The battle for the LaLiga Santander title this season is one of the closest in recent history and in football today. None of the major European leagues have as many suitors as close to glory as in Spain, where four clubs huddle just six points apart with just four games to play. Since the victories in 1995 began to be worth triple, only in 2007 had more equality between first and fourth been reached at the gates of Matchday 35. An unusual final stretch that Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC, Involved in this order to prevail at the front of the table, they will try to tip in their favor in a weekend that will force them to face each other in two crucial matches.

Equality in the championship fight has sharpened in recent seasons. From the 42-point gap between first and fourth with which the 2011-12 academic year ended, the distance at the top of the rankings has been reduced year after year. Also, in the last ten seasons, the champions have added fewer and fewer wins. From winning with 100 points at the beginning of the decade, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona took the 2020 and 2019 trophies, respectively, without reaching 90.

In a year marked by equity among the 20 members of the highest category, there is no club that is free to count. Real Sociedad, Villarreal CF, Real Betis, Granada CF, Athletic Club and RC Celta, separated by less than ten points, rush their options to sneak into continental competitions. At the bottom, LaLiga Santander is the only one of the major continental leagues where there is still no one destined for relegation and there are up to ten teams that do not have mathematically assured permanence. Even those close to it, such as Cádiz CF, envision other goals to fight for until the end, such as achieving their best position in the elite since its foundation in 1910.

In an outcome where there will be no game without competitiveness, and in which everything will probably be decided on the last breath, we remember five league championships that have been etched in the memory of fans for their agonizing resolve.

“Never has an ending had such an exciting and adrenaline-fueled outcome. Whoever overcame emotions can be calm: his heart endures everything until the biological event occurs ”. This is how the chronicler of EL PAÍS recounted the events of May 14, 1994, the night in which for the third consecutive year a miracle left the champion’s trophy in the Barça windows.

The FC Barcelona squad celebrates winning the 1993/1994 league title on the Camp Nou pitch. AS file

It had already happened in the previous two courses. The FC Barcelona arrived in disadvantage to the last encounter and the three points were not enough to him. It depended on the others stumbling. A circumstance that seemed to lead to general pessimism, except for Johan Cruyff. “Now I am sure that we are going to win,” said the Dutch coach in his particular Spanish, after a 6-3 defeat against Real Zaragoza that placed them in February at an abyss from the leader.

And so it happened. In 1994 it was a draw for Valencia CF in the field of RC Deportivo and in 1992 and 1993 there were victories for CD Tenerife against Real Madrid, the unforeseen results that gave the trophy to a hobby that got used to carrying, along with the sandwich and the scarf, a transistor to live the last days in which the goals of others were celebrated more than their own.

Pep Guardiola, right on a bicycle, with former president Joan Gaspart on his ascent to the Montserrat monastery in 1992.
Pep Guardiola, right on a bicycle, with former president Joan Gaspart on his ascent to the Montserrat monastery in 1992. Roser Vilallonga / Jordi Bellver / La Vanguardia

As a gesture to the supernatural of these outcomes, in 1992, the year in which they were also European champions, the players rode their bikes to travel the 60 kilometers between Barcelona and the Montserrat monastery. Pep Guardiola arrived first, whom the then vice president Joan Gaspart towed to the sanctuary with a scooter, although the glory went to Chapi Ferrer, who reached the goal nine minutes later but without the help of anyone.

In 1946, the year in which the Spanish filled in La Quiniela for the first time, the domestic competition had a resolution that few would have bet on. Sevilla FC won what to date is their only league title and did so on the last day in which they visited the field of their immediate pursuer and current champion, FC Barcelona. For the Catalans, the only ones capable of defeating the Sevillans that year with a 2-3 in the first round, victory served them to be champions.

Receiving the Sevilla FC footballers upon their arrival in the city after winning the 1946 championship.
Receiving the Sevilla FC footballers upon their arrival in the city after winning the 1946 championship. Sevilla FC

The chronicler of Sports world He pointed out the day after the duel that “the shy sun” that afternoon at the end of March illuminated the stands full of an audience “nervous, expectant and eager to be able to express feelings that can hardly remain hidden.” In the defunct Les Corts stadium, with nearly 60,000 seats, Sevilla’s goal in the seventh minute doomed the hopes of the locals. Neither the atmosphere, nor the five Barça forwards managed to move the score beyond the tie against the tactic of a rival that the aforementioned newspaper described as “obstructionist”, without “beautiful football” but defending themselves “with bravery and success.

