La Liga as often served as the scary older brother for European football fans.
The Spanish top flight has long resembled the pinnacle of footballing excellence in Europe, with its top sides, the beaming weather and ability to play in that weather for stupid money all rather attractive.
Nobody wants to see the best players from their club stolen away to Spain, but the flip side is that it’s birthed some pretty special title-winning sides in the 21st Century. 90min has ranked those sides.
If this was a list ranking drama and entertainment value, then it may well have been at the other end. But it’s not. So it isn’t.
Los Blancos were tied on 76 points with second placed Barcelona and only won the league due to that season’s head-to-head record against La Blaugrana. Bobbins, really.
Not to dampen an emphatic triumph for fans of Atletico Madrid, but the 2020/21 La Liga title race was a sad depiction of the league’s recent decline.
Atletico stormed into a ten point lead halfway through the season but still almost dropped the ball, with a below par Real Madrid and Barcelona a far cry of the sides they resembled not too long ago.
It hurts to put such an emphatic win so low down. But truthfully, Deportivo’s sole La Liga win in their early 2000s mega run hasn’t aged well.
Depor won the league with a measly 69 points – the lowest winning total to date – and were beaten 11 times on their way to the title. Still won it though, so who are we to judge?
How did Real Madrid usher in a new era, fronted by the controversial signing of Barcelona’s Luis Figo? They won the league, but didn’t try much in doing so.
80 points was enough for La Liga with Deportivo finishing runners up on 73 points. Los Blancos failed to win any other silverware that season too, despite signing Figo and Claude Makelele.
It’s hard to criticise in a list of winners. Samuel Eto’o bagged for fun as Barcelona picked up La Liga and the Champions League, but there have been plenty more groundbreaking title wins since.
82 points was enough for the crown, which says a lot about a rather lacking domestic season. They did win the Champions League, though.
Ronaldo shone on a domestic and European front – earning a standing ovation at Old Trafford in the Champions League – as Real Madrid won a second title in three seasons.
They bounced back from failing to retain the title a season prior, squeezing past Real Sociedad by two points to finish as champions.
It’s difficult to call an 87 point haul, title-winning season a failure, but the 2019/20 campaign wasn’t the most memorable one in Real’s history.
Just three losses all season, but failure for Spanish sides to replicate their form in the Champions League left people a touch confused by La Liga in general.
Following on from their exploits of 2001/02, Valencia bounced back to knock Real Madrid off their perch again with a tremendous campaign.
Mista racked up fine numbers in attack with his scoring prowess as the side edged past Real to become champions again from nothing, as well as winning the UEFA Cup.
Barcelona failed to retain the Copa del Rey or make strides in the Champions League once again, but Ernesto Valverde’s side put together a fine league campaign.
Lionel Messi took the mickey all season long with 51 goals in total to send Ray Hudson into overdrive. Free kicks, volleys, the lot as Barcelona were Spanish champions again.
A season prior, the status quo was rather similar for Barcelona, although slightly more impressive.
La Blaugrana lost just one game out of 38 on their way to the league title, and dished out a 3-0 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
For a squad quietly transitioning, Real Madrid didn’t let it bother them and ripped past the competition for La Liga in 2007/08.
They demolished Barcelona in a 4-1 win on the way, with Raul topping the scoring charts for his club.
Coming off the back of a 2014/15 campaign that wasn’t so bad (we’ll get to that), Barcelona did a fine job of keeping most of the magic alive.
They retained La Liga in fine fashion with Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez finding maximum power. The sheer talent of the squad saw them crowned as champions on 91 points, meaning Real Madrid finished runners up with a mammoth 90.
Coached by a young Rafa Benitez who had been hired from Tenerife, the Spaniard was actually within a half of football away from the sack in 2001/02.
75 points gained and 51 goals scored doesn’t tell the story. Benitez assembled a side that was near impossible to break down, with midfielder Ruben Baraja topping the club scoring charts that season.
Having not been champions of Spain for six years, Barcelona galvanised and set onto a path that would lead to monumental success, starting with the 2004/05 title.
Out with the old, in with the new was the move. Samuel Eto’o was an instant hit at Camp Nou with 29 goals in all competitions, while Ronaldinho continued at the top of the game. A little Argentine called Lionel Messi also featured that season.
The first season without Pep Guardiola was always going to be difficult, but the late, great Tito Villanova handled things well.
An awful kit couldn’t take away from Messi bagging an obscene 46 league goals to help La Blaugrana to the title in fine fashion. They finished with an astonishing 100 points, bagging 115 league goals.
This Atletico Madrid side had a bit of everything, and combined it perfectly.
The grace of Koke and David Villa, the resilience of Diego Godin and Miranda, and the pure sh*thousery and scoring prowess of Diego Costa. Oh yeah, and Arda Turan looking like the best thing since sliced bread. Diego Simeone’s side cannot be forgotten; a real throwback.
Having finished an agonisingly close second with 90 points the season prior, Real weren’t having it again and turned up the heat in 2016/17.
93 points and 106 goals in La Liga was the first of four trophies as Real also bombed to the Champions League again, won the UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup.
It’s hard to quite decipher between those four seasons of Pep Guardiola’s at Barcelona because, frankly, they were all electric.
After the shock of his debut season, Barça repeated domestic proceedings a year later. They lost just once all season as Messi continued to reach unfathomable heights, while Yaya Toure and others also starred.
The club won their second treble and dominated with the birth of one of the greatest attacking trios to play the game.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez scored 122 goals combined which should probably be illegal, looking back. Absolute cheat code as Barcelona made history yet again under Luis Enrique.
That season. The one that made history for Barcelona and broke the hearts of Manchester United fans – for the first of two times.
Out were the likes of Deco and Ronaldinho, but in and more prominently featuring were Guardiola’s younger, in-house stars. Barcelona blossomed and played unworldly football, with Messi and Eto’o’s goal providing the finishing touch.
Guardiola’s Barcelona looked unbeatable and were on course for four league titles in a row. And then Jose Mourinho arrived in Madrid.
Mr. Defensive seemed to turbocharge his bus as Real Madrid stormed to La Liga and broke records in the process. Their 100 point tally was a new record, as was their 121 goals scored.
Before Mourinho’s arrival was one of the sport’s greatest sides and the peak of Guardiola’s Barcelona.
A third consecutive La Liga was now routine, chalking up 96 points in the process. To add the icing on the cake, La Blaugrana denied Manchester United in the Champions League final again. Mesmerising on every front possible.