There was a time, not too long ago, in which football was lived from one to eleven. Apart from dynasties such as the ‘fifth of the Vulture’ and the Dream Team, the recent history of LaLiga Santander is full of teams that also claimed their hegemony. From Alberto Ormaetxea’s Real Sociedad, to Javier Clemente’s Athletic Club; passing through Atlético de Madrid with the double, RC Deportivo champion or Rafa Benítez’s Valencia CF. Teams, whose protagonists were recited on a run in the schoolyards by the little ones, between exchanges of stickers and improvised pachangas. This is a selection of some of the alignments that have marked the history of LaLiga.
1.The Royal Society of Ormaetxea (1980/81 and 1981/82)
Exactly four decades ago, a final goal by Jesús Mari Zamora in Gijón (2-2) gave Real Sociedad the first league championship in its history.
With a team and a coach from the house, the Donostiarras had finally managed to remove the thorn of the previous season, when the two goals of Sevillista Bertoni put an end not only to the unbeaten streak of Real Sociedad – he went 38 days without knowing the defeat- which remained in force for 38 years -until FC Barcelona surpassed it in 2018-, also to the dream of winning a title that Real Madrid ended up winning on the penultimate matchday.
That goal from Zamora a year later on the muddy lawn of El Molinón marked the beginning of a triumphal biennium in which, under Alberto Ormaetxea, the Arkonada, Periko Alonso, Zamora, Satrustegi and López Ufarte transferred the complicity they had outside of him.
With a few minor tweaks, motivated in part by the emergence of young footballers such as Larrañaga, Bakero and Peio Uralde, that “gang of friends” – as López Ufarte later defined them – also ended up becoming the backbone of the Spanish team in the World Cup. 1982. Just a few weeks later, yes, having sealed his second consecutive title on the last day in a derby against Athletic Club (2-1) played at the old Atotxa stadium.
Arkonada; Zelaieta, Gorriz, Kortabarria (Larrañaga), Olaizola; Diego, Periko Alonso, Zamora; Idigoras (Peio Uralde), Satrustegi (Bakero) and López Ufarte.
2.The Athletic Club txalpeldun (1982/83 and 1983/84)
After his premature retirement as a footballer due to injury, Javier Clemente took over as Athletic Club’s first team bench in 1981 at just 31 years of age. The young Barakaldo coach transmitted his personality to the lions from day one, when on his debut he proclaimed before the microphones, and to the surprise of locals and strangers, that his team was going to fight for the league title.
Said and done, in its second season, and after a commendable fourth place in its debut, Real Madrid’s defeat against Valencia (1-0) put the Biscayan title on a silver platter, who with a resounding 1 to 5 at the Insular stadium ended their 27-year league drought.
True to the club’s philosophy, Clemente was the architect of a squad where international Dani’s scoring instinct stood out, Goikoetxea’s forcefulness, Sarabia’s class, Argote’s overflow and Zubizarreta’s projection under sticks. A one hundred percent block of the house that, in the same way as its Donostiarras neighbors, also starred in a triumphant biennium. Precisely, in a new edition of the Basque derby, this time in San Mamés, a header from the bigoleador Liceranzu gave the rojiblancos the eighth league title in their history on the last day (2-1). And the barge once again plowed the waters of the Nervión for the second consecutive year.
Zubizarreta; Urkiaga, Liceranzu, Goikoetxea, Núñez (De la Fuente); De Andrés, Gallego, Urtubi; Dani (Noriega), Sarabia and Argote.
3.The ‘fifth of the Vulture’ (1985-1990)
In parallel to Athletic Club’s second consecutive championship, another unprecedented event began to lay the foundations for the dynasty that was to impose its law in the second half of the 1980s. For the first and only time in the history of Spanish football In that 83/84 season, two subsidiaries, Real Madrid Castilla CF and Bilbao Athletic, contested the honorary title of the silver category, which the Madridistas ended up winning thanks to the difference in goals.
That team, led by Amancio Amaro, was baptized by the chronicles of the time as ‘the Vulture’s fifth’, in honor of the talent of its top scorer. Escorted by footballers such as Manolo Sanchís, Míchel, Martín Vázquez and Miguel Pardeza, the only one of the five who did not end up finding his place in the Real Madrid first team, Butragueño was the leader of a generation that picked up the relief of illustrious such as Camacho, Santillana and Juanito.
Reinforced with signings of the stature of Valdano, Hugo Sánchez, Maceda, Gordillo and, later, of Schuster and Ruggeri, that group of homegrown players chained five league titles under the command of three technicians: Luis Molowny (1985/86), the Dutchman Beenhakker (1986-1989) and John Benjamin Toshack (1989/90). An intractable team, of which the measured centers of Míchel, the dribbling in the Butragueño area and the somersaults of Hugo Sánchez remain in the collective memory, and which reached its offensive fullness thanks to the Welsh coach and his 107 goals signed in a single league campaign. The twilight zenith of a generation that marked a before and after in Spanish football.
Buyo; Chendo, Ruggeri, Sanchís, Gordillo; Míchel, Fernando Hierro, Schuster, Martín Vázquez; Hugo Sánchez and Butragueño.
