Barca Blaugranes Awards: Most Improved Player: The Nominees

Is Martin Montoya the Most Improved Player of 2012/2013? - Jasper Juinen

Here are the nine nominees for the 2012-2013 Barca Blaugranes Award for Most Improved Player

At the start of this season, perhaps more so than any season previous, Culés across the world were expectant. Perhaps not expectant of a La Liga title, or a UEFA Champions League crown, especially after the departure of Pep Guardiola; but expectant of an improvement upon the previous season, which – by Guardiola’s high standards – was an abject disappointment. Virtually every player was capable of improving upon their performances in 2011/12, and in some cases, we really expected better too.

Of course, in some ways, this season could be construed as a "failure" also, so pronounced was the feeling of inferiority after Barcelona’s landslide defeat against Bayern Munich, but leaving that match aside, Barça improved in 2012/13, winning the La Liga title with a record 100 point haul. And not only did the team improve, but the individuals improved as well, reaching a higher level in 2012/13, inspiring the Blaugrana to bigger and better things. Here are the nominees for the Most Improved Player Award:

Cristian Tello – Nominated by dlapa, Uncharted_Almo, Jayson.djuhan, Tokjee and

fcb123

Promoted to the first team after a string of injuries left the first team short of options in attack back in 2011/12, Cristian Tello entered the 2012/13 season as something of an unknown. Sure, we’d been treated to glimpses of his tremendous potential (like his brace against Bayer Leverkusen), but we’d also seen him at his "worst", when he put in an abject performance in an important Clasico. As such, no-one quite knew what to expect from Tello – although once the season had finished, we were all in agreement. No matter what our expectations were, Tello had exceeded them in his first full season with the senior squad, scoring eight important goals over the course of the year – including the opening goal of Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League campaign against Spartak Moscow.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

34

1641

8

6

0

0

Compared to 2011/12

+12

+948

+1

+3

-1

N/A

Alexis Sánchez – Nominated by Bostjan Cernensek, PlayerFan, footblob, papant7 and

LawrenceMondal

He may have scored fewer goals in a greater number of appearances, but many consider Alexis’ second season with the Blaugrana to be superior to his first – and the reasoning behind that is obvious: Sánchez has finally developed an understanding as to what exactly his role is at FC Barcelona. Recovering from a dismal start to the season (Alexis only scored his first league goal of the campaign in February, in a 6-1 win against Getafe), Sánchez finished the season as Barcelona’s "form player", scoring six goals and providing five assists in his final eight appearances of the La Liga season – and interestingly enough, Barcelona never lost a match with Alexis on the score-sheet.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

46

2628

11

13

6

0

Compared to 2011/12

+5

+53

-4

+8

+1

N/A

Martin Montoya – Nominated by footballfordoze and

craig00000

Much like Cristian Tello, this was Martin Montoya’s first full season with the senior squad, although it was impossible to tell when the Catalan full-back took to the field, such was his composure, and confidence on the right – or left – hand side of defense. In just his second La Liga appearance of the season, Montoya was "thrown in at the deep-end", replacing the injured Dani Alves in the Clasico, and despite his inexperience, Montoya helped contain the Madrid threat, before nearly winning the match with a superb shot in the 88th minute. In fact, Montoya was so composed, and so impressive in his relatively few performances for the Blaugrana that some have been calling for the Catalan full-back to start ahead of Dani Alves on the right-hand side of defense. While I don’t quite share the same view, I am extremely confident in Montoya’s abilities as and when the time comes for him to claim a regular starting berth.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

24

1684

1

2

1

0

Compared to 2011/12

+14

+1041

N/A

+1

N/A

N/A

Jordi Alba – Nominated by Kazzem and

Luis Mazariegos

Jordi Alba started 2011/12 as a regular at Valencia, usually positioned on the left-wing ahead of French full-back Jeremy Mathieu. By the end of 2012/13, Alba had scored in the final of the 2012 UEFA European Championships and was starting at left-back for the La Liga champions, FC Barcelona. And Jordi Alba isn’t just a left-back either; he is the left-back, as a string of impressive performances for the Blaugrana led to many pundits labelling Alba as the best left-back in World Football. After a debut season of that calibre, I simply cannot wait to see what Alba can bring to the table next season.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

