A LOOK AT LA LIGA
Gareth Bale ditching the lap of appreciation was symbolic; for not just him but many in a very strange and unspectacular season in La Liga.
It now seems that the circuit of the stadium at the final home game of the season is obligatory, even if it means waving to empty seats or quickening the step to get it over with. There are few clubs where there was reason for celebration and adulation.
Obviously, Barcelona deserve a salute for winning the league but there was still emptiness as nobody ran them close and they were scarred by the Champions League semi-final debacle.
The grandest celebration was at Espanyol who qualified for European football for the first time since reaching the UEFA Cup final twelve years ago. This will be tempered by the fact that the players must cut their summer short and be ready for the qualifiers at the start of July.
Getafe, the club nobody used to love, earned nationwide admiration for almost making it to the Champions League. They sat in fourth spot until the final week of the season, and even for a few minutes on the last day of the season. Qualifying for the Europa League is probably better in the long term as it is a weight division they can compete in. In the Champions League they would have been battered and bruised by the heavyweights.
Valencia deserve distinction for reaching the Copa del Rey final, Europa League semis and clinching fourth spot. It's not so long ago this was a basket case of a club where Nuno, now proven to be a quality manager, was replaced by a TV pundit from the UK with little knowledge of the nuances of Spanish football.
Marcelino has 'managed' the season masterfully. At one point he was criticised for an overly cautious approach as he tried to balance domestic and European football. Come the final count he's achieved yet again, as he always does. Valencia have a deserved place in the Champions League mix and a chance of a first trophy in eleven years.
As always, the city of Seville is bemoaning a perceived lack of success. Both Real Betis and Sevilla are seeking new managers. Betis parted company with Quique Setién. There were artistic differences between the coach from the north of Spain and the fans from the south. At Sevilla, sixth wasn't regarded as good enough and Joaquín Caparrós stepped aside with his 38-year record as a coach still intact.
The best player is so obvious. It was a vintage season even by Lionel Messi's standards. Maybe we should go all American and award an MVP? The most valuable player is probably Iago Aspas. His 20 goals in 27 games are the reason Celta Vigo remained ahead of the relegated pack and retain their top-flight status.
There's so much to dissect but the outright winner for the oddest signing of the season was Kevin Prince-Boateng at Barcelona. He arrived from the Serie A shadows of Sassuolo to the spotlight of the Camp Nou. It was hoped that he'd prove to be an experienced short-term alternative, just like Paulinho previously. Alas he participated in just four games, failed to score and returns to Italy with a league winners medal and another leading club on his impressive CV.
The football may be over but the intrigue has only just begun with jobs to fill, an overhaul at Atlético, new blood at Barcelona, Galácticos to be acquired at Real Madrid as Gareth Bale works on his golf handicap.
Hold the back page.