The Spanish top flight, for the longest time, was disparaged as a two-team league with none of the other 18 sides capable of challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid’s hegemony over the top honours. Since the arrival of Diego Simeone at the Vicente Calderon the duopoly has been slightly challenged with Atletico Madrid proving a considerable thorn in the flesh of the two giants.
In fact, Los Rojiblancos went on to win the league title in the 2013/14 season and made it to the Champions League final that same campaign to really announce their status amongst the European elite.
However, one has to go only as far as 16 years ago to find a time in Spanish football when the league was practically there for the taking for at least top six or seven sides. And ultimately it was the unfancied Deportivo La Coruna who took home the title in the 1999/2000 season.
The season began with Barcelona and Valencia vying for the Spanish Super Cup honours. After taking a win at the Mestalla, Valencia came back thrice at the Camp Nou and to take a 3-3 draw and with it the Spanish Super Cup to set the template for a historic season.
Los Che, despite their Super Cup heroics, started their league campaign poorly and lost their first four games. It was a routine start for Barcelona and Real Madrid, however, as they secured comfortable wins over Real Zaragoza and Real Mallorca respectively.
The first few shocks of the season came early on as Barcelona lost 2-1 to the previous season’s relegation strugglers Alaves and Valencia ran away to a 3-0 first half lead at the Santiago Bernabeu. Although Fernando Morientes pulled two goals back for the home side, the visitors took all three points with a 3-2 win.
The first El Clasico of the season ended in a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou. Rivaldo and Luis Figo – in what proved to be his final season in Catalonia – scored the goals for the hosts as Raul Gonzalez grabbed a brace for the Madrid giants.
Interestingly, Leicester City boss and toast of the managerial crowd nowadays, Claudio Ranieri was at the helm of Atletico Madrid and his side won 3-1 at the Bernabeu in the first Madrid derby.
Also, the current Spanish national team boss Vicente del Bosque was ushered in as the manager of Los Blancos after they sacked John Toshack following a string of poor results.
Del Bosque’s appointment didn’t change Real Madrid’s fortunes in the league all that much as Zaragoza defeated them 5-1 at the Bernabeu that left the Madrid giants 17th in the table after the first 14 games.
The poor form of their eternal rivals gave Barcelona, then under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal, the chance to capitalise but they also kept dropping points at regular intervals and ultimately ended their season in second, five points adrift of champions Deportivo La Coruna.
Real Madrid ended the season in fifth, but more importantly went on to win their eighth European Cup after defeating Hector Cuper’s Valencia 3-0 in the final.
Deportivo La Coruna’s first and so far only Spanish title success was aided by the prolific goalscoring form of Dutch forward Roy Makaay, who ended the campaign with a tally of 22 league goals. They were also very tight at the back, largely due to the heroics of Argentinian goalkeeper Martin Herrera, and possessed the best defensive record in the league.