The 2016-2017 La Liga season has been a roller coaster for fans and players. Elite players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi can be relied on to put up outrageous numbers. They’re top-tier players that get paid the big bucks for a reason and never disappoint their fans when it comes to their performances. But what about players who were expected to take that next step in their La Liga careers, but didn’t? Or the ones that surprised expert analysts with their hard work and unexpected statistics?
Here is a list of La Liga players that made their fans tear their hairs out of their heads and players that shockingly made their fans’ jaws drop.
- UD Las Palmas’ Mauricio Lemos: The 21-year old entre-back has gained some attention from La Liga fans because of his ability to hit free kicks and underrated defending. He earned a five-year deal with Las Palmas last year and rumors are going around that FC Barcelona are interested in the Uruguayan. Could Las Palmas hold on the young promising prospect? That remains to be seen.
- Real Madrid CF’s Isco Alarcon: Isco has stepped up his game this season and may be the reason why James Rodriguez is on his way out of Madrid. Zidane has already told the media he hopes Isco signs a new contract and stays with the club. The former Malaga player has proven himself this season by doing whatever has been asked of him. Goals? Assists? Key dribbles? Isco has done it all for Madrid.
- FC Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti: Barcelona signed Umtiti this summer in hopes of fixing a shaky defense that is vulnerable to counter attacks. Umtiti has played 17 La Liga games for Barcelona and the team has won all 17. Is it the Umtiti effect? No doubt. The 22-year-old centre-back has worked hard his way to the starting spot and is considered to be the starter next to Gerard Pique.
- Sevilla FC’s Sergio Rico: The Seville product is top four in saves this season and has been Seville’s starting goalkeeper for all Seville’s La Liga games. Rico has 10 clean sheets this season in La Liga and is tied for 3rd with Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak. Those numbers speak for themselves.
- Celta Vigo FC’s Iago Aspas: The Spaniard had 14 goals and 4 assists in 31 games last season. He already has 15 goals and 3 assists this season and there’s 9 games left in the season. A 29-year-old striker that earned his first national invite this season continues to be a reliable player for Celta Vigo and has proven he can score against the big teams this season. Aspas scored twice against Barcelona at home this season and once against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeau in the Copa Del Rey competition.
- Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann: The French forward enjoyed a wonderful season last year and was awarded the La Liga’s best player award in 2015-2016. The Frenchman outside of La Liga guided his team to the UEFA Champions League final against cross-town rivals Real Madrid in which Atletico Madrid wasn’t able to claim the prize. Griezmann was supposed to take that next step in 2016-2017 and help bring silverware to Atletico Madrid’s trophy cabinet. Atletico is likely not to finish with any Spanish silverware and the Frenchman is poised to leave his current team for greener pastures. For a player that had high expectations for this La Liga season; he is considered to be a disappointment in La Liga after being voted 3rd place in the Ballon d’Or award and voted best La Liga player in 2015-2016.
- FC Barcelona’s Neymar: The exciting and tricky Brazilian forward took advantage of Lionel Messi’s absence last season and showed the world that he can help Barcelona win games without the #10. Neymar currently has 9 goals and 10 assists in 24 La Liga games this season and 10 assists. He had 24 goals and 12 assists in 34 games his 2015-2016 La Liga campaign. The forward went from a Ballon d’Or candidate to a player that couldn’t buy a goal earlier in the season. His teammates have outshined him this season and Neymar knows he has to improve.
- Real Madrid CF’s Keylor Navas: The Costa Rican goalkeeper earned himself a contract with Real Madrid in 2014 after fine performances on the international stage. Navas earned praise last season by helping Madrid win the Champions League in 2016 and seemed to be stopping every shot that came his way. This La Liga season has seen the goalkeeper struggle and has given Zidane no choice, but to give backup goalkeeper Kiko Casillas more minutes on the pitch. Navas is rumored to be on his way out and could be leaving this upcoming transfer summer.
- Valencia CF’s Ezequiel Garay: The Argentinian centre-back came with some expectations and a £20.4 million price tag does that. Valencia had a terrible start to the season and was a team that was in danger of being relegated. The team has somewhat improved as the season progressed, but the player has been shaky for the club. Inconsistent and has left fans wondering if he was truly worth the money.
- FC Barcelona’s Andre Gomes: The Portuguese player was brought to the Camp Nou from Valencia CF to help Andres Iniesta get some rest and contribute to the team. He’s the second Barcelona player on this list and has been so poor that he deserves a mention. Gomes has struggled to find a role on the team and has done more harm than good for the team. Is it a bit unfair to judge him on only one season? Maybe, but his hefty price tag also came with big expectations.