44

3757

5

5

7

0

Compared to 2011/12

-6

-212

+2

-1

-10

-1


Gerard Piqué – Nominated by Som-i-Serem

Thanks to his enviable relationship with Colombian singer, Shakira, Gerard Piqué has (perhaps unfairly) taken a lot of criticism over the past couple of seasons, although talk of regression has certainly became a lot less common over the past twelve months. An integral part of the 2012 UEFA European Championship winning Spain squad, Piqué carried over his international form into the domestic scene, anchoring the Barcelona defense (both with and without his usual partner-in-crime, Carles Puyol) with a string of superb performances. Given that Carles Puyol is entering pre-season healthy, and that Barcelona are actively searching for another world-class central defender, 2013/14 could turn out to be a career season for Gerard Piqué.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

44

3627

3

0

10

1

Compared to 2011/12

+6

+889

+1

-2

+1

N/A

Adriano Correia – Nominated by

BenX6

Who needs a real centre-half when we have Adriano? As the season drew to a close, Adriano became something of an inside joke amongst Culés, particularly after renewing his contract with an exorbitant (and entirely usual) buyout clause, while Barça face the prospect of losing top midfield talent Thiago Alcântara for a fraction of his market price. However, all joking aside, Adriano was a crucial part of Tito Vilanova’s title winning team, and who knows where we would be if not for his wonder-goal in December’s pivotal clash with Atletico Madrid? Voted into a number of journalist’s La Liga "XI of the Season", Adriano improved leaps and bounds under the management of Vilanova, proving himself to be capable of filling in all across the defensive line – and in a small squad, utility players of Adriano’s talent are virtually invaluable.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

34

2113

6

2

6

1

Compared to 2011/12

-6

-472

+3

-7

+3

+1

Cesc Fàbregas – Nominated by Al Benson and

Arron Duckling

Just as Alexis Sánchez’ second season with the club was actually statistically weaker than his first, we saw the same trend develop with Fabregas; although one could argue that Cesc Fàbregas’ second year at FC Barcelona was actually an improvement upon his first. For starters, Fàbregas’ statistical "dip" in the second half of the season was a lot less pronounced than it was in his first season at the Camp Nou – and as a result, that meant that we saw a Cesc Fàbregas who contributed from Jornada 1 right through to Jornada 38 – literally, as Fàbregas scored a goal in Barça’s final match of the season against Malaga. Able to thrive in both a central midfield position, and in the false nine role vacated by Lionel Messi; Fàbregas proved himself to be one of Barcelona’s most productive players. Now established as a crucial member of this first team squad, it’s only fair we give Fàbregas the recognition he so richly deserves.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

48

3240

14

12

10

0

Compared to 2011/12

N/A

-75

-1

-8

+2

N/A

Andrés Iniesta – Nominated by Wahhaj Syed

At 29 years of age, Andrés Iniesta is arguably reaching his peak as a midfielder; which is some accomplishment given all he has achieved in his illustrious career to date. The Best Player at the 2012 UEFA European Championships, Andrés Iniesta entered the new season at Barcelona with a couple of question marks surrounding his fitness: how could a player who was once so prone to injury continue to perform at such a high level, without a summer of rest? Would the years of 60+ games per season weigh heavy on his ageing legs? Not in the slightest. Iniesta began the season with a bang, assisting Barcelona’s fifth goal off the bench against Real Sociedad, and continued in a similar vein four days later, setting up two of the Blaugrana goals in a 3-2 Clasico win. As the weeks passed, Iniesta’s assist tally sky-rocketed – and statistically speaking, Andrés was performing better under new coach, Tito Vilanova, than he ever had under Pep Guardiola or Frank Rijkaard. Cristiano Ronaldo may receive the plaudits, but 2012/13 should go down as the season that Iniesta finally secured his place as the second best footballer on the planet.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

48

3512

6

22

5

0

Compared to 2011/12

+1

+244

-2

+9

-2

N/A

Lionel Messi – Nominated by IamisFCB and

FCB4Ever

Every single season Lionel Messi sets a new standard, with a string of other-worldly performances, only to raise that standard the very next year. And every single season, we wonder whether it’s even possible for Messi to improve – yet, he does it anyway, and what is amazing is that he makes it look so effortless. While Messi scored 73 goals in 2011/12, it soon became apparent that he could improve yet further, as he netted in 19 (!!!!) consecutive La Liga appearances. Not only that, but Cesar Rodriguez’ long-standing record of 192 goals for the Blaugrana in La Liga action was also surpassed by the diminutive Argentine – and the scary thought is that we all know Messi will find some way to improve next season as well.

Appearances

Minutes

Goals

Assists

Yellow Cards

Red Cards

50

4078

60

18

2

0

Compared to 2011/12

-10

-212

-13

-19

-5

N/A

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