Who have been the most valuable players to all 20 La Liga teams across 2023-24 so far? We analyse the data to make a decision.
Antoine Griezmann is Atlético’s MVP and if it wasn’t for Jude Bellingham’s red-hot start to life in Spain, he would also be the entire league’s MVP without question. Griezmann’s combined 12.63 expected goals and expected assists leads La Liga this season.
Atlético Madrid are a goal machine now, and Griezmann is a large reason why. Diego Simeone has altered his approach so Atlético have more of the ball, and since Griezmann’s return, the entire attack flows through the 31-year-old. The Frenchman is playing in a more fixed position this season but in a free role, essentially deciding where and how he wants to influence the game.
He has scored 13 goals with one assist and has completed 186 forward passes, which is the most among forwards in Europe’s top five leagues this term. His importance can be summarised with his attacking sequence involvements (109). Atlético’s prodigal son is head and shoulders above anyone else in the team.
Not only technically brilliant, Girona are one of the most well-drilled sides in La Liga who are arguably a sum of their parts rather than having individual talent. That being said, Aleix García is the glue that knits it all together. They lost Oriol Romeu in the summer and it wasn’t clear how they might replace him. So, they decided to not replace him at all.
Instead of fighting for the ball and having Romeu win duels, they opted to just cut out the hassle and control possession more. García sits at the base of midfield and from there he orchestrates Girona’s game plan, sets the rhythm, relieves pressure on the defence but has also created for one of the highest-functioning attacks in Europe this season.
García has a range of passing that’s unique at Girona but also rare around Europe’s top five leagues. He is second in La Liga for completed passes this term (954), which reveals the control he exerts on Girona’s games. He has also made more successful switches of play than anyone else in La Liga this season (28), which outlines the freedom he plays with. It’s not just lateral and backwards passes with García, who has also recently been called up to Spain’s senior side for the first time.
A healthy Ronald Araújo is massive for Barcelona – their best pure defender and a colossal presence. Given Barcelona’s current struggles, we were tempted to highlight Frenkie de Jong for the plummeting quality of play since he got injured; they are unbeaten when the Dutchman has played this season, but despite being in a team laden with talent, it’s always Araújo who catches the eye.
Barcelona won the league last season on the back of an almost historically stingy defence. They haven’t been anywhere near that level this season, but without Araújo playing as a right-back to accommodate Jules Koundé’s desire to play centrally and to mask João Cancelo’s defensive weaknesses, it would be a lot worse. He’s been dribbled past just once across 571 minutes in La Liga this season and recently locked down Vinicius Junior in the Clásico before scoring the winning goal in added time against Real Sociedad at the start of November.
There are several doubts swirling around Barcelona and how Xavi can best utilise the players he has in his squad, but there is no doubt about Araújo’s importance and status in the team.
We would use the old cliché and say that, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would’ve heard Jude Bellingham is the best player in the world on current form. But even under most rocks, you’d probably have heard it anyway. Bellingham is inevitable. Aside from his scoring exploits, he influences Real Madrid at the level only a true Galactico can.
He has scored 11 goals in 12 games with an additional two assists in La Liga this season. Across all competitions, he’s the highest-scoring La Liga player with 15 goals in 16 games – three more than Zinedine Zidane ever scored in a single campaign from Real Madrid’s midfield – but he does everything else at the highest level too. It depends really on how you want to categorise Bellingham; as a midfielder, nobody in Europe’s top five leagues can beat his 7.46 non-penalty expected goals across all competitions. If you put him into the attacker category, his 210 successful forward passes are top among that group. He is both the orchestrator and finisher of moves.
He is Real Madrid’s present and future and the team has been built around him.
This is another MVP award that could have gone to multiple players within a team. And given how, like Girona, they are built on team chemistry and collective brilliance, it’s hard to single any one Real Sociedad player out. The entire midfield unit is so essential to Imanol Algucail’s system that it’s difficult to imagine it without Mikel Merino, Martín Zubimendi or Brais Méndez.
