This month has been a busy one. It looked like many of these players and their teams were going to let strong positions slip, and although some still have, others have managed to turn it around and remain on course to make dreams come true by the end of the season. This month has had the added bonus (or not, depending on how you view it!) of the International break, and almost half of the players on this list were involved for their nations. Read on about how they all fared below...
The Gold Category
Martin Ødegaard - (Vitesse Arnhem, Eredivisie)
Martin Ødegaard has set remarkably high standards for himself this season after the last few months he has had. Although this month he has not been able to meet those standards, March still proved to be as important to him than any other. It started off splendidly too, as Martin was the best player on the pitch in Vitesse’s 4-1 win over Breda. The Norwegian was involved in three of his sides four goals, forging out two direct assists for himself. The next game could also be considered as successful, as Vitesse held one of the big boys Feyenoord to a 1-1 draw at home. Martin had another really good performance in one of the types of games that he needs to become comfortable with, and could have easily had an assist, but also contributed pretty well defensively. The rest of the month was more muted from both Ødegaard and the team. They were defeated 3-2 by high flying Heracles in an away match that saw Martin play well again and add some smooth highlights to his gigantic collection, but ultimately fail to impose himself on the game as he would’ve planned to. The final game of the month for his club brought much of the same, as Martin put in a good shift against Ado Den Haag by anyone else’s standards, but didn’t provide the influence that we have become used to expecting. They drew the game 3-3, slumping Vitesse down to the bottom of the European play-off places, which translated as a poor standing for one of the better teams in the league.
Perhaps the most substantial part of the month came with international duty, as Martin was called up into the Norwegian senior national team to face Spain and geographic rivals Sweden. Martin made his senior international debut for Norway at the historic age of 15, but despite being more than good enough for years now, he has never been able to nail down a starting place since. This call-up would change everything. Martin was handed a start against Spain at the Mestella, and although Norway’s defensive game plan was more than disappointing, making sure that they got absolutely minimal possession, Martin still made a strong impression. He was one of Norway’s best outfield players, and always looked to keep calm on the ball and try and create something for his teammates. The performance was by no means stellar, and was actually atrocious for the opening periods as Norway were getting rocked, and Martin looked hesitant to get stuck in. Defensively he formed part of the blame for the first goal, and could have been at fault for another if not for the excellent Norwegian keeper. After settling into the game he began to work his magic more and more, and ended up looking very nimble against the likes of Busquets and Ramos. He even won the official skill of the day from UEFA for a snatch away against Busquets. The importance of a game like this, against a team like that, in front of fans like those is substantial, and his performance all be reaffirmed many peoples belief in him. Against Sweden, Norway altered their game plan, which was good to see. Playing in-front of an almost sold out home crowd, it was important that they picked up a result against a team that provides direct competition for a place at the Euro’s in 2020. Again, this was not one of Martin’s typical performances, but he was one of Norway’s better players again, and his side were in dreamland when they went 2-0 up. Sweden did not back down, though - and pulled in back to 2-2 late on, before seemingly notching the winner in Injury time. Martin was still on the pitch, and geared up for a Modrić esque corner in the dying seconds. His in-swinger was incredible - like it has been so many times this season - and it was just asking to be headed in by Kamara to level the scores very late on. An assist with one of the last kicks of the game. He may not have brought his best performances with him, but now Martin Ødegaard can finally say that he is an international starter for Norway.
Borja Mayoral - (Levante, La Liga)
Borja has brought in some more minimal statistics to add to the pot. His only goal of the month was enough to earn Levante a point against Real Sociedad, and he played the full 90 against Eibar as his side earned a 2-2 draw and looked to pull away from the relegation zone. Mayoral was another player called up for international duty, as he started for Spain under-21s in their 1-0 win over Romania. He then came off the bench in the 3-0 over Austria, but could not get on the score-sheet in either game. I’m still waiting out for the month when this man really jumps onto the scene with a hot goal-scoring streak. Awesome April anyone?
Aleix Febas - (Albacete, La Liga2)
I’m enjoying Albacete’s season more than most of the other stories coming out of this tracker so far. The total outsiders coming out of nowhere to try and claim promotion into the best league in the world. And Real Madrid’s two loanee’s have been an integral part of the journey. March was tough for Albacete, but they are still hanging on up there and Aleix Febas has been excellent on the battlefield. This month brought about his first goal for the club, and it was a gorgeous strike from outside of the box that did the trick. The team had five fixtures this month, and after losing the first two it looked like it could become a disaster. Aleix featured in the first defeat to Cádiz, but was rested in the second against Gimnàstic. He then came back with a bang, playing the entire game in the 1-0 win over Extremadura. The following week was the best of the lot. He was exceptional against Lugo in the 3-0, scoring his goal - and making the LaLiga2 team of the week. The next game saw Albacete have the chance to regain that automatic promotion spot against Tenerife, and Aleix started as the team were winning right until injury time, when an equaliser was bundled in to make the score 2-2. Still, Albacete sit in third place, one point behind Granada in that all important second spot. The dream is still very much on and alive. Aleix Febas also takes the star player of the month, not only for his efforts this month - but over the entire season. Well deserved!
