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La Liga is now little more than a distraction for Real Madrid. They have trailed Barcelona at the top since the early weeks of the season and have turned their attention to securing yet another Champions League title.
Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao felt suitably uneventful after the drama of last week’s Champions League quarter-final win over Juventus.
Cristiano Ronaldo is unsurprisingly one of the main contenders for Real Madrid’s player of the year, and he scored a late penalty to take his side into the last four amid the overly aggressive protestations of Gianluigi Buffon.
Ronaldo is, however, not the only player whose performances have been worthy of plaudits this season.
1. Sergio Ramos
It was clear during the second leg against Juventus just how much Real Madrid depend on Sergio Ramos. He was absent through suspension and Los Blancos appeared in disarray at the back for much of the game.
Real Madrid’s captain has been as instrumental as ever for his side this season. He has been typically domineering both domestically and in Europe, and often it has appeared that he is holding together an otherwise fragile back four.
2. Dani Carvajal
Reliability is an enviable trait in a full back. Dani Carvajal has it in spades. There are few who perform with such consistency and with such an unassuming dependability.
The right back’s contribution both in defence and attack can often go unnoticed, but it should not, because he has proved himself an important member of Zinedine Zidane’s side.
This season has been no different. Carvajal has continued to go about his work with minimal fuss and maximum effort, and his impressive form should be recognised.
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3. Carlos Henrique Casimiro
“For the balance of the team, he is without a doubt Real Madrid’s most important player,” said Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone ahead of the 2016 Champions League final. “He has changed the face of Madrid.”
Two years later it could be argued that Casemiro is even more important. Zidane perhaps values the contribution of the Brazilian in midfield more than any other player in his squad.
He provides a crucial steel to midfield and, particularly this season, has added an offensive side to his game. Casemiro has scored six goals in all competitions, including the second against Malaga on Sunday.
He is not the most glamorous player in Real Madrid’s squad, but perhaps he is the most indispensable.
4. Toni Kroos
Without Toni Kroos, Real Madrid would lack midfield creativity. The German’s range of passing is incomparable and he has shown frequently this season his ability to dominate the midfield areas.
Kroos has scored four goals and provided six assists in La Liga this season, but it is his general play that is most commendable. He ensures that his team are in constant motion, dictating the tempo of attacking moves and playing the right pass with unerring consistency.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo
Finally we come to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward, after a slow start to the season, has powered Real Madrid to a La Liga revival and another Champions League semi-final.
Ronaldo’s recent form is almost absurd: he has scored 26 goals from 16 appearances since the turn of the year and shows no sign of slowing down.
If he leads Real Madrid to another Champions League title, it will be difficult to look beyond Ronaldo as the club’s player of the year.