In a league full of superstars dominating the spotlight it’s easy to overlook lesser known players who are having outstanding seasons. Below we look at the analysis of players who rarely make lists of top players but who deserve recognition for their outstanding displays for their clubs so far this season in La Liga.
Marc Bartra (Real Betis/Central defender)
After an emotional and traumatic time in Dortmund in 2017 after the bomb attack on the team bus left him injured, 2018 saw a resurgence for the centre back.
The Spaniard is everything you would expect from a La Masia graduate. He’s comfortable on the ball, reads the game well and has excellent ball retention with an 89.4% pass success rate, however, the Beleticos man can also do the other side of the game. Bartra is strong in the tackle yet executes them well with only two yellow cards to his name so far this season and winning 2.5 out of the 3.5 tackles he attempts, he’s also no slouch in the air either averaging 2.4 aerial duels won per game. His composure and organisational skills in the heart of the defence are a bonus for any team and it’s easy to see why he plays close to every minute when he’s available and why Betis sit in a European spot heading into the winter break.
Bartra has also been rewarded for his fine form with a recall to the national team where he also scored on his first game back against Wales in a 4-1 victory, there’s even talk of a Barcelona return due to his impressive displays. The sky could be the limit for this ball playing defender.
Joan Jordan (Eibar/Central midfield)
A product of Espanyol’s youth system, Joan Jordan may be one of the lesser known players to appear on this list but his influence is just as strong in this Eibar side. After a good season in the Segunda Division in 2016/17 for Real Valladolid he signed for Eibar and has since gone from strength to strength.
Jordan has now become the lynchpin of Los Armeros, he’s an ever-present and has scored three goals and provided two assists, however, the assist numbers don’t paint the full picture. Jordan has created 33 chances this season for Eibar, a stunning amount when you think that’s as many as the brilliant Sarabia and more than the outstanding Ousmane Dembele this season. The Spaniard also created a further three assists and currently is providing 2.3 key passes per 90 and a very solid 83.2% pass success rate.
For how good Jordan has been creating opportunity’s this season he’s also been putting up solid defensive numbers. He currently makes 1.7 tackles per 90 and has already made significant interception and blocks with 11 and 14 respectively.
With a release clause of just €10m and at just 24 years of age Jordan is a very solid La Liga midfielder and it’s difficult to see him plying his trade at Eibar much longer. Sevilla are showing an interest in him currently and by the summer there may be a whole host of clubs vying for his signature.
Ever Banega (Sevilla/Midfield Playmaker)
After a season in Italy with Inter in 2016/17 where he didn’t settle, Banega returned to Sevilla last season but didn’t hit top form straight away. This season, however, the brilliant Argentine is back to his best.
At 30-years-old it’s easy to think this diminutive playmaker is past his best, however, like a fine wine he seems to be getting better with age. With Roque Mesa in the side, it has allowed Banega to be more expansive this season an opportunity he has made the most of.
In all competitions so far Banega has scored seven and assisted five goals which is a phenomenal return for a player largely seen as a deep-lying playmaker, and if you think his defensive work would have regressed due to his attacking prowess you’d be wrong. Currently he is making 2.7 tackles per 90 and 1.1 interceptions per 90 and has an average match rating of 7.44 via whoscored, which is currently 4th highest in the league.
Due to his outstanding performances, he is being heavily linked to a move away from Sevilla. Old boss Unai Emery now at Arsenal is looking to be reunited with the playmaker as a replacement for Aaron Ramsey and Roma are also showing a keen interest in the midfield genius they call Tanguito.
Borja Iglesias (Espanyol/Striker)
Borja made his debut in La Liga in 2015 but surprisingly hasn’t played in Spain’s top flight again until this season, however, he doesn’t seem to want to wait around for a second time, proving his worth for Espanyol finding the net eight times already this season.
This, however, shouldn’t be a surprise to people, last season he scored 22 times for Real Zaragoza and he’s also the all-time leading scorer for Celta’s B-team, hitting 73 goals in 144 matches during a four-year spell.
Standing at 6ft 2in, Iglesias could be mistaken for an old-school frontman, with a strong presence in the air and the ability to lead the front line alone, however, the Spaniard also possesses a silky touch and clever movement which he uses to devastating effect within the penalty area. Ten goal contributions in 17 appearances this season is a good return for Espanyol’s record signing and puts him in the top ten of La Liga’s leading marksmen and with 44% of Espanyol’s overall goals at the halfway point, he is rightfully starting to get noticed in Spain.
Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla/Attacking Midfield)
Ex-Real Madrid trainee Sarabia is blossoming into a brilliant midfield talent, at 26 he is entering into his prime years and is excelling under attacking coach Pablo Machin at Sevilla. His link-up play, especially with Wissam Ben Yedder, this season has been remarkable and between them, they have 25 goal contributions at the halfway stage in La Liga this season.
Previously Sarabia has been used in a variety of positions throughout his career, however, now that he’s being used more centrally we are seeing the best of him. His numbers on the field reflect not only his progression but also his importance to this Sevilla side. After 16 appearances Sarabia has already beaten his total of goals and assists for the whole of last season and is currently on course to have his best season ever. With six goals and six assists to his name in La Liga he has a goal contribution every 110 mins of football and with 2.38 key passes per 90, it shows how influential he has become.
Good in possession, with quick feet and a low centre of gravity Sarabia comes alive around the box where he has excellent positional sense and always finds pockets of space between the midfield and attack. With only 18 months left on his existing contract, it comes as no surprise that he is being looked at by his former club Real as a potential replacement for the unsettled Isco at the Santiago Bernabeu.
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