4.The Dream Team (1991-1994)
“Come out and enjoy.” Never has a phrase summed up the philosophy of a team so well. Legend has it that this was Johan Cruyff’s only instruction to his players – among whom was the current FC Barcelona coach, Ronald Koeman, in the run-up to the first final of the Wembley European Cup.
Fifteen months before that unforgettable May 20, 1992, a heart attack separated the Dutch coach from the reins of FC Barcelona. For the fans, the momentary loss of their spiritual leader at the key moment of the season (after that day 23, the team commanded the league standings with five rental points over Atlético de Madrid) heralded the worst.
Fortunately, Johan was able to sit back on the bench to guide Barça to their first league title after a long five-year dominance by Real Madrid. The Barça fans finally sang their “aquest any, si” to celebrate a championship that was followed by another three, each achieved in a more exciting way: on the last day, and with the transistors fuming in the stands and in the benches of the teams involved.
The greatness of this Dream Team, however, transcended much more than those two afternoons in Tenerife, when the coin fell on the Barça side. So much so, that the model implemented by Cruyff has become the hallmark of a Barça, which almost three decades later continues to look at itself in the mirror of that team and try to replicate a system that has provided epic nights and unforgettable prints such as the pass without looking from Laudrup to Romário in El Sadar.
Zubi; Ferrer, Koeman, Nadal, Sergi; Guardiola, Bakero, Amor, Laudrup; Stoichkov and Romário.
5.The Athletic double (1996)
From the Cholo footballer to the Cholo coach. Until the achievement of the league title in the 2013/14 season, with Simeone already on the bench, the Atlético de Madrid fans remembered their magical year for almost two decades, not without a certain nostalgia. That 1995/96 season, in which Radomir Antic hit the mark and built a winning team that ended 19 league drought seasons.
In that eleven, which the mattress fans continue to repeat like a mantra, the current rojiblanco coach was a non-negotiable piece in a midfield that he shared with Vizcaíno, Caminero and Pantic. Simeone then endowed the rojiblanca core with the same personality and character that he continues to exhibit as a coach since, both in the championship achieved seven years ago and in this past season, he has managed to recover the strength and generosity of that Antic team , and transfer them to a block that has also ended up weighing more than the individualities.
Molina; Geli, Solozábal, Santi Denia, Toni Muñoz; Caminero, Vizcaíno, Simeone, Pantic; Kiko and Penev.
6.The Superdepor 2.0 (2000)
The history of RC Deportivo could well be summed up in “whoever follows it gets it”. And it is that, faithful to the same approach that had placed them season, yes, season also as a real alternative to the title for much of the decade, the Coruña did not give up their efforts and, finally, they ended up getting away with it in the 99/00 season. , when the hand of Javier Irureta conquered the first league championship in its history.
The soccer girls finally stopped turning their back on the Galician team. But why not say it, also helped by the enormous quality of a squad in which names such as Makaay, Djalminha, Naybet, and of course, Donato, Mauro Silva and Fran stood out. Very worthy representatives of a past that had denied them glory, but which was indisputably still part of their present. Six years and five days later, football finally gave up its pending account with Deportivo. A super team, a super team.
Songo’o; Manuel Pablo, Naybet, Donato (Schürrer), Romero; Mauro Silva, Flávio Conceiçao (Jokanovic); Víctor, Djalminha, Fran (Turu Flores); Makaay (Pauleta)
7.The Valencia CF of Benítez (2001/02 and 2003/04)
Two championships in three seasons. If there was one club that definitely liked the turn of the century, it was Valencia CF. The arrival to the presidency of Jaume Ortí and his commitment to a young Rafa Benítez as a coach precipitated the events in Mestalla.
The solidity of a spinal column made up of footballers of the stature of Cañizares, Ayala, Carboni and Albelda, the explosion of two talents like Pablo Aimar and Rubén Baraja, and the coach’s commitment to two young footballers, who knew their perfection. Previous stage at CD Tenerife (Curro Torres and Mista) gave the team the appropriate wickers to carry out authentic exercises of faith unthinkable just a few months ago. Like the one outnumbered comeback against RCD Espanyol de Barcelona on the penultimate matchday (2-1) of 02/01, which ended up dissipating Real Madrid’s options and allowing Ortí to deploy the same giant fan again, a symbol of Valencianism that had accompanied the team in the last league celebration more than three decades ago.
Two seasons later, the Mestalla team lifted the sixth championship in their history. Nor did the internal disagreements weigh down a group that once again demonstrated an unusual self-confidence, going back eight points behind Real Madrid between days 26 and 34 to leave a well-deserved championship practically seen for sentencing.
Cañizares; Curro Torres, Pellegrino (Marchena), Ayala, Carboni (Fabio Aurélio); Rufete, Albelda, Baraja (Mista), Vicente; Aimar and Angulo (Ricardo Oliveira)
All these lineups (and some others) will remain intact in the memory of the fans and will continue to be part of the history of LaLiga Santander. Formations that will survive the passage of time in posters and pennants that, before becoming collectibles, will continue to adorn the walls of bars and neighborhood shops with the same luster as the day their owners made the decision to share with the clientele his love for colors. Although these do not necessarily always agree. Because that’s how football is, and that’s how LaLiga Santander is.