Spanish Soccer boasts the last two World Players of the Year and now the “Special One”
Formed in 1929, La Liga, has been a top European league ever since. Of the nearly 60 plus teams that have competed in La Liga, only 9 have been crowned champions. Real Madrid lead the way with 31 titles and Barcelona has 20 titles no other team has double digits, yet (Atletic Madrid is at 9 total). This decade only Deportiva de La Coruna and Valencia won the title from Real or Barca.
1999-00 – A New Century, how about a new Champion for the first time ever.
The 100+ year old club has come into its own this past decade. The club had reached as high as runner-up in La Liga three times prior to this decade’s start. Arsenio Iglesias led the latest sides in the mid-90’s. He managed the club on and off again since the 70’s, but only his success in the 90’s (promotion to top flight being a huge moment) have shined brightest. He is known simply as o mago de Arteixo (The wizard from Arteixo). It wasn’t until Javier Irureta was hired to manage that La Coruna would taste the ultimate glory.
He is the only person to have coached both the two major Galician (Deportivo and Celta de Vigo) and Basque (Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad) sides. He managed the longest for and received the best results during his tenure with Deportivo. In only his second year, he led Depor to its first ever league title, adding runner-up finishes in 2001 and 2002, and third-places in the following two years, while also achieving Champions League quarterfinals in 2001 and 2002 and the semifinalis in 2004. In 2002, the club also won the domestic cup, beating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Deportivo became only the 9th team to have taken home a crown, and along with Sevilla (1945-46) and Real Betis (1934-35) are the only 1-time winners. The champion team was built on the fast feet of a trio of Brazilians, a strong veteran presence and a superb goal-scoring Dutchman.
Lovable Roy Makaay scored 22 goals in 36 league games. He would peak at Deportivo as Makaay was the European Golden Boot winner for the 2002–03 season for being the top scorer in Europe.
Djalminha slotted right behind the Dutchman and gave the team its added goal-scoring punch as he netted 10 in 31 games (both highs for his career at La Coruna). The players most frequently used that campaign were: Songo’o – Romero, Naybet, Donato, Manuel Pablo – ‘Turu’ Flores, Mauro Silva, Flávio Conceiçao, Víctor Sánchez, Djalminha – Makaay.
2000-01 – Real Madrid’s period of Los Galácticos BEGINS!!
Florentino Pérez promise to bring in Luís Figo from arch-rivals FC Barcelona was real clinching point he had as he became President of the club. Perez would spend the rest of his term bringing in the biggest and brightest stars. His return to Real Madrid later in the decade would bring back this high spending era back into the fold. Another man would bring home the hard-wear though.
Vicente Del Bosque was a Real Madrid Defense stud in the 70’s and 80’s. He would take over sole charge as manager with the turn of the century. In his four seasons in charge Del Bosque ushered the club through its most successful spell in modern history, having steered the club to two UEFA Champions League titles in 2000 and 2002, two domestic La Liga titles in 2001 and 2003, a Spanish Supercup in 2001, a UEFA Super Cup in 2002, the Intercontinental Cup in 2002 as well as finishing in the last four of the UEFA Champions League every year he was in charge. Real managed 104 wins out of a possible 186 in his time as coach of Madrid. So owner and manager have been discussed who is the “player”. Well we should always look to the #10 jersey.
Portuguese Winger Luis Figo made a hugely controversial move to Barcelona’s bitter rivals Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of around £37 million. Though Figo may have been the name – a one-name gentlemen was the real fire behind the success of the club.
The heart of Real Madrid beats in Raul’s chest (Morbid but true). He has played for Spanish club Real Madrid his entire career and is the club’s all-time top goalscorer. Raúl is a three-time winner of the UEFA Champions League and has long been the competition’s all-time leading goal scorer. He is also the all-time top goalscorer for the Spanish national side, although he has not played for the team since 2006. This title season in 2000-01 he would take home his second Pichichi Trophy, as La Liga’s top goalscorer, by netting 24 goals. The 70th La Liga season would give Real its 28th title and usher in the Galaticos era.
2001-02 – Forget the Birds – THE BATS ARE COMING!!
