Five top goalkeepers in LaLiga history

After Thibaut Courtois, from Real Madrid, Jan Oblak won the trophy this season. The Atlético goalkeeper thus adds his fifth trophy and stands as the goalkeeper with the most Zamoras along with Ramallets and Víctor Valdés. We run through some of the most iconic and unique keepers from all over the world to have won this award in recent years.  

Jan Oblak (Atletico de Madrid) 

We start with the most recent. Atleti’s Slovenian keeper has cemented his reputation as one of the world’s premier shot stoppers in recent years, taking home five Zamora awards from the last six (2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21). An almost wall-like between the sticks for Los Colchoneros since joining from Portuguese side Benfica in 2014, Oblak is a bona fide star for coach Diego Simeone’s famously defensively tight team.  

BARCELONA, ESPANA – OCTUBRE 26: Victor Valdes en el partido entre el FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid, jornada 10 de la Liga BBVA 2013-2014 en el Estadio del Camp Nou el 26 de octubre 2013 / Barcelona, Spanish BBVA Liga. FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Spanish first division soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, October 26, 2013 /(Photo: Mikel Trigueros / UrbanandSport / Cordon Press)

Victor Valdes (FC Barcelona) 

Never recognised at international level to the extent his El Clasico rival Iker Casillas was, Victor Valdes nevertheless wrote his name into both the LaLiga and Barcelona history books by picking up five Zamora awards, including four consecutive gongs between 2008 and 2012. Comfortable with the ball at his feet and with a knack for pulling off incredible saves at big moments, Valdes was in many senses the perfect goalkeeper for the iconic and possession-based Barcelona sides of the mid-00s and 2010s. A true legend of Spanish football.  

Roberto Abbondanzieri (Getafe CF) 

The long-time Argentina number one picked up the Zamora trophy in 2006/07 against all the odds as part of an unfancied but remarkable Getafe side which ended the season with the best defensive record in the whole of LaLiga Santander. El Pato – ‘The Duck’ – became a fan favourite in his three seasons at the suburban Madrid side, sandwiched between over a decade at Argentinian side Boca Juniors. It’s easy to forget just how good Abbondanzieri actually was; he was named among the top 10 goalkeepers in the world of the 2000s by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHHS). 

Santiago Cañizares (RC Celta, Valencia CF) 

Remembered across Europe for his bleach blond hair and fast reflexes, Cañizares won four Zamora titles with two different sides throughout his career. His first came at RC Celta in 1992/93, sharing the award with Francisco Liaño over at local rivals RC Deportivo. By the late 1990s, he’d made his way to Valencia CF via hometown club Real Madrid. At Mestalla he won three more, becoming an icon of the club’s late-90s and early 00s success: 2000/01, 2001/02 and 2003/04, the final two coming in LaLiga title-winning seasons.  

Jacques Songo’o (RC Deportivo) 

The only African to ever win the Zamora and one of the most loved foreign imports to LaLiga over the last few decades, Cameroon international Songo’o won the award in 1996/97 – his first ever season in Spanish football – as RC Deportivo finished third behind champions Real Madrid and a Ronaldo Nazario led Barcelona side. Famously a fan of playing in long trousers, the Yaoundé-born shot stopper would go on to win a LaLiga title in 1999/00 and settle in the area after retirement.   

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The verdicts of LaLiga’s 2020-21 season

Winners, losers, thrills and spills: here’s all you need to know about the final week of the LaLiga Santander season. 

The title race: Atlético de Madrid are champions for an 11th time 

The 2020/21 LaLiga Santander title race went down to the final moments of the final day on Saturday, with Atleti visiting Real Valladolid and Real Madrid hosting Villarreal. The two capital city sides were vying for the title, but both fell behind on the day before producing comebacks to earn 2-1 wins. That ensured Atleti narrowly won the championship by two points, with the Rojiblancos presented with the trophy at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday. They’ve now conquered Spain’s top division for an 11th time.  

Champions League qualification: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla will join Atleti 

Coming into the final day, we already knew that Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla would be Spain’s four Champions League representatives, but we didn’t know the order. With Barcelona and Sevilla both winning 1-0, against Eibar and Alavés respectively, there was no change and Barça finish third ahead of Sevilla in fourth. The Andalusian club’s haul of 77 points is a club record for them.  

The Europa League duo: Real Sociedad and Real Betis  

Real Sociedad, Real Betis and Villarreal were separated by just one point as they entered the final weekend, with fifth and sixth guaranteeing a Europa League spot. Villarreal’s defeat at Real Madrid meant they finished in seventh and that it’s Real Sociedad and Real Betis who’ll be representing Spain in UEFA’s second-tier competition.  

