With the giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona, ruling the roost in La Liga it’s easy to forget a time when the big two didn’t have it all their own way.
Barça and Real have won nine of the last 10 championships and we have to go back to 2002 to find a season where both clubs finished outside the top two in the Primera.
Since Sgorio started showing La Liga highlights back in 1988 there have only been four seasons where the Primera trophy didn’t end up in the trophy cabinet at either the Bernabeu or Camp Nou.
Valencia clinched the championship in 2002 and 2004 and Los Che have worn the mantle of Spain’s ‘other’ team for a few years now having finished third for the last four seasons.
Whilst Falcao is scoring goals for fun for Atlético and not, as the rumours suggest, lured to Chelsea and the English Premier League, the capital city’s second club still hope to emulate the achievments of Radi Antić’s side who won La Liga in 1996.
But despite Los Colchoneros being hot on the heels of Barcelona and taking full advantage of their neighbours’ early stumble, the boys from the Bernabeu have started their steady climb towards the summit in an attempt to restore the natural order.
So which other team won the championship in the last 25 years?
We have to go back even further to remember the Basque Country’s golden age when Real Sociedad and Athletic won two championships each between 1981 and 1984. And despite their star rising for brief periods in the last decade, neither Sevilla nor Villarreal managed to grab the top prize.
To be honest, it’s hard to remember … or even believe … that the Primera championship title went to Galicia in 2000 as the mythical Super Depor reached their prime in La Coruña.
With Arsenio Iglesias at the helm and with Bebeto and Mauro Silva pulling the strings on the field, Deportivo La Coruña were ready to take on all comers … and that included Real and Barça. The club finished amongst the top three four times between 1993 and 1999 and were a spot kick away from winning the title in 1994 too.
As the final matches of the 1994 season got underway, Depor and Barça were level on points and a home win against Valencia would secure Depor’s first ever championship.
Going into the final minute the game was goal-less but the bad news filtering through from the Camp Nou was that Barça were 5-2 up against Sevilla. Depor needed a goal and needed one quickly.
When the referee awarded the home side a penalty with seconds of the match remaining the Riazor exploded and the cheers could be heard as far away as Catalonia.
With so much riding on this one kick, the Brazilian, Bebeto, refused to take it and so it was the Serb, Miroslav Djukić, who placed the ball on the spot
The whole of Galicia was holding it’s breath for this one kick from 12 yards.
Djukic struck his shot far too close to the keeper and Depor’s dreams evaporated thanks to José Gonzalez’s comfortable save.
Despite the disappointment, Depor continued to build and strengthen their squad and continued to punch above their weight under Welshman John Toshack, before finally securing the elusive title in 2000 under the watchful eye of the Basque coach, Javier Iruerta.
With Barzilian, Djalminha, starring in midfield alongside local hero, Fran, and with the prolific Dutch striker, Roy Makaay, netting 22 goals in 36 games Depor were a joy to watch.
And this time there was no biting of nails and last minute prayers as the title was secured with a week of the season to spare.
Depor have so far failed to secure a second title, finishing second in 2001 and 2002 then third in 2003 and 2004. The great Super Depor was dismantled and long forgotten by the time the club fell into the Segunda at the end of the 2010/11 season.
José Luis Oltra led the club straight back to the promised land and whilst it’s highly unlikely Los Turcos will be challenging the big two for the title this season, their 4-5 defeat at home to Bacelona on Saturday night is proof that the never say die, devil may care attitude is still alive and well in the Riazor!