Atletico Madrid worked wonders last season in ending the decade-long power duopoly that Barcelona and Real Madrid held over La Liga as they clinched their first title in almost 20 years.
Los Colchoneros, led by Diego Simeone, were arguably the success story of European football, given their triumph came with a much smaller budget relatively to their opponents, but their scintillating success has been forgotten in the blink of an eye for some.
Not only did Atleti, who won La Liga thanks to a dramatic final day draw at the Camp Nou in a winner-takes-all clash against defending champions Barcelona, have to wait over 100 days to receive their trophy, the league also managed to forget all about their success at the LFP Awards Gala in Madrid on Monday night.
Six Atletico players were shortlisted for awards in the event, held at the Hotel Auditorium in the Spanish capital, but none left with trophies. Thibaut Courtois, Miranda, Filipe Luis, captain Gabi, Koke and Diego Costa were all nominated but all left empty-handed.
In contrast, Real Madrid, who finished third in La Liga last season, saw four players pick up six awards. Madrid may have won the Champions League, pipping their neighbours in a dramatic final in Lisbon to restore the hierarchy in the capital, and the Copa del Rey, but the awards are based on league performances and league performances only.
Atleti felt they deserved more. At least ‘Cholo’ Simeone’s work was recognised, with the Argentine collecting the best coach award for his heroics. In his speech, he took a sly dig at the LFP by sharing the accolade with his players who were nominated but unsuccessful. “I want to share this with my technical team and also with my players, Courtois, Miranda, Gabi, Koke,” he said.
The success of Simeone’s side last season was built on a solid defence. Atleti conceded the fewest goals in the competition and kept the most clean sheets with 20, but that was not enough to see their achievements recognised. Keylor Navas, who made the most saves last season with 160 and helped Levante to the best defensive record outside of the top four, beat Courtois to the best goalkeeper award, while Sergio Ramos surprisingly took the award for best defender.
Atleti’s Uruguayan centre-back Diego Godin was not even shortlisted and Miranda was also overlooked.
Captain Gabi was the man who led by example but also fell short in the category for best defensive midfielder, which went to Luka Modric, while Andres Iniesta edged out Koke to the best attacking midfielder award. Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the European Golden Shoe for his goals last season with 31, was named best striker. The Portuguese beat off Costa and Real Sociedad’s Carlos Vela for the accolade, though the fact he scored more winning goals than any other player in La Liga, with 12, may have played a part.
It was the 29-year-old’s night, with the award for best goal going to the former Manchester United man for his strike against Valencia. He completed another hat-trick, this time off the pitch, by winning the award for best player. It has been quite a week for Ronaldo, who scored his 21st league goal of the season for club and country in Madrid’s 3-1 Clasico victory over Barcelona on Saturday and on Tuesday morning he was named on the 23-man shortlist for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
While the night belonged to Madrid and to Ronaldo, it should have belonged to Atleti, the league champions. Their success was recognised at the star-studded event but it meant little to a club that had to collect the league trophy 105 days after they had won it, with a large proportion of that team having left for pastures new. Angel Maria Villar, the head of the Spanish FA, was travelling during Atleti’s title success and could not present them with their trophy, meaning they had to wait until the second match of this season, their first league game, to accept their prize.
The winners from the three players shortlisted in each category were decided by the three captains at each club, making the winners even more surprising. Players could not vote for their team-mates and the original shortlist of three was decided by a top-of-the-range stats program that provides statistics for the league.
Other awards on the night went to Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca, as the best South American player in the competition last season, while Algerian Yacine Brahimi took the award for best African player thanks to his performances for Granada before moving on to Porto. Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic, now at Barcelona, won the fair play award.Reuse content