Spain’s first Conference League contestant: Villarreal will make history, unless… 

Seventh place means that Villarreal are the first Spanish side to qualify for UEFA’s new Conference League competition. But, the Yellow Submarine could still qualify for the Champions League if they win this year’s Europa League final on Wednesday night against Manchester United. In that scenario, Spain would have five Champions League teams next year and no Conference League participant.  

The relegation battle: Huesca and Real Valladolid go down with Eibar 

Eibar’s relegation down to LaLiga SmartBank was confirmed in the penultimate round, before Huesca and Real Valladolid failed to get the results they needed in the final round, meaning they are going down to the second tier too. Elche beat Athletic Club 2-0 to avoid the drop on the final day, a huge achievement considering they had come up through the playoffs last year.  

Automatic promotion: Espanyol and RCD Mallorca come straight back up 

Even though there is still a week to go in LaLiga SmartBank, RCD Espanyol and RCD Mallorca have already secured promotion, just a year after they were relegated. Led by new coaches, they’ve been the best two sides all year and will welcome the stars of LaLiga Santander to their stadiums again next season.  

The LaLiga SmartBank playoffs: Five teams fight for the four spots 

The final LaLiga Santander place for the 2021/22 season will be decided in the LaLiga SmartBank playoffs. The teams who finish between third and sixth will fight it out in the playoffs, with CD Leganés, Almería UD, Girona FC and R. Sporting currently in pole position. However, sixth-placed Sporting are level on points with seventh-placed Rayo Vallecano, who could still make it into the playoffs.  

Promotion into professional football: Real Sociedad’s B team make the leap 

The third-tier playoffs were held over the weekend, with Burgos, Amorebieta, Ibiza and Real Sociedad B team coming out on top to reach LaLiga SmartBank. Each of these clubs brings an interesting angle and a unique history to the professional level, with the Real Sociedad youngsters the first reserve team to reach this level since Sevilla B in 2018.  

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The full top strikers list in the recent history of ‘Pichichi’ winners in LaLiga

Messi gets his eighth trophy as the top scorer in LaLiga Santander. A look at the legends who have won LaLiga’s top scorer award in the 21st century. 

Many iconic players have won LaLiga’s top scorer award – often known as the ‘Pichichi’ – during their careers. In recent years, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo consistently won it while battling it out for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. But since the Portuguese left Madrid, the ’10’ Culé has skyrocketed in the ‘Pichichi’ historical ranking, being the only one to earn eight trophies as the top scorer in LaLiga Santander. The last one, this season. Behind the Argentine player we find many of the world game’s most iconic players, who have also taken home the award… here are just a few of the best in recent years.  

Lionel Messi 

What more can you say about Messi? The legendary Argentinian already has eight top scorer awards to his name, including the last five. His first came in 2009/10, starting a run of three in four seasons which included a historic fifty-goal haul in 2011/12 and a constant striking duel with Cristiano Ronaldo season after season. Messi has been such a dominant goalscoring force that only one player beyond Cristiano has beaten him to the top scorer gong in the past decade: his former FC Barcelona teammate and close friend Luis Suarez, who scored an incredible 40 goals in 2015/16. 

Cristiano Ronaldo 

When Cristiano left Real Madrid in 2018, his LaLiga goalscoring record stood at an unbelievable 311 goals in just 292 appearances. Limited to just three Pichichi awards but never dropping below 25 goals per season in Spain’s top flight, there have been few goalscorers quite as iconic as Cristiano.  

Raúl 

During his decade and a half as the spearhead of Real Madrid’s attack, Raúl scored goal after goal for Los Blancos. The Spaniard won LaLiga six times, and finished as the league’s top scorer on two occasions, in 1998/99 with 25 goals and then again in 2000/01 with 24 goals.  

Ronaldo Nazário 

Like Raúl, the current Real Valladolid president, Ronaldo Nazário, also won the Pichichi twice in his career, but he did so at two different clubs. In 1996/97 he won it with Barcelona by scoring 34 times that campaign, before he claimed the honour again in 2003/04 with 25 goals, this time in the white of Real Madrid after crossing the El Clasico divide. That was Ronaldo’s most prolific campaign in the Spanish capital.  

Samuel Etoo 

When Samuel Eto’o joined Barcelona from RCD Mallorca in the summer of 2004, he hit the ground running by scoring 24 goals in that first season and just missing out on the Pichichi, which went to Diego Forlán. The following year, however, Eto’o upped his game even further and this time netted 26 times to ensure the award was finally his. His goals helped Barcelona win the LaLiga title in each of those campaigns.  

