that the Spanish League is not at all devoid of quality. Here's a look at the best players outside of the Spanish duo.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois | Atletico Madrid
The Belgian shot-stopper has been in terrific form all season, which has seen him lead the standings for the minimum goals conceded. Atletico's 19 clean sheets and 30 goals conceded are way better than the nearest contenders - with Malaga having 13 clean sheets and Real Madrid having conceded 37 goals. This speaks volumes of the 21-year-old's performances and Chelsea have one talented keeper on their books.
Right-back: Hugo Mallo | Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo have not had the fairytale season after promotion from Liga Adelante last season, with the team battling against relegation. However, one player who has definitely raised his stock is their pint-sized right-back, Hugo Mallo. Only 21 years of age, Mallo has displayed composure and reliability way beyond his years - and has often single-handedly stopped wave after wave of opposition attacks. If Celta are relegated, Mallo is a definite to leave in the summer as various clubs have been passing admiring glances in his direction.
Centre-back: Diego Godin | Atletico Madrid
Atletico's stellar performances in defence are not entirely down to Courtois, as every single one of their defenders have enjoyed standout seasons. But none would have enjoyed it as much as Diego Godin. The Uruguayan formed an unflappable partnership with Joao Miranda which has resulted in Atletico having the best defensive record in the league. The 27-year-old has been strong in the tackle and has also displayed an amazing ability to read the danger. Even though Radamel Falcao has stolen the limelight, Godin has been just as instrumental in Atletico's superb season.
Centre-back: Inigo Martinez | Real Sociedad
Inigo Martinez has been a rock in the centre of defence for the Basque club this season. The 22-year-old Spain Under-23 international has put in solid performances for the club and has never looked out of his depth, even against the best opposition. Strong in the air but with an uncanny ability to play the ball out from deep, Martinez has proved to be ideal for la Real's swift attacking policy. His excellent form has been a major factor in Real Sociedad's push for Champion's League football next season. The defender has also a keen eye for goal and has excelled in the opposition penalty box.
Left-back: Filipe Luis | Atletico Madrid
Filipe Luis has been another standout performer for the Los Rojiblancos this season. A tireless defender who has maintained high standards in both attack and defense, Luis's most remarkable characteristic is his tracking of opposition wingers. He's been a vital cog in Atletico's counter-attacking unit and his consistent performances for the club have seen him once again appear on the radar of the Brazil national team.
Defensive-midfield: Benat Etxebarria | Real Betis
After a breakout campaign last season, Betis' spanish midfielder has been in sublime form this term. Capable of playing as a deep lying playmaker as well as further up the pitch, he has been the orchestrator for the Seville-based side. Having created eight goals for his teammates, the Betis number ten has been their best player this season. Benat has also improved the defensive aspect of his game and has been instrumental in breaking up oppositon moves. His form has also seen him called up to a star-studded Spain midfield on more than one occasion.
Attacking-midfield: Ivan Rakitic | Sevilla
Even though Sevilla have had yet another underwhelming season, Ivan Rakitic has consistently impressed. Equally adept at scoring as well as creating chances for his teammates, the midfielder has struck up a special connection with forward Alvaro Negredo.
Attacking-midfield left: Isco | Malaga
Following the departure of Santi Cazorla to Arsenal last summer, Isco has taken up the mantle and produced some truly sensational displays for the La Rosaleda. The 21-year-old has been his teams primary attacking threat throughout the season and his importance is underlined by the fact that opposition teams have always put a constant marker on Isco in every single match. Many players are expected to leave the Andalusian club this summer, and Isco will definitely not be short of takers.
Attacking-midfield right: Carlos Vela | Real Sociedad
Few could have predicted Carlos Vela's meteoric rise since he left Arsenal. The Mexican attacker has been central to everything that la Real have achieved this season and leads the team for both goals and assists. In fact, Vela has the most assists for any player away from Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barring a small patch of sketchy form at the beginning of the season, the 24-year-old has been in top form and is the principal reason behind Real Sociedad's inspiring run this year.
Striker: Radamel Falcao | Atletico Madrid
Yet again, Falcao has been one of the leading forwards in the league and has been Atletico's talisman in a fantastic season for the club. With 28 goals in the league, he is behind only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the goalscoring charts. Combining tireless running with accurate finishing, the striker has cemented his status as one of the premier forwards in the modern game. It is rare for a player playing outside the top two in Spain to become a household name in football, but Falcao has earned himself that status with his amazing displays for the capital club.
Striker: Roberto Soldado | Valencia
Roberto Soldado has consistently been among the best performers for the Los Che during his three years at the club. Despite being behind Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao in the goalscoring charts, that is not the striker's only attribute, with his energetic running freeing up space for his fellow attackers to exploit. With the striker looking to leave in the summer, Valencia will surely find it hard to replace their star man.
Do you agree with this alternative La Liga XI? Which players do you think should have made the cut? Have your say in the comments box provided below!
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