In Pictures: European stars, surprises and flops at the winter breaks
December 24, 2013
La Liga Star of the Season: Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid. The 19-goal striker is Spain's leading scorer. He's managed another four in Europe too. Just as his team have managed to crack the Barca/Real Madrid duopoly, so Costa has dented the goalscoring dominance enjoyed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Brazilian who will now play for Spain is strong, fast and, crucially, his temperament has calmed under Diego Simeone. He also loves playing for Atletico, he's versatile and can play across the front three. Right now, he's devastating in centre. Dani Pozo / AFP
La Liga Flop of the Season: Asier Illarramendi, Real Madrid. Eyebrows were raised when Madrid paid €40 million (Dh201.4m) for the Real Sociedad midfielder in July. The 23 year old had impressed for the Basques as they finished a surprise fourth, but €40 million? Overcome by anxiety when he arrived, he failed to settle quickly. After five months, he's played just 532 minutes of league football and has finished 90 league minutes only once. He's talented and has a bright future ahead, but expectations will be high given his price. Denis Doyle / Getty Images
La Liga Surprise of the Season: Isco, Real Madrid. After costing €30 million (Dh150.7m) from Malaga, the midfielder was hardly a snip when he arrived at the Bernabeu in July. Playing for Madrid can overwhelm, yet Isco, who is still only 21, settled immediately alongside bigger names and is a foil behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. Zinedine Zidane calls him 'the most talented footballer in his generation'. Less than halfway through his first season at his new club, he's already played 21 games and scored eight goals. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images
Bundesliga Star of the Season: Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich. Brilliant last season and just as effective in making Bayern winter champions under the new coach Pep Guardiola. The France winger will be miffed if he does not win the Ballon d’Or. John MacDougall / AFP
Bundesliga Flop of the Season: Hamburg. When only four points from their first five matches left them 15th in the table, the coach Thorsten Fink was fired. Bert van Marwijk, World Cup finalist with Holland in 2010, came in. Maddeningly inconsistent, they now stand … 14th. Angelika Warmuth / EPA
Bundesliga Surprise of the Season: Sami Hyypia, Bayer Leverkusen. In his first season in sole charge as coach, the Finn, above, negotiated Leverkusen though a tough Champions League group and into a surprise second in the table.
Serie A Star of the Season: Giuseppe Rossi, Fiorentina. After the best part of two years out injured, Fiorentina’s gamble on the full recovery of the American-born Italy striker has paid off superbly. With 14 goals, he leads the league’s scorers and is back in the national side. Serena Campanini / EPA
Serie A Flop of the Season: AC Milan. Thirteenth in the table, 1-0 losers in the Milan derby on Sunday and site of a power struggle at boardroom level, little has gone right for Mario Balotelli, right, and the 2011 league champions. But they do remain in the Champions League. Daniel Dal Zennaro / EPA
Serie A Surprise of the Season: Gervinho, Roma. When Arsenal sold the enigmatic Ivorian to Roma for €9 million (Dh45.3m), Arsenal felt they had the better of the deal. No player has been as influential in guiding Roma to second spot. Often, he has dazzled. Alberto Pizzoli / AFP
Ligue 1 Star of the Season: Vincent Enyeama, Lille. The goalkeeper commands the best defence in the league, has broken clean-sheet records and helped make the top of the table a tale not just of the big-spending PSG and Monaco. Benoit Tessier / Reuters
Ligue 1 Flop of the Season: Javier Pastore, Paris Saint-Germain. The Argentine cost close to €40 million (Dh201.4m), a marquee signing from Palermo to launch PSG’s moneyed era. More than two years later, Pastore, now 24, gets picked in the starting XI for fewer than half their games. Thomas Samson / AFP
Ligue 1 Surprise of the Season: Emmanuel Riviere, Monaco. The 23 year old striker, part of Monaco’s promotion side last season, might have expected a fringe role given the club’s star summer imports. With his eight goals so far, he has made his case for a place in the first XI. Valery Hache / AFP
Ian Hawkey identifies the the top players, disappointments and pleasant surprises from Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 while Andy Mitten offers his candidates from La Liga as Europe takes a football break for winter.