From 1999 up until the end of the 2004 season, Valencia had one of the their most successful periods in the club’s history. With a total of two La Liga titles, one UEFA Cup, one Copa del Rey and one UEFA Super Cup, in those six years, no less than five first class titles and two UEFA Champions League finals had been achieved. The club had gone 31 years after the last title crown. There were new incorporations to the team, manager Rafael Benítez and the new players of Marchena, Mista, Curro Torres, Rufete, de los Santos and Salva.
Don Balón and El País named Rafa Manager of the Year. Rafa took over a strong and talented team. Santiago Cañizares, Roberto Ayala, Rubén Baraja, David Albelda, Vicente and Pablo Aimar provided the backbone of an already formidable side. Santiago would stand out this season as he won his first Ricardo Zamora Trophy. Its the trophy awarded to the Goalkeeper who has the lowest “goals-to-games” ratio. Santiago is tied with Juan Acuña with 4 Zamora’s, both men trail only Barca’s Antoni Ramallets who has 5.
Santiago and company only allowed 27 goals on the year. The closest team was 34 by Real Betis.
2002-03 – A bit of back and forth begins. Madrid regains the title.
The crown on top showcases why Real runs the show. This season was about goal-scoring (though they didn’t have the top goal-scorer). They scored 87 goals on the season, Real Sociedad were 2nd with 71. History was also made this season. The fastest goal in the history of the club (15 seconds) was scored by Brazilian Ronaldo on 3 December 2003 during a league match against Atlético Madrid. The end of the season would see the farewell of its Manager leader and the end of the Merengues “winning” ways.
The club would not win another major title for the next three seasons.
2003-04 – Those pesky Bats drop Guano on EVERYONE.
Valencia would bring home the hardware this year!!! They’d win the UEFA Cup, La Liga, and UEFA Super Cup. Santiago would have another stellar year in net only allowing 25 goals. Benitez main protegee Mista, would lead the team with 19 goals (tied for 3rd – ironically with Fernando Torres). Both Torres and Rafa Benitez would end up together in Liverpool. In fact this season marked Rafa’s final with the club. He would leave in the summer off-season. Also after 3 seasons FC Barcelona would return to top three status as they finished runner’s up this year. Barca would take back the league the next season.
2004-05 – Barcas BACK!!!!!
Frank and Joan.
Frank and Roni.
On the field, an influx of international players, including Ronaldinho, Deco, Henrik Larsson, Ludovic Giuly, Samuel Eto’o, and Rafael Márquez, combined with home grown Spanish players, such as Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Víctor Valdés, led to the club’s return to success. Barça won La Liga and the Supercopa de España in 2004–05, and stars Ronaldinho and Eto’o were voted first and third in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
Samuel Eto’o, his first season with Barca, would finish in second place (24 goals) on the Pichichi race behind Diego Forlan’s 25. The GK would be the real star this season though.
Victor Valdes is the most successful goalkeeper in Barcelona’s history, having won four La Liga titles, two Champions League titles, and one Copa del Rey title. In the 2004–05 season he played in almost all of Barcelona’s matches helping Barcelona to their first league title in six years. He also won the Zamora Trophy for the best goalkeeper in Spain.
2005-06 – Back-to-Back by Barca!
Eto’o would bring home his only career Pichichi trophy as he netted 26 goals (second highest in his career). The team coasted to a 12 point margin over Real Madrid for the title. The pinnacle of the league season arrived at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in a 3–0 win over Real Madrid, Frank Rijkaard’s second victory at the Bernabéu, making him the first Barça manager to win there twice. In the Champions League, Barça beat English club Arsenal 2–1 in the final. Trailing 1–0 to a 10-man Arsenal and with less than 15 minutes left they came back to win 2–1, with substitute Henrik Larsson, in his final appearance for the club, setting up goals for Samuel Eto’o and fellow substitute Juliano Belletti, for the club’s first European Cup victory in 14 years.
2006-07 – Real regains la liga.
