Liverpool spell made Iago Aspas a meme in England, but exceptional Celta Vigo star is now LaLiga’s most important player

Liverpool spell made Iago Aspas a meme in England, but exceptional Celta Vigo star is now LaLiga’s most important player

For some people outside of Spain, Iago Aspas remains nothing more than a meme, a GIF of a badly taken corner from five years ago.

A pity, because as he reaches the twilight of his career, the Galician is one of those few players it is always worth changing the channel to watch.

Aspas is much, much more than the meme English football fans remember him as

He may just be LaLiga’s most important player at present; so pivotal, in fact, that he’s almost single-handedly deciding the outcome of the Spanish relegation battle.

Aspas is exceptional. Exceptional enough that, despite playing for a team that has been scrapping it out around the drop zone since the turn of the year, and despite missing 11 of 34 rounds of fixtures, he is on course to finish as the top Spanish goalscorer in LaLiga for the third consecutive year.

If he does win the Trofeo Zarra once again, he will become only the second player to do so more than twice in their career.

The other is David Villa. Not exactly bad company to keep.

Aspas has scored 16 league goals this season, despite missing 11 games

It is not an exaggeration to say that there are two Celtas these days. The Celta with Iago and the one without.

The good Celta… and the awful Celta.

When Aspas first got injured back on December 22, his goals and assists had propelled them to 10th in the table. Without him, during Aspas’ absence, Celta went on to win only one of five matches, tumbling all the way down to 18th.

When he suffered a further setback things got truly catastrophic, and they couldn’t win a single match in five further rounds.

There was an element of self-fulfilling prophecy to it all – without their talisman on the pitch, it felt like Celta had accepted defeat before a ball was kicked.

Balaidos seemed to be waiting for the talisman to return, the league season apparently on pause.

Except it wasn’t – as the matches ran down, the chances of escaping the drop did too.

No one would envy the pressure on the 31-year-old’s shoulders when he finally made his comeback against Villarreal at the end of March, but the evidence of how he reacted to it was conclusive. Celta won for the first time in six matches. Aspas scored his team’s first and then the winner late in the game, before coming off to rest, his job done.