Best Player - Luis Suarez [Barcelona]
2015/16 is surely going to go down in history as Luis Suarez’s season. On the first weekend back in August, Suarez scored the winner as Barcelona won 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao. The final round of games last Saturday saw him scoring another hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Granada which sealed the title.
The ex-Liverpool player finished his first full La Liga season with 40 goals and 16 assists, both league-leading tallies, and even more importantly he showed up when his team needed him most. Lionel Messi missed seven games in the autumn through injury - but Suarez scored 10 times in those. Then when Barca stumbled in April, he came up with 14 goals as they won all five of their last games to stay ahead of Real Madrid’s challenge.
Young player of the year - Marco Asensio [Espanyol, on loan from Real Madrid]
20-year-old Marco Asensio had a superb breakout season on loan at Espanyol from Real Madrid, and looks a potential superstar in the making. Asensio first really dazzled when setting up each of his team’s three goals in one game against Real Betis in October, and finished the season with 10 assists in all. He also scored four goals - including two super strikes on the final day against Eibar. A call-up to train with Spain ahead of Euro 2016 has followed, and both he and Madrid have a lot of thinking to do about where would be best for him to play next season.
Old player of the year - Aritz Aduriz [Athletic Bilbao]
35-year-old Aritz Aduriz bagged a career best 36 goals in all competitions during 2015/16 - including a hat-trick in the season opening Supercopa win over Barcelona, and 20 in La Liga to take the ‘Zarra’ trophy as the topscoring Spaniard [or Basque]. No player had scored so many for Athletic in the Primera Division since Telmo Zarra himself back in 1950-51. Such form brought the veteran a second Spain cap [more than five years after his first] and a place in Vicente Del Bosque’s provisional squad for Euro 2016.
Best Coach of the year - Quique Setien [Las Palmas]
Las Palmas were in 19th place last October, when coach Paco Herrera was fired after his side had lost 4-0 to Getafe, and having won just one of their first eight games. Replacement Quique Setien took on a huge challenge, in his first Primera Division coaching job at 57 years old, and he handled it superbly.
The former Racing Santander midfielder introduced a super-patient passing style of play, which took a while to bring results, but eventually the team clicked. Six wins in seven games through the springtime banished all fears of relegation. A team made up mostly of locally born and raised players also worried both Barcelona and Real Madrid on home turf.
Las Palmas played such good football and got such impressive results that Setien has even been talked about as potential successor to Vicente Del Bosque as the next Spain coach.
Worst coach of the year - Gary Neville [Valencia]
Former Manchester United defender and TV pundit Neville clearly has lots of interesting ideas on the game, but was unable to get them across to players, fans or pundits during his four months in charge of Valencia. 16 La Liga games in charge brought just 14 points, and there was never the feeling he was learning quickly enough from his mistakes. Under Neville, Valencia fell from the Champions League to a relegation battle they could well have lost. Even his friendship with club owner Peter Lim was only worth so much, and he was inevitably sacked to avoid any greater damage being done to all their reputations.
Few had heard of Cedric Bakambu when Villarreal spent €7.5 million to take the Congo international from Turkish team Bursaspor last summer. But many of Europe’s top clubs are now tracking the 25-year-old striker after he notched 23 goals in all competitions to help Villarreal into fourth spot and to the Europa league semi-finals. Fast, strong and composed in front of goal, the former France youth international has taken a roundabout way to the top, but looks at home there.
Worst signing / best business
In most years a worst signing / best business category would not make sense, but Atletico Madrid’s purchase last summer and then sale in January of Jackson Martinez is a perfect fit. Jackson arrived from Porto for €35 million and seemed a good fit for Diego Simeone’s side - but just three goals in six months underplays just poorly he settled in.
So Atletico did not think twice when Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande came in with a €42 million bid during the winter window, and the Colombian was soon packing his bags for the Far East, even if the player himself did not seem over delighted at the move.
Nobody was really surprised when Zinedine Zidane stepped up from the reserve side to replace Rafa Benitez as first team coach at Real Madrid in January. But the way Zidane has taken to top level management has been quite unexpected.
As a galactico player ‘Zizou’ was not a loud presence in either the dressing room or mixed-zone, but he has astutely dealt with typical Bernabeu issues which had completely flummoxed the much more experienced Benitez. Meanwhile, a player prized for decorating games with individual moments of genius is emerging as a coach who values hard work and team ethic above everything else, with his team grinding out 12 consecutive La Liga wins to finish the season.
Least surprising event
There was something quite familiar about Granada appearing set to go down but escaping relegation with a late run of form.
Granada spent almost the entire season in the bottom four - until a run of three wins from four games saw them safe on the penultimate weekend. That mirrored the previous campaign, when they spent the entire season in the drop zone, only for a run of four straight victories to see them safe on the final day. They also flirted with the trap-door in 2013/14 and 2012/13, only to emerge unscathed as Levante, Rayo Vallecano and Getafe dropped down.