Player of Week 24: Xabi Prieto

When a Coach takes over at a new club the reaction of the players already present will do a lot to determine his success – or otherwise. David Moyes knows that only too well. If the gossip is to be believed it was a failure to win over the likes of Rio Ferdinand that set his Manchester United tenure down a difficult path but on Sunday’s evidence, the Scot has the whole of Real Sociedad pulling for him.

La Real triumphed by the odd goal in seven and two of them came from 31-year-old Prieto. It wasn’t a game admirers of solid defending would have appreciated but having added the scalp of Sevilla to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, the Basques have now beaten four of La Liga’s top five. It’s Moyes’ most important win since replacing Jagoba Arrasate and that it came with Carlos Vela still injured is another feather in his cap.

If it wasn’t for Prieto, though, Moyes would be left wondering how La Real threw it away. They took an early lead through Imanol Agirretxe, re-gained the advantage shortly after half-time and had more chances to score throughout the match before Carlos Bacca levelled and Kevin Gameiro’s penalty put Sevilla ahead. Prieto’s second goal, in the last minute, eased any lingering relegation fears and earned him 35 EuroFantasyLeague points.

It was a first win in three for Real Sociedad and the second and third goals of the season for Prieto, La Real’s loyal captain. Having spent his entire career at Anoeta, Prieto has seen the highs and the lows and watched star names come and go, some moving on to bigger and better things and others finding the grass isn’t always greener. With Antoine Griezmann’s departure to Atletico – compounded by Vela’s injury – someone had to fill the scoring and creating void.

Prieto did so with aplomb. He showed a cool head to convert the first spot kick of the game in the 48th minute and exquisite timing to be there to score for the final time in the match in the 90th, and while Moyes doesn’t have the resources to work with at La Real that he did at United, for as long as he has players the character of Prieto, he might not need them. It’s difficult to buy the kind of dedication the midfielder has shown throughout his career.

The win means La Real are into the top half and pulling away from the strugglers. To be sure of a stress-free end to the campaign they need consistency, a run of good results that breeds confidence and optimism for next year. And for that they need more of the same from Prieto. He’s done it for more than a decade, so a few more months is certainly not beyond him.

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