Penpics of Barcelona players

AFP, Wednesday 11 May 2011

Penpics of five Barcelona players that played a key role behind their 2010/11 league title win


LIONEL MESSI (33 games, 31 goals) - The irrepressible Messi put his disappointing World Cup behind him in style with another incredible season scoring 31 league goals and retaining the Ballon D'Or award for the world's best player.

Messi scored 34 goals in the league last season to win the Pichichi award for the league's top-scorer last season and followed that up with another impressive haul.

The 23-year-old Argentine did not score in the 5-0 'El Clasico' drubbing of Real Madrid at Nou Camp, but played a key role with several assists and scored a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu that effectively ended their title hopes.

Messi tortured Real in the Champions League scoring twice in the 2-0 semi-final first leg win in Madrid and his wonderful second goal - when he beat five players with a mazy dribble from the half way line - was another example of his genius.

"He (Messi) has always been the best and will be for many years," said team mate Victor Valdes. "We are fortunate to have him in our team."

XAVI HERNANDEZ (31 games, 3 goals) - Experienced playmaker Xavi pulled the strings in the Barcelona midfield knitting together his side's slick passing game in another stellar season.

The 31-year-old Spain international was an ever present for his team as he put his niggling injury problems behind him to win a sixth league title in Barcelona's colours.

Xavi weighed in with a crucial opening goal in the 5-0 rout of Real Madrid at Nou Camp and was a model of consistency with his composure in possession and eye for a killer pass making him irreplaceable.

After lifting the World Cup with Spain in the summer, Xavi was one of three Barcelona players shortlisted for the Ballon D'Or but finished in second place behind team-mate Messi.

VICTOR VALDES ( 31 games, 0 goals) - Goalkeeper Valdes is often an unsung hero among Barcelona's galaxy of superstars but the homegrown keeper had another fine season between the sticks as Barcelona had the best defence in the league for the third successive campaign.

With Barcelona controlling possession in most of their games, Valdes was often a bystander but, when called upon, the shot-stopper made some vital saves at key times in the season.

Valdes, 29, also shone through his brilliant distribution with his accurate passing and long throws ensuring Barcelona could play the ball back and still retain possession.

Valdes won the World Cup as Spain's third-choice goalkeeper and is the club's most successful custodian in history with five league titles and two Champions League crowns to his name.

GERARD PIQUE (31 games, 3 goals) - Towering centre-back Pique enjoyed a fine campaign as Barcelona conceded a miserly 20 goals in 36 league games and had the best defensive record in the division.

Pique, 24, provided much-needed height to the Barca defence with his 1.91m frame and the Spain World Cup winner took on extra responsibility with veteran captain Carles Puyol missing a large chunk of the season with a knee injury.

The former Manchester United defender was a stalwart in defence and his trademark surges from defence helped launch attacks and underlined why he has earned the nickname 'Piquenbauer' in reference to German legend Franz Beckenbauer.

His public relationship with Colombian singer Shakira earned him headlines off the field, but he made news on the pitch too and scored a vital second half winner in a 1-0 win at Villarreal in what was a huge step towards the league title.

DAVID VILLA (34 games, 18 goals) - Spain World Cup winner Villa was Barcelona's marquee signing after joining from Valencia for 40 million euros and showed he was worth every euro with a fine debut campaign.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic heading for AC Milan, the goals onus was on Villa and the forward delivered 18 league goals to date in his first season at the club including two goals in the historic 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid at Camp Nou.

Villa, 29, was employed on the left and right flanks of Barcelona's three-man striking trident and his shooting from distance with both feet gave Barcelona a new dimension.

Villa, who also surpassed Raul's Spain goalscoring record, set up several goals with slide-rule passes and established a real rapport with Messi.

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