In an epic season Real would narrowly win over Blaugranas. Barça was in first place for much of the season while arch-rivals Real Madrid were six points behind and in fourth. On 12 May 2007, Real Madrid took the league lead for the first time all season by defeating Espanyol 4-3, coming back from 1-3 first half deficit. The Sunday after Madrid won their epic battle with Espanyol, Barca dropped points with a 1-1 draw to struggling Real Betis. By virtue of their superior head to head record, Madrid sat at the top of La Liga with both teams having four league games left. On the penultimate day of the season, Barça failed to overcome city-rivals Espanyol in the Barcelona derby, drawing 2-2. In the final La Liga match, Barca thrashed Gimnastic 5-1, but Madrid came back from a 0-1 deficit to beat Mallorca 3-1 and clinch the title on head-to-head superiority. The season and title can be put on the shoulders of a newly signed Dutch striker.
RUUUUUUUUDDDDDDDDDDDDDD! Van Nistelrooy took home his only career Pichichi Trophy with his 25 goals. Ruud also tied the longest consecutive scoring streak in La Liga history with seven straight matches, tying a league record shared by Hugo Sánchez. The la liga title would be there 30th overall and they would reward there Italian manager Fabio Capello.
BY……Sacking Fabio (poor guy’s second time leaving Madrid). O but don’t worry the team kept winning.
2007-08 – Real Repeats!!
The Whites won the domestic league for the 31st time, achieving their first consecutive league title in eighteen years.
German Manager Bernd Schuster would use his long history of Spanish glory as a player and his superb success with Getafe to take over the reigns at Real. As manager beautiful football returned again to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium with Real Madrid having the strongest offence, not beaten at home from the start of the league and defeating their arch rival Barcelona at their home ground Camp Nou with a goal scored by Julio Baptista thus increasing their lead to seven points between them and the second place (Barcelona). On 4 May 2008, Schuster guided Real Madrid to their 31st title with 3 games to spare. On 18 May 2008, Schuster’s Real Madrid achieved the highest point total (85 points) a record that was set by rivals Barcelona. He then went on to win the 2008 Spanish Super Cup.
Bernd – Then:
Bernd – Now:
The love story wouldn’t end happily as Bernd would be sacked with in the year and Barcelona would return.
2008-09 – Barca Ushers in the Era of “Pep”.
Josep “Pep” Guardiola parlayed a solid playing career with Barca to manager the B team and then took over the A team. He was a defensive mid in Johan Cruyff‘s dream team that won Barcelona’s first European Cup. In his first season as manager, Barcelona won the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. In doing so, Guardiola became the youngest UEFA Champions League winning manager ever. The following season, Guardiola and Barcelona won the Supercopa de España against Athletic Club Bilbao, the UEFA Super Cup against Shakhtar Donetsk, and the FIFA Club World Cup against Estudiantes, bringing the manager’s tally to a perfect six trophies in six competitions thus completing the first ever sextuple.
Pep would take home every conceivable coaching award possible. Barca’s 87 points was the most ever as they easily won by 9 points (3 weeks) over Real Madrid. Victor Valdez would secure the Zamora Trophy. The only trophy mighty Barca can’t seem to win is the Pichichi. Samuel Eto’o netted his HIGHEST goal mark ever with 30 and still lost out to Diego Forlan who netted 32.
2009-10 – Barca keeps in the spotlight…not always good.
The season opened with a massive traded that sent Eto’o to Inter Milan and brought in the Sensational Swede. The club also signed Maxwell from Inter and Dmytro Chygrynskiy from Shakhtar Donetsk. Many players left the club on the same transfer window, Eiður Guðjohnsen was sold to Monaco, Sylvinho and Albert Jorquera contracts ended and other players where loaned out, including Aliaksandr Hleb to Stuttgart, Martín Cáceres to Juventus, Alberto Botía to Sporting de Gijón and Víctor Sánchez to Xerez. The season would see a mix of young B team players coming into there own on the A level and the established stars shining. The same way Pep started with the Barca youth system, so have Pedro, Messi, Valdez, Pique, Bojan, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and even the Captain Puyol!!
Barca would tally there 20th title in a historic record setting season. Barca and Real Madrid rewrote the record books this just completed season. Barca shattered its season point total by 12 points as they hit the 99 mark. Real Madrid finished with 96 points as both teams reached a record 31 victories on the season. Barca had a record low 1 defeat.
Lionel Messi would finally bring home the Pichichi award as he netted 34 goals.