The fall-off in terms of quality at each of their respective positions is enormous too, which underlines their MVP status. But for the sake of this article, we have chosen Méndez, even if it could have easily been either of the other two.
He has nine goal involvements in league competition this season (five goals, four assists); after a decade without Champions League football, Real Sociedad are back among Europe’s elite and look right at home with Méndez shining particularly brightly for La Real.
Merino brings the physicality, Zubimendi the control and Méndez does a little bit of everything. He provides the bridge between midfield and attack in a team that lacks a truly convincing number nine.
Real Betis were tasked with replacing Sergio Canales after his move to Rayados in Mexico in the summer. Isco was the man chosen to fill those large, creative boots. As it turns out, he was made to play the part.
The former Real Madrid player ranks fourth in La Liga for xG assisted for teammates (3.57) behind Iago Aspas (4.59), Iñaki Williams (3.99) and Largie Ramazani (3.71). He is also joint-top for chances created along with Aspas (45) and third for expected assists (3.75) after Sávio (4.24) and Nico Williams (3.86).
After a forgettable spell with Sevilla, as much for its brevity as it was for his lack of involvement and falling out with then-sporting director Monchi, Isco signed with Betis in the hopes of reviving his career. After a stellar start to the season, there were even murmurs of a Spain recall. At 31 years old, his physicality might be on the wane, but it doesn’t seem to matter because Isco is back and he might be as good as ever.
Sevilla are on their second manager of the season after José Luis Mendilibar was sacked at the beginning of October. Diego Alonso is now in charge and playing with a very different style, but the one constant across the campaign is Ivan Rakitić. At 37, he remains the heartbeat of the team with his passing and quality on the ball but also his tireless pressing when out of possession.
He has played the most minutes of any Sevilla player this season in all competitions (1,457), also completing the most open-play passes (457) and creating the most chances from open play (16) while leading the team with 5.02 expected assists (xA) as well. Sevilla are struggling again in 2023-24, but it would be a whole lot worse without Rakitić in the middle pulling the strings.
It was always going to be a slog for Alavés this term after promotion to La Liga last season. Their goal is survival and they currently sit on 15 points in 13th place. Giuliano Simeone broke his ankle in pre-season, dashing their hopes of seeing the young Argentine in action this season, but another Simeone gifted them our pick for MVP.
Samu Omorodion started the season with Granada, played and scored against Atlético Madrid before being signed by Atlético and loaned out to Alavés. He’s scored four goals in his last eight games including one against Barcelona.
That game ended in a 2-1 loss but his other goals for Alavés have come during two draws and a victory – five precious points. The 19-year-old is giving plenty to the promoted side; he is a presence in the box and a step above the kind of talent they might normally be able to attract given their resources. He leads the team for non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 (0.88), which is more than double any other teammate to play at least 500 minutes this season and is Alavés’ secret weapon in the battle to avoid relegation.
Las Palmas have been one of the surprise packages in La Liga this season. They are a possession-based side managed by former Barcelona B coach García Pimienta; the nucleus of the team in possession is Kirian Rodríguez. The 27-year-old has been one of the best midfielders in La Liga this term and responsible for 15% of Las Palmas’ successful passes – no other teammate has had more than 10%.
In what is his first season in the top flight, he has adapted quicker than you would expect and is controlling games from the centre of the field. He is completing 76.3 passes per 90 this season in the league, which is the most among players with at least 900 minutes played. This comes in a team that many said were destined for relegation but are currently 11th, and Rodríguez recently scored the opener in a 2-1 victory over Atlético.
In a team filled with ball-dominant players, Rodríguez stands head and shoulders above them all and asserts a calm over his teammates that is present whenever he is on the field.
Celta Vigo have had a torrid time of it lately, but Iago Aspas is still affecting games on an individual level. He scored his first of the season after 13 games against Athletic Bilbao recently, but he still looks as dangerous as ever even if his numbers don’t reflect that. His effort, quality on the ball and high-quality chance creation are there for all to witness, but he’s been out of luck in front of goal.