Ruud van Nistelrooy 

When Ruud van Nistelrooy arrived at Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2006, he touched down in the Spanish capital having previously won the Premier League’s top scorer award. Then, the Dutch striker set his sights on the Spanish equivalent and he did so with an impressive 25 goals in his debut season as Real Madrid won ‘The League of the Comebacks.’ 

Diego Forlán 

Diego Forlán is a two-time Pichichi winner, winning it once with Villarreal and then again with Atlético de Madrid. In his first season in LaLiga, the Uruguyan fired in 25 goals for Villarreal in 2004/05 to pip Eto’o to the honour, netting five goals across the final two matchdays to clinch a memorable goalscoring race. After switching yellow for red and white, Forlan won it again in 2008/09, this time with 32 goals. That made him the first player to win the award with over 30 goals since Ronaldo in 1996/97.   

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The next LaLiga’s stars to watch

A look at up-and-coming players and coaches who had breakout seasons in 2020/21 and look set for a bright future. 

The quality of football on show over the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season was of the highest level, with the title race, relegation battle and tussle for European positions going right down to the final seconds of the campaign. Lots of young players stood out this term, showing that they have what it takes to be the future stars of the league. Here’s a look at the pick of the bunch, plus some young coaches who look to be going on to great things.  

Bryan Gil (SD Eibar/Sevilla FC) 

One of the sensations of this LaLiga Santander season was 20-year-old Bryan Gil. The winger spent the campaign on loan at Eibar from Sevilla and was the Basque side’s most creative player. Gil finished the year with four goals and three assists, but his impact was even greater than that as he took responsibility in every match – earning a first Spain call-up in the process. Under the coaching of José Luis Mendilibar, Gil learned a lot this term and will put that to use over the coming seasons after he returns to Sevilla. 

Pedri (FC Barcelona) 

Pedri arrived in Barcelona last summer from LaLiga SmartBank side UD Las Palmas and hit the ground running. Touted as a prodigious talent but still perhaps a little young to be a breakout star on arrival, nobody in the Catalan club’s squad played in more LaLiga Santander matches than the 18-year-old Canary Islander, which shows just how much Ronald Koeman trusted him. Lionel Messi placed a lot of confidence in Pedri too, with the Argentine giving the teenager his seal of approval by consistently feeding him the ball. There’s no doubt that Pedri can lead Barça’s midfield for years to come.  

Pau Torres (Villarreal CF) 

This was just Pau Torres’ second full season in LaLiga Santander and he was excellent in Villarreal’s central defence. Still only 24, Torres was so good that he has become a regular Spain international and could well start for La Roja at Euro 2020. Before that, though, the centre-back has the Europa League final with his hometown club, a special occasion to cap off a special season. 

Emerson (Real Betis) 

Real Betis are back in European football, having qualified for the Europa League, and right-back Emerson is a major reason behind this success. The pacey and tricky Brazilian made Real Betis’ right flank his own, contributing in attack with four assists and a goal and performing his defensive duties diligently. The 22-year-old’s rights are shared between Real Betis and Barcelona and he is set to be a star of LaLiga Santander for years to come, whether wearing green and white or blue and red.  

Jules Koundé (Sevilla FC) 

Jules Koundé was one of the best defenders in LaLiga Santander in 2020/21, performing excellently in Sevilla’s back line. The French centre-back is still only 22, but excelled in his second season in Spain as Sevilla finished fourth and even threatened to shake up the title race. Monchi, the Andalusian club’s renowned sporting director, has once again unearthed a world-class talent.  

Unai Simón (Athletic Club) 

Athletic Club goalkeeper Unai Simón is considered by many as the favourite to wear the gloves for Spain at this summer’s European Championship. Even though he’s only 23, the Basque already has 78 LaLiga Santander matches under his belt, including the 37 he played in this year as he helped his team secure the sixth-best defensive record in the league.  

Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad) 

Alexander Isak almost doubled his LaLiga Santander goals tally this year, improving on the nine goals he netted last season by scoring 17 this time around. That made the 21-year-old Swede the sixth-top scorer in the country. With each passing season, Isak is adding experience and centre-forward know-how to his innate technical ability, demonstrating that he has what it takes to move even higher up the scoring charts in years to come.  

Jorge de Frutos (Levante UD) 

Jorge de Frutos didn’t start playing football until he was 16, but the Levante midfielder, who is now 24, has very quickly made a name for himself. His teammates at Levante love him because of the nine assists he served up over the course of this campaign. Only Iago Aspas, Marcos Llorente, Toni Kroos and Yannick Carrasco had more assists this term, so De Frutos is certainly in good company.  

