At the start of the La Liga season, Real Madrid new director general
Madrid versus Barcelona was personified by
As the season drew to a close on the final day, Madrid and Barcelona having destroyed every other team out of sight and smashed countless La Liga records along the way, the choice felt as natural as it had at the outset. Although Messi has been the undisputed winner, together they had dominated the season. Messi scored 34 league goals and Ronaldo had 26, some of them of breathtaking brilliance. They had more shots and completed more dribbles than anyone else in La Liga, boasted the best average ratings and had become the unquestioned leaders of the league champions and the side that had pushed them all the way -- the clubs that humiliated the rest of the league, with No. 1 Barca finishing a staggering 28 points ahead of third-place Valencia.
But while 2009-2010 has been the Messi & Ronaldo Show, they haven't been alone. It's time to recognize the other men who left their mark and made this season special.
People like assist leader
And people like
People, in short, like the following three:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that's not a phrase anyone expected to be used about Navas. On the final day of the season, Sevilla knew that it had to win to clinch a Champions league place -- a vital objective without which it would enter into what one director described as a "crisis," forced to downsize its expenditure and rip up all its plans for the future -- and one man more than anyone else made sure it happened.
Sevilla beat Almería 3-2, the last goal coming 45 seconds from the end from 19-year-old
For years, when the going got tough, Navas got going -- out of there. Anxiety attacks had prevented him from playing for Spain or joining his team for all of preseason training. Happily, this year, not only did he perform consistently brilliantly for his club, but he also finally made the leap and agreed to be called up to the Spain squad for the first time. And Spain couldn't be happier to have him.
Canales announced his arrival with two brilliant goals against Sevilla and helped to drag Racing out of trouble near the foot of the table -- the most significant change made by coach
But then something went badly wrong. Everyone got excited. Everyone turned up in Santander, checkbooks in hand. And Racing took advantage, selling him to Madrid in February. He stayed with Racing the rest of the season -- Canales will join Madrid this summer -- but something broke that day, the magic had gone. They'd sold their soul. Canales scored only once more, a brilliant strike against Villarreal, and Racing won just two in 18. Only a final-day victory -- and a suspicious one at that -- rescued the side from its own folly. Ultimately, only Canales's sudden, and fleeting, appearance rescued it at all.
There were only a few weeks of the season left when the unashamedly pro-Real Madrid sports daily
It was a telling oversight, and in the end, Ronaldo did neither. Higuain finished with 27 league goals to go with the 22 he scored last season -- and he did it against a backdrop of constant criticism, innuendo and attack, which, worryingly for the Argentine, appeared to be filtering out of the club itself.
Higuain provided an airtight defense with a constant stream of strikes, but much of the media still tried to puncture holes in it. Rather than celebrate his goals, they seemed angered by them. The fact that
Along with others in the media, especially on the baseless, late-night shouting fest that is the TV program
How dare he?