Aspas leads the entire league in chances created from open play (31) and is tied with Federico Valverde for open-play attacking sequence involvements with 84. The Celta Vigo captain is the leader of this team with his quality and his goals but he is the spiritual leader too.
Mallorca lost Lee Kang-in to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer and drafted Sergi Darder in to replace the South Korean’s creativity. Without Darder’s inventiveness, Mallorca would be destined for the drop – they are one-dimensional in his absence and play a functional, not flashy, 4-4-2.
They’ve recorded the second-fewest open-play shots in La Liga this campaign (98) after Cádiz (78) and average 2.63 passes per possession while having had just nine build-up attacks. When they do get the ball into dangerous positions, they need it at the feet of their most creative player, Darder. He leads the team in progressive passes (27) and through balls (seven) in a side that struggles to play through teams, while crucially he’s been the player to assist 24% of their total non-penalty xG – no teammate has created more than 10%.
There hasn’t been too much to write home about for Mallorca this season but if they are to survive a relegation scrap, the 29-year-old central midfielder will play an important role.
Opta’s seasonal La Liga predictions give Almería a 71.2% chance of being relegated at the end of 2023-24. Their results aren’t doing much to add hope of staying up, with just three points after 14 games. Their big summer outlay was Luis Suárez, and while he’s scored four goals this season, it’s Largie Ramazani who gets the nod as the club’s MVP.
He hasn’t always played to his full potential since moving to Almería in 2020 from Manchester United, where he was highly rated, but he’s been a rare bright spark for the club this season. If Almería are to go down, which is looking likely, it won’t be for the lack of production from the 22-year-old. He has a team-high six goal involvements (two goals, four assists), while he is second in the team for completed dribbles (17) behind Adri Embarba – who is yet to register a goal or an assist.
Granada have struggled massively with the step up from the second division, so much so that they have sacked Paco López, the man who brought them back into the top flight, and replaced him with Alexander Medina. Regardless of who is in charge, Bryan Zaragoza will be relied upon to provide inspiration.
This is a no-brainer. In terms of production, how he alters Granada’s entire style of play and from a fan’s perspective, Zaragoza is the most important and most enjoyable player to watch for Granada.
His ball-carrying numbers speak for themselves. He has carried the ball over 2,100 metres this season, which is almost double Gonzalo Villar’s total carry distance. His carry progress is over 1,500m, nearly three times that of Richard Sánchez (638.4m), who is Granada’s second-most progressive carrier. Zaragoza is literally trying to carry his team to safety this season.
He has been so good that some of the bigger clubs in Europe have been linked recently, including RB Leipzig, who know a thing or two about young talent.
The Williams Brothers
The Williams brothers often come as a pair and it’s hard to separate them in terms of importance for Athletic. On one hand, Nico is the difference-maker; he unbalances teams with his dribbling ability. Iñaki, however, has been the most consistent of the two this season.
In terms of goals and assists, nobody comes close to Iñaki at Athletic Club. He has often been criticised for his finishing but he’s banging them in this season playing out wide instead of centrally. He has six goals and three assists after 14 games and is on pace to beat his previous best of 13 goals and four assists back in 2018-19 if he continues his form.
Nico is, of course, still only 21 and finding his feet at senior level but provides Ernesto Valverde’s side with a lot of quality on the left wing. He tilts defences towards him, freeing Iñaki up to cause problems on the right and the Spain international was rewarded with a new contract to 2027 on Friday.
Athletic look like a team who have found the formula to compete against the best thanks to the signing of Íñigo Ruiz de Galarreta, the emergence of Oihan Sancet and playing Gorka Guruzeta up front, but it’s the Williams brothers who provide the biggest threat to opponents.
Pepelu has anchored the team brilliantly, and the 25-year-old brings some maturity to the youngest team in La Liga, their starting XI having an average age of just 24 years and 99 days in 2023-24.
As the saying goes, the best ability is availability. Pepelu has played 98% of possible minutes for Valencia, the most of any of their outfielders. That’s important for a team in search of an identity and with a lot of young talent.