30-12 Granada CF-Valencia correspondiente a la jornada 16 de la Liga Santander (Primera División) disputado en el Estadio Nuevo los Carmenes. En la imagen

Diego Martínez (Granada CF) 

Undoubtedly one of Europe’s brightest up-and-coming coaches. The 40-year-old has worked wonders at Granada over the past few seasons, earning them promotion, securing Europa League qualification and then leading the Andalusian outfit to the quarter-finals of that competition this season, where they eventually fell to finalists Manchester United. It’s no surprise that Martínez is in demand.  

Eduardo Coudet (RC Celta) 

Eduardo Coudet did a great job after being hired by RC Celta – then languishing in the relegation zone – back in November. The Galician club finished eighth, but they actually had the sixth-best record if only looking at the matchdays since the 46-year-old’s appointment. In 2021/22, when he has a pre-season and the chance to lead Celta from Matchday 1, Coudet will hope to take the club back to Europe.  

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Oblak, the best goalkeeper in LaLiga Santander 2020-21

A fifth best LaLiga keeper title for Oblak 

The race for the Zamora trophy was the closest of the three, with Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, Sevilla’s Bono and Real Sociedad’s Alex Remiro all appearing in with a chance at different stages of the season. 

However, Atletico de Madrid’s Jan Oblak was always a forerunner for the trophy awarded to the keeper with the lowest “goals-to-games” ratio over the season. Conceding just twice over the first nine LaLiga games was an excellent start, and the Slovenian continued to show outstanding reflexes and reading of the game as he kept 18 clean sheets while conceding just 25 goals over the 38 games. Saving three of the four penalties faced over the season was also crucial in Atletico’s title victory. 

Two-time Zamora winner Courtois made the biggest challenge, with 28 goals conceded in 37 games. But in the end the decision was clear – and Oblak has won his fifth Zamora, joining former Barcelona keepers Antoni Ramallets and Victor Valdes as those who have won the prized trophy on the most occasions in history. Given he is just 28 years of age, few would back against him adding more to that tally over the coming seasons. 

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Lionel Messi and Gerard Moreno: the top goalscorers of the LaLiga Season 2020-21

Named after LaLiga legends Rafael ‘Pichichi’ Moreno and Telmo Zarra the trophies are awarded each year to the top goalscorer and leading Spanish goalscorer respectively.

Leo Messi, LaLiga Santander’s top scorer… again. 

Lionel Messi’s total of 30 LaLiga goals won the Barcelona captain a record eighth Pichichi award.  

Messi had a difficult start to the season, scoring just one goal – a penalty – in his first five La Liga games. However, he soon kicked into gear with a double strike against Real Betis in early November, while 12 goals in his first eight games of 2021 saw him take control of the Pichichi race, with number 30 coming via a rare header against RC Celta on the penultimate weekend. 

In the end, Messi’s phenomenal accuracy and consistency saw him finish well clear of Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno (23), Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema (23), and his former teammate Luis Suarez, now of Atletico Madrid (21).  

Amazingly, Messi has scored at least 23 times in each of the last 13 LaLiga seasons, with his highest total being the all-time record of 50 goals in 2011-12. In total, the now 34-year-old has 473 goals in 519 La Liga games, all for Barca.  

Gerard Moreno, the top scoring Spanish player in LaLiga for the second-straight season 

Moreno’s 23 goals in 33 games for Villarreal saw the Spain international striker retain the Zarra trophy and was just reward for his continuing excellence in front of goal through the season. 

The 29-year-old Catalan scored in both his first two games of the season, and kept finding the net throughout the season, with a highlight being the superb hat-trick at Granada in April. He also fired home in three of the last four games of the season, to set the highest LaLiga tally of his career. His previous best total in a LaLiga season was 18, when winning the Zarra last season, while he also hit 16 when at former club RCD Espanyol in 2017-18.  

Lethal finishing with both feet, and from all types of situations inside the penalty area, saw Moreno build a big lead over the season, with Iago Aspas (RC Celta) coming in second with 14, then Jose Luis Morales (Levante UD) and Rafa Mir (SD Huesca) tied on 13 each. Aspas already has three Zarra trophies (2016-17, 17-18 and 18-19), while 23-year-old Mir looks a potential future winner for sure. 

Moreno now has a total of 90 goals in 233 LaLiga games. The 29-year-old looks set to add to his total of five goals in 10 Spain caps at this summer’s rescheduled Euro 2020 championships. His phenomenal form over the past few seasons has seen him become the go-to number nine for Spain coach Luis Enrique, and with good reason.  

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