Team of the Decade : As Usual we run a 3-5-2 at PSD.
GK – Iker Casillas (Real Madrid 99′ – present)
Iker made the world notice him back in 2002 and hasn’t stopped being brilliant. There aren’t too many goalkeepers in La Liga over the past ten years who can match ‘San Iker’, even though he’s picked up the Zamora Trophy only once. Yeah it was hard to not side with Santiago Canizares. It was close, but Iker has done it for one of the biggest clubs in the world and he hasn’t been phased. Sorry Santiago.
NO I WILL NOT READ BETWEEN THE LINES – Wait there’s two fingers…wait a minute!!
Defender – Dani Alves – (Sevilla 2002-08′, Barca 08′-Present).
Nice Hat Dani. The Brazilian wing back spent a successful six year spell with Sevilla, winning two UEFA Cups and the Copa del Rey with the Andalusian side. He joined Barcelona for €34 million plus add-ons of €6 million, and won the Treble in his first season with the club. Many might point to his old Sevilla partner in crime – Sergio Ramos – but Dani has a meaner and more demanding presence then goldielocks.
Defender – Carles Puyol – Our Captain!! (Barca – 1999-present).
Name me a more formidable central defender in Spain over the last decade. GO AHEAD DO IT!! Puyol will fight anyone!!
Special One vs Puyol is a classic fight!! haha.
Defender: Roberto Ayala (Valencia 00-07, Real Zaragoza 07-10, Racing 2010)
Hey bud mind getting off one of the most reliable Defenders in Spanish history? Best Defender of the 2001 UEFA Champions League season, La Liga Success with Valencia and amazing success with the Argentinian national team. He’s nicknamed El Raton (the mouse) not because of his diminutive size but rather the fact he can scurry into any small space.
Midfielder – David Albelda – Valencia’s fiery Captain (Valencia 1996-Present).
The crazy legal battle that occurred over his career at Valencia in the latter half of the decade can’t diminish his stellar career. The Bats have looked at Albelda as there captain for the longest time. David a superb defensive midfielder back in the day and a player who played a huge role in the Mestalla men’s glory years of two league titles and a UEFA Cup win.
Midfielder – Xavi – Barca’s Backbone (Barcelona 1998-present).
Widely considered among the finest playmakers in world football, Xavi was named the official Man of the match of the 2009 Champions League Final as he helped Barcelona defeat Manchester United to win their third Champions League-title. He was named Player of the Tournament by UEFA at UEFA Euro 2008 and was one of the five finalists for the 2007-08 FIFA World Player of the Year. Last two seasons he’s found his creative side as he’s lead the leg in assists both seasons.
Midfielder – Lionel Messi. Argentinian Angel (Barca 2004-present)
Have you been living under a rock?
Midfielder – Zinedine Zidane – Maestro. (Real Madrid 2001-2006).
The Frenchmen was the finest player of his era. One of only two three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winners, the other being Ronaldo, Zidane also won the Ballon d’Or in 1998. (we’ll get to Ronaldo in minute). The most intelligent passer the game has ever seen and he wasn’t to shabby a goal-scorer either. Simply the best of the best.
Midfielder – Ronaldinho – Flashy. (Barca 2003-08).
He won his first Champions League in 2006 and he won the Ballon d’Or in 2005 while at Barca. Roni has won it all with Barca and despite a horrible final year his amazing dribbling dazzled Spain.
Striker – Diego Forlan – Uruguayan Dominates (Villarreal 2004-2007, Atletico Madrid 2007-present).
Diego is the only striker in La Liga this decade to not only win the Pichichi award twice, but also the European Golden Shoe. And he is the only player in history to have won it with two different clubs. In 208 la liga games he’s netted 120 goals.
Striker – Ronaldo – Brazilian loves scoring goals (Real Madrid 2002-07)
In 2010, he was voted Goal.com’s ‘Player of the Decade’ in an online poll, gathering 43.63% of all votes. Ronaldo became the first non-European to win the Ballon d’Or in 97′ with Barca. He was also the youngest winner ever. He won it again with Real in 2002.
Up next – WORLD CUP PREVIEWS – START TOMORROW!!!