Among midfielders in La Liga this season, only Ander Guevara (107) and Kirian Rodríguez (96) have won possession back more times than Pepelu (87), while only Aleix García (63) and Rodríguez (62) have made more progressive passes than the Valencia man (56).
Isi Palazón is Rayo’s best overall footballer, their talisman. He has held that mantle now for a while, but his production is down this season with just two goals and a single assist in 14 La Liga games. For that reason, we chose Rayo’s goalkeeper, Stole Dmitrievski, as the team’s MVP in 2023-24.
Dimitrievski has been an ever-present for Rayo this term. The North Macedonian has conceded just 17 goals (excluding own goals) from shots totalling an xG on target of 21.4. This means his saves have a goals-prevented total of 4.4, the second best in La Liga behind Álvaro Valles (5.2), and are a big reason why Rayo are performing like they are. They currently sit 10th in the table after losing Andoni Iraola at the end of last season and replacing him with Francisco.
Ante Budimir is well on track for his best season in La Liga as a goalscorer. His seven goals in 14 appearances is just one fewer than he’s tallied in each of his last two Spanish top-flight campaigns (eight). Raúl García is a nice prospect behind him, but Osasuna would clearly suffer if they were to lose the 6-foot-3 striker in the short term. Budimir epitomises everything they are as a team. It might not always be pretty, but they’re highly functional and practical.
It was close with Lucas Torró also playing an important role at the base of midfield for Osasuna, but without Budimir’s goals, they would struggle massively. His attacking threat is far greater than any other player at the club, attempting 13 more shots (32) and more than three times as many shots on target (15) as any teammate, while his 3.89 xG from non-penalty shots is more than double anybody else at the club.
We picked yet another goalscorer for Getafe’s MVP, with Borja Mayoral getting the nod. The former Real Madrid striker has been on form for Getafe as José Bordalás tries to bring stability – which has been missing since he finished his first stint to pursue other coaching opportunities – back to the club. The infamous Bordalás-ball is not known for silky-smooth strikers but Mayoral has been on fire this season with eight goals in 14 games.
Enes Ünal was Getafe’s go-to goalscorer but he injured his knee and will miss the entire season. They’ve only scored 17 goals this term with Mayoral netting almost half of them (eight), equalling his total from 2022-23 already. In fact, one more goal will mean he’ll have reached his best goal tally in a single La Liga season across his career, with this his eighth campaign in the Spanish top flight. To do that is impressive, but to do it for Getafe under Bordalás is a near miracle.
It has been a dreadful 2023 for Villarreal and they are currently on their third manager of the season. Quique Setién started 2023-24 in charge but was sacked after four league games, with Pacheta brought in to replace him. He was then sent packing after just eight La Liga matches, with Marcelino the man chosen to replace him. Needless to say, there aren’t many redeeming qualities this term for the Yellow Submarine.
Gerard Moreno’s individual performances have been good amid the turmoil, though. He’s been involved in 10 goals (eight goals, two assists) and no Villarreal player has created more chances from open play than he has (20).
Villarreal are currently looking to the future rather than dwelling on the recent past. Álex Baena has been important before and will be key going forward under Marcelino, but we can’t look past Moreno’s quality and importance to the team as a leader.
Chris Ramos is the most dynamic player in the squad. He is important to what they are as a team as a pure number nine target man. He hasn’t had much luck in front of goal (three in 14 appearances) but Cádiz are a route-one side and Ramos has been involved in the second-most aerial duels across La Liga (128) below only Juanmi Latasa (134). He is aggressive and also willing to run between the lines.
Ramos has 2.64 non-penalty expected goals, 23 shots and 49 touches in the opposition’s box, which are all more than any other Cádiz player. With his club having the lowest average possession in La Liga (38.2%) and the third-lowest share of the ball in Europe’s top five leagues – only Metz (33.7%) and Luton Town (35.5%) see less of it – a big-bodied hold-up man is vital to ensure Cádiz don’t end up entrenched in their own half.