With the LaLiga Santander title set to be decided in the coming days, we run through some of the most memorable and iconic sides – whether they be one-off winners or dynasties – to have won the prized trophy.
‘Super Depor!’: RC Deportivo (1999/00)
The final day of the 1999-2000 season was perhaps one of the most memorable season finales in recent memory, with RC Deportivo finally winning their first-ever – and, to date, last – LaLiga title after years of close shaves and heartbreak. A resurgent Depor side emerged in the 1990s as one of LaLiga’s top sides and finished second in agonising fashion in both 1993/94 and 1994/95. The 93/94 finale will live for ever in the memories of LaLiga fans unable to forget how Depor came within a second-half stoppage time penalty of the title, only to see Miroslav Djukic miss from 11 yards out. All those demons were finally cast away in 2000, however, with a star-studded side featuring the likes of free-scoring Dutchman Roy Makaay, mercurial Brazilian Djalminha, Moroccan defensive rock Noureddine Naybet and prolific striker Diego Tristan powered its way to the title ahead of Barcelona in style. They weren’t known as Super Deporfor nothing.
‘La Quinta del Buitre’: Real Madrid (1985-1990)
The so-called Quinta del Buitre Real Madrid side of the late 1980s was one of the most dominant dynasties in LaLiga history, winning five consecutive league titles between 1985 and 1990. Led by the hometown hero Emilio Butragueño and featuring the likes of Latin American stars Jorge Valdano and Hugo Sanchez – who won four consecutive LaLiga top scorer awards between 1984 and 1988 and then again in 1989-90 – the Bernabeu outfit dominated Spanish football like almost no side before or since. That generation also continues to figure prominently in the memory of Real Madrid fans and hold great sway; Butragueño is now the club’s Director of Institutional Relations.
‘The Dream Team’: FC Barcelona (1990-1994)
It would take a great team to displace Butragueño’s Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga ladder… and Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ at Barcelona was that team. The Dutchman returned to the club he’d become a living legend at in the 1970s in 1988 and led them to four consecutive titles between 1990 and 1994 with a side featuring a mix of international stars, such as Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman, and Spanish talents including Andoni Zubizarreta, Jose Maria Bakero and a certain Pep Guardiola. The so-called Dream Team – which took its name from the iconic USA basketball side which won Olympic Gold at the 1992 Olympics held in the city – is remembered today not just for their quality football but also for the dramatic style in which they won their LaLiga titles. The blaugrana won the title on the final day of the season in three consecutive seasons: in 1991/92 and 1992/93 to edge out Real Madrid and again, almost unbelievably, to leapfrog RC Deportivo in 1993/94 after the Galicians missed a stoppage-time penalty which would have handed them the title. If you like drama injected into your football, the Barcelona Dream Team of the early 1990s is the team for you.
‘One match at a time’: Atletico de Madrid (2013/14)
Sandwiched between a series of championships for Barcelona and Real Madrid – the two dominant sides of European football in the 2010s – is one LaLiga title which will live long in the memory: Atletico de Madrid and Diego Simeone’s historic 2013/14 triumph. Based on a strong defensive foundation but also spearheaded by a wealth of attacking talent such as Diego Costa, David Villa and Arda Turan, Atleti put together an unforgettable season which saw them pip Barcelona to the title on the final day of the season – in a dramatic, winner-takes-all encounter at the Camp Nou – and reach the final of the Champions League only to lose in agonising fashion after extra time to city
rivals Real Madrid. 2014 finally saw Atleti put together a title-winning campaign after years of promising much and delivering little, and also wrote Simeone’s most famous mantra – ‘partido a partido’ (‘one match at a time’) – into the hearts and minds of Atleti fans all over the world.
Rafa Benitez’s Valencia (2001/02, 2003/04)
Valencia CF came within a hair’s width of glory in both 2000 and 2001, reaching the Champions League final in both years only to come up short when it really mattered. Valencia fans might have felt that they’d never have a better shot at some serious silverware, but the best was yet to come. Rafa Benitez took over from Hector Cuper in 2001 and the effect was instantaneous, leading the team to the LaLiga title in his first season in charge. The Valencia side of the mid-00s was known for its attacking firepower, boasting the likes of Pablo Aimar, John Carew and Mista, but also resolute at the back, led by the imposing Argentine centre-back Roberto Ayala. After a ‘second-year slump’ in 2003, Valencia returned with a vengeance in 2003/04, winning a second LaLiga title under Benitez in the space of just three seasons – and the sixth in club history – in addition to the UEFA Cup.