Es jueves y se estrena un #LaLiga123Magazine muy albacetista.— Albacete Balompié (@AlbaceteBPSAD) March 21, 2019
Entrevista con @LuisMiguelRamis
Y @FebasAleix en 1️⃣1️⃣ de la jornada
Horarios en :
▪Sábado: 11/15h pic.twitter.com/wTNy4pYubp
Álvaro Tejero - (Albacete, La Liga2)
Tejero was just as good in all of this, and together with Martin Ødegaard forms the podium for star player of the month. Unlike Febas, Tejero played every single minute in March, as he has all season bar two games. He has also managed to add numbers to his game every month, and March was no different. In the same game that Febas scored a wonder goal against Lugo, Tejero also smashed home a pile-driver from a long way out. That was his first goal for the club, but his contributions did not stop there. He picked up an assist in the next game against Tenerife, which looked to have been the goal to send them up to second place, but a late equaliser snuffed out the excitement. Can March see Albacete climb up the table make those La Liga dreams a reality?
The Silver Category
Raúl de Tomás - (Rayo Vallecano, La Liga)
Another great month for de Tomás. He was another player to play every minute during March, and added a further two goals to his impressive tally. The first came against the mighty Barcelona, and it was beautiful. The striker cut inside before curling an effort past Ter Stegen from outside of the box to give his side the lead. They lost the game 3-1 in the end, but admiration for Raúl continued to grow. After losses against Girona and Villarreal, de Tomás was at it again, securing a vital point for his side after scoring against Betis in the 1-1 draw. The task to survive relegation looks mighty severe, but if they can keep Raúl de Tomás playing well and banging in the goals, then they might just have a chance.
Óscar Rodríguez - (Leganés, La Liga)
Óscar was very close to playing every minute of March, but picked up a suspension due to an accumulation of yellows and had to sit out of the Atlético Madrid game. He still completed every game elsewhere, and picked up a very well taken goal in the 1-0 win over Mayoral’s Levante. In that game he also hit the woodwork via a trademark free-kick. Leganés lost 2-0 to Girona upon Óscar’s return, before beating fourth placed Getafe 2-0. If Rodríguez continues to shine like this then he will leapfrog a fair few of the other talented youngsters at Real Madrid in the queue for places. My mind is starting to ponder on next season and what will happen with him...
Andriy Lunin - (Leganés, La Liga)
Clean Sheets: 0
This has been the busiest month of the season for Andriy Lunin. He was gifted a start in the big game against Atlético Madrid after Iván Cuéllar was suspended. He looked good as well, making a string of saves before saving a penalty. The rebound from very close range was tapped in whilst Lunin was down, allowing Atlético to score the only goal of the game in a 1-0 defeat. That wasn’t it for Lunin, as he was called up to the Ukrainian national team for games against Luxembourg and Ronaldo’s Portugal, but could only make the substitutes bench. A very talented young keeper, if Castilla miraculously got promoted (which is highly unlikely) then it could be worth having him play there for a season, but I do reckon he is good enough to give La Liga a good go. May we pray for more suspensions next month.
The Bronze Category
Lusimi Quezada - (Córdoba, La Liga2)
It looks to have been an absolutely disastrous month for Luismi Quezada. He played no games whatsoever during March, and his side look all but destined for relegation to Segunda B. Now, there could be an explanation for this. Perhaps it Luismi has picked up some sort of injury that hasn’t been very well reported, as it is a tad unusual that he isn’t even making match-day squads at the moment. However, he did make the bench once in the middle of March, for the loss against Extremadura, which does raise suspicion. If March doesn’t improve the situation or provide some clarity on his status, then his season could well become completely catastrophic.
Sergio Díaz - (Corinthians, Brasileiro Série A)
Sergio is now fit, and featured once last month, but this month did not play at all. The rumours in the papers are that Corinthians are not impressed, and he will be leaving the club in the coming months to return to Madrid. Still only 21 years of age, as long as Santiago Solari does not worm his way back into a job, then I think Castilla is the only thing that Díaz needs next season. Until then lets just hope that he can play as many minutes as possible.
Achraf Hakimi - (Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga)
It’s been a pretty good month for Dortmund, but it could well be a nightmare for Achraf Hakimi Personally. Achraf featured in every game for Dortmund as they won three out of four, and returned to the top of the tree in the Bundesliga. He was also called up to the Moroccan national team where he played the entire game in a 1-0 defeat to Argentina. Nothing too bad so far, right? The problem arose against Wolfsburg, when Hakimi picked up an injury that forced him to leave the pitch. Further tests have implied that Achraf’s season could well be over, and that he will need surgery on his right foot. The comeback that Dortmund have made to top the league has been excellent, and Achraf deserves that Bundesliga medal come the end of the season. At this point we can only wish him a very speedy recovery.
The White Category
Pablo Margallo - (Unión Adarve, Segunda División B)
A further month of no-shows for Margallo. Not really any further comments to add.
Lin Liangming - (Almería (B), La Liga2/Segunda División B)
Lin’s month has been quite a confusing one. It’s always hard to gather information from the Chinese national teams, but it is clear that Lin spent the majority of the month with the Chinese under-23 team, and even scored and got an assist in at least one of the games, against the Philippines. Because of this, he did not feature for any Almería side during March.
4-0 Lin Liangming comme à l'entraînement. Si ça fini pas à 8 ou 10-0 ça sera un désappointement. pic.twitter.com/UFywmLdHKW— Seb66 赛博 (@seb_perpignan) March 24, 2019
March brought some twists to the stories of the season so far, but there is still so much to play for. Every player on this list has personal targets to meet, as well as historic team goals to try and achieve, and anything can change and happen with the blow of a whistle. I really hope that Achraf’s injury is not as serious as implied, as it would be a sad way to end a sensational season for him. Hopefully his team can go on to bring back the medals for him either-way. Quezada’s season appears to be in jeopardy, and it doesn’t look like fortunes will change for Díaz, Lunin, or Margallo either. This time next month I think we will know a lot more about how many of these seasons are shaped to pan out...
Star Player: Aleix Febas.