A LOOK AT LA LIGA
As the Liga season takes a break, it's a time for reflection and a look at who has caught the eye in the first half of the season.
It says plenty about the competiveness of the Spanish league when I can cast from most clubs to make up my team of the season so far.
There are so many worthy candidates to choose from but Sergio Asenio gets the number one shirt. He's returned from three major career-threatening operations as the rock behind the best defence in La Liga at Villarreal.
Joao Cancelo has been a shining light in a dark season for Valencia and it may win him a move to Barcelona. At left back, I'm going for Jaume Costa, another of the Villarreal success stories.
I'm trying to think out of the Barcelona and Real Madrid boxes when I can but there's no one to touch Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos who have been at the peak of their world-class powers so far.
Holding things together will be Steven N'Zonzi who has developed from a soldier at Stoke into a sergeant-major at Sevilla. Alongside him Roque Mesa is the heart and soul of the spirited Las Palmas team. Pablo Fornals is my revelacion of the season so far: the Malaga youngster has matured with every game and he will be on the radar of some major clubs.
Willian Jose has been the key to Real Sociedad's above par performances this season. He's floated around the leagues but has found place to establish himself in San Sebastián and he's thriving. I'm going to give a place to Iago Aspas who returned to La Liga with his reputation harmed after a spell at Liverpool but he is now the leading Spanish scorer and has rightly won a place in the national team. Leading the side will be Lionel Messi. There were fears that he may be reaching the autumn days of his career but he has been nothing short of sensational. He's learned to pace himself and then explode spectacularly, as he did in the final game before the break against Espanyol.
So no place for Cristiano Ronaldo but he won't worry about missing out on one accolade and he appears to be regaining his powers after an energy-sapping summer.
Jorge Sampaoli will be assistant manager as he's brought a fresh approach to Sevilla in his early months in charge. The coach of the season so far has to be Zinedine Zidane who has guided Real Madrid to the top of the league and managed the egos magnificently at the Bernabéu.