VALENCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Cesc Fabregas (2nd L) of Barcelona celebrates with team-mates Adriano Correa, Lionel Messi (UP),Sergio Busquets and Thiago Alcantara (R) after scoring during the La Liga match between Valencia and Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on September 21, 2011 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
After a brief hiatus, the Barca Blaugranes Awards are back yet again, with the results in for the Most Improved Player of the Season. To briefly recap, the nominees had to have played for the senior side in 2010/11, meaning the three nominees were Thiago Alcântara, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano. The voting was fairly tight to begin with, as there were few votes to separate all three men, but as time progressed one man started to pull away with it, eventually amassing 48% of the votes – a clear 12% ahead of his nearest challenger. The most improved player of 2011/12 as voted for by you, the Barca Blaugranes community is...
1st – Javier Mascherano – 48%
What a transformation we have seen; from midfield destroyer to defensive colossus, all in the space of a single season. Think of all the great centre-backs that have graced a football pitch – Franz Beckenbauer, Franco Baresi, even our own Carles Puyol, all took years to perfect their art and hone their defensive skills. Then along comes Mascherano who virtually did it all in a year! Time and time again, Mascherano was the standard bearer in the Barcelona defense making timely interventions to break-up opposition attacks. Mascherano led the team in tackles per match and interceptions per match, also finding the time to make the most passes (on average) of any Blaugrana centre-back. Defensively, he was akin to a brick wall in the majority of matches, and that’s in spite of his physique.
2nd – Thiago Alcântara – 36%
Thiago improved immensely compared to his "debut" season, perhaps not registering as many goals or assists as some might have hoped, but there is no denying that he improved in all aspects of his play. His passing was quicker, crisper even yet still amongst the most accurate; offensively he was dribbling with a greater purpose, shooting with more power and accuracy while his aerial ability also became a potent weapon. Compared to the other two nominees, Thiago arguably has the higher ceiling in terms of potential, let’s hope 2012/13 is another huge step towards him reaching it.
3rd – Sergio Busquets – 16%
Harsh that Busi accounted for so few votes compared to his colleagues, especially because he has grown into one of the most important cogs in the Barcelona machine. There is no better player in World Football at playing one-touch football than Busquets, and with that in his arsenal, he can dictate the tempo of any game. He makes Barcelona play quicker, he can make Barcelona play slower and monopolise possession – just watch his performance against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou for evidence of the former. No matter how many votes he got, or didn’t get, Busquets is a fantastic player who just keeps getting better.