These teams produced incredible seasons to break the dominance of the two Spanish giants over domestic football.
La Liga has gained a reputation for being an entertaining league which normally sees a two-horse race for the title. It’s mostly because of the sheer superior quality of Real Madrid and Barcelona that they remain a step ahead of everyone else in the league, making it nearly impossible for another side to break their dominance.
Over the last six seasons, the two Spanish giants have dominated the title scene and share all the league titles between them. However, with Atletico Madrid currently leading the table, there is a genuine chance that the hegemony created by the two sides may not be successful in this season. Of course, as surprising as it may seem, there have been multiple occasions when neither of the two giants won the title.
In the following, we look at five times when teams broke the hegemony of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga.
5. Atletico Madrid (2013-14 season)
Under the guidance of Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid pulled off the ultimate underdog story by finally breaking the Real-Barca domination that had taken over La Liga for a long time in the 2013-14 season.
It was a memorable season in which Los Rojiblancos often traded places with their rivals in the top-spot, but found themselves on first position heading into the final game against Barca (who were just three points behind) at Camp Nou. Fortunately, Atletico drew that game and clinched the La Liga title in dramatic fashion, proving that there are top contenders beyond the two giants capable of being called as Spain’s best.
4. Athletic Bilbao (1983-84 season)
Athletic Bilbao had a really strong team during the early 1980s and managed to win the league consecutively between 1982-84. In the 1983-84 season, they managed to tip out Real Madrid and Barca in the most astounding fashion.
Bilbao finished just one point above third-placed Barca and ended the campaign tied on the same points as Madrid as well. However, they won the title by goal difference, with their +23 GD barely beating Los Blancos’ +22 GD to hand Bilbao the league title.
3. Deportivo La Coruna (1999-00 season)
Barcelona’s dominance in La Liga towards the end of the 1990s made it seem that they would head into the 21st century by winning the league in the 1999-00 campaign. Deportivo La Coruna, however, had a different plan altogether. In a campaign in which they didn’t score the most goals or concede the least goals in the league, Deportivo managed to scrape through all the wins to their famous achievement.
Their striker Roy Makaay scored 22 goals in the league, one-third of their entire total after the campaign ended. Their impressive tendency to win games at a stretch caused Barcelona to crumble, with Deportivo ending their dreams of their third-successive La Liga title by clinching the trophy in the season.
2. Real Sociedad (1980-81 season)
After Real Madrid’s dominance in the late 1970s, it seemed like there was no stopping them from continuing their reign heading into the new decade. But underdogs Real Sociedad, however, had other plans. Despite never having won a title, Sociedad displayed impressive bravery in going toe-to-toe with the Spanish giants and did not buckle under pressure.
After the end of the campaign, Sociedad and Madrid were both tied on 45 points and Los Blancos even had a better goal difference. But back then, the title was decided on head-to-head record thanks to which Real Sociedad clinched the title to pick up their first-ever La Liga trophy.
1. Valencia (2001-02 season)
While it’s become quite rare that anyone else other than Real Madrid or Barcelona win the La Liga title, what is even more astounding is none of the two clubs even managing a top two finish during a campaign. That actually happened in the 2001-02 season, when the tides turned at the top of the table. Valencia, under a vibrant young Rafa Benitez, managed to upset the odds by clinching the title even after a poor first half of the campaign.
Deportivo La Coruna finished as runners up, with Barcelona and Real Madrid completing the top four. Valencia obviously ended the top sides’ hegemony in that season, but the overall effort from every team in the league proved that there’s more beyond just Barca or Real Madrid in La Liga.