Pitchside Europe

Spanish football year in review: Neymar, Valdes and two Diegos

Spanish football expert Andy Mitten takes a look at the best and worst of 2013 in Spain:

Hero

Diego Costa. Any Atletico fan fearing for the future after the departure of Radamel Falcao soon relaxed when Costa moved to a central role. The Primera Liga’s 19-goal top scorer so far this season.

Villain

Victor Valdes. Except he shouldn’t have been. He’s decided not to stay at Barça beyond this season. That’s his right, yet he was hammered by fans and the media. They’ve since calmed down, growing to appreciate just how good he is.

Funniest moment

Neymar walking into the mixed zone after Barça’s 6-1 win v Celtic. He was dressed like Michael Jackson in his Thriller phase, though didn’t wear a white glove. He couldn’t understand the fuss.

Best goal

Alexis Sanchez v Real Madrid. With the world watching, he executed perfect chip over from 20 yards over Diego Lopez in October’s Camp Nou classico. The Chilean is now showing the form which saw so many suitors in 2011.

Best Game

Real Sociedad 4 Valencia 2. The battle for fourth, a classic end of season six pointer. Both sides attacked, both played brilliantly. The Basques won. They deserved their top four finish.

Best quote

“I told them Madrid were afraid. I told them that it felt like a goal was coming. It felt that way. They had to keep pressing. I repeated to them ten times that they were the better team. They needed to believe me and reacted in the moment that made the hair stand up on my neck.” Diego Simeone at the end of 90 minutes in the Copa del Rey final in the Bernabeu. He was right.

Prediction for 2014

Sadly for those tired of the dominance of the big two, Atletico Madrid won’t win the league. The financial gulf is too big. But it would be magnificent for Spanish football if they did.

Christmas wish

That Lionel Messi recovers fully and is in form going into the World Cup finals. He’s the best player in the world. Injury and off field distractions hampered 2013. A player of his standing deserves a crack at the World Cup while at his best.

On Twitter @AndyMitten