An end-of-year round-up of Spanish football

Few clubs have been able to splash the cash and have called on homegrown talent

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

As La Liga clubs reflect on 2021, most will remember the year fondly, as the achievements have been shared across the country.

Only Barcelona will declare it as 'annus horribilis' amongst the major clubs. but the future looks much brighter at the Camp Nou.

Real Madrid will be delighted to be at the top heading into 2022 with Carlo Ancelotti wisely overseeing the transition and there's the prospect of Kylian Mbappe getting on-board in the summer.

Atletico may be underachieving right now but they can look back on a year when they claimed the title for only the second time in a quarter of a century.

Real Sociedad won their first silverware in 34 years by beating Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final which was held over from 2020. They also made a smart start to this campaign and have advanced to play RB Leipzig in the knockout stages of the Europa League.

Even Athletic Bilbao will be happy with playing two Copa finals in the space of a fortnight, although they lost both.

Villarreal finally claimed a title after many years of disrupting the big clubs. The night they outshot Manchester United in a Europa League final shoot-out that went to the 21st penalty will never be forgotten. They are continuing the European adventure in the Champions League with Juventus on the calendar.

Sevilla and Real Betis have both had a great year. Sevilla could improve on last year's fourth place and Real Betis, 6th last season, are also in the equation. Both will be representing Andalucía when European football reconvenes. Betis also have the top scoring Spaniard in Juanmi.

The most romantic story belongs to Rayo Vallecano. The humble Madrid club finished sixth in the Segunda, won the play-offs and somehow managed to go into the break in fourth place. Just imagine Champions League football at their three-sided stadium off the beaten track in the capital.

As mentioned above, it has been a disastrous twelve months for FC Barcelona. The president was run out of office, his successor revealed a horrific financial state of affairs, and they couldn't offer their greatest player ever a new contract. Life after Messi has been miserable however the only way is up.

In adversity, Pedri, Gavi and Nico González have been fast-tracked to become first-team regulars. Uruguayan Ronald Araujo has developed into a top-class centre half, Ansu Fati will be back soon and Ferran Torres is on the radar. The future looks bright for new coach Xavi and the Spain national team who can draw on some incredible emerging talent who will be playing together week in and week out for the same club.

In conclusion, 2021 was a trying year for Spanish football clubs as they have been financially challenged by the pandemic. Few have been able to splash the cash – but, in many ways, that is a good thing. Coaches have been forced to call upon homegrown talent and that is proving healthy for Spanish football as the national team reached the finals of the Nations League and Olympics.

It may not be exactly out-with-the-old, but it's certainly a case of in-with-the-new. Happy New Year to you all.