Back in the Andalusian capital, the team trained by Ramón Encinas was received in style by the fans and the local authorities. For the feat, each footballer received a gold watch, cufflinks and a leather wallet with 5,000 pesetas (about 30 euros) inside.

At the end of that 1940 game that would give Atlético de Madrid the first league title (at that time Athletic-Aviación Club), a silence of expectation must have been heard. The Madrilenians fulfilled their obligation to win on the last day, but they had to wait for what happened in another match more than 500 kilometers away. Sevilla FC, who reached the decisive match in first position, faced Hercules CF.

At that time, explains the historian José Ignacio Corcuera, the radio narrations of the matches were very rare, so to know what was happening in other cities you had to resort to calls. Something that was not so simple at the time. “The fields lacked autonomous telephone communication, and transferring any result implied leaving the stadium, requesting a conference and dealing with the delay that derives from it, given the precariousness and shortage of existing lines,” explains Corcuera, who indicates that still in In the 1950s, when the primitive Sports Carousel started, only one venue in the two highest categories, the Riazor, had a booth for broadcasts.

The Atlético de Madrid squad that achieved first place in the championship in the 1940s.
The Atlético de Madrid squad that achieved first place in the championship in the 1940s. AS file

Late and by phone, but in time to start a party, the news of the tie in Andalusia arrived. The colchoneros, who did not play that match in the old Metropolitano but in the now defunct Vallecas stadium, took the first championship played after the end of the Civil War, which they revalidated the following year.

Celebration of the Valencian fans displaced to the Sarrià stadium, despite the defeat of their team that afternoon in 1971.
Celebration of the Valencian fans displaced to the Sarrià stadium, despite the defeat of their team that afternoon in 1971. AS file

After the defeat, the Valencia CF squad bus ran into a tide of people on the roadside, in every town and city they passed through on their way home. They came to cheer them despite the fact that on March 19, 50 years ago they had lost the duel of the last day against RCD Espanyol de Barcelona. It was his sweetest defeat. The tables between FC Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid, the other two contenders for the title and faced each other on the last day, served the Chés the trophy on a tray.

Cover of the newspaper AS with the famous image of Di Stéfano at the bottom right.
Cover of the newspaper AS with the famous image of Di Stéfano at the bottom right. AS file

From that heart-stopping afternoon, the image of Alfredo di Stéfano, coach of the Valencianists, turned towards the stands with a face of circumstances and with both index fingers raised. To the Argentine’s relief, two minutes before the final whistle at the Sarrià stadium, the news of 1-1 in Madrid was confirmed. After 24 years of drought and for the fourth time in its history (then two more would come, in 2002 and 2004), Valencia was proclaimed champion.

Nobody expected it, as he recalled recently in Ace Pepe Claramunt, the great figure of the team, who played the decisive match with a broken finger. They had a coach who as a player had won everything, but who had not yet made his debut as a coach in Spain and the players, as they admit in the documentary The League of 71, 50th anniversaryThey were aware that their level was lower than that of other clubs. “It cost a lot to win and we did not count to win it. We were a squad with few signings, with people from the quarry … I think it’s [tan recordada] because of the emotion that was there until the end and because we managed to win it when nobody trusted us to do it ”, argued Claramunt.

Javier Clemente, according to EL PAÍS, spoke in the preview of the last league match in 1984 as the most important in the history of Athletic Club. They were playing defending the first position against their eternal rival, a Real Sociedad with options to enter Europe, and before their fans. “Do you really believe that, backed by 45,000 followers and in San Mamés, we are going to miss out on the possibility of revalidating the title?”, Said the coach.

Athletic Club fans after winning the title in 1984.
Athletic Club fans after winning the title in 1984. EL PAÍS Archive – Raúl Cancio

As the 90 minutes passed, the tragedy was close to happening. That afternoon there were up to three champions. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, just one point behind the lions, appeared at the top of the table due to a momentary draw in Bilbao that was not broken until the 79th of the game thanks to a header from the central Liceranzu. It was Athletic Club’s 3,000th goal in the highest category and the one that left the champion’s cup in La Catedral.

The crown was the fourth in a row for a Basque team and the third in four years achieved in a heart attack final. In 1983, the lions prevailed on the last day due to a stumble by Real Madrid and in 1981 Real Sociedad could not celebrate its first league until the 90th minute of the last game. In a sea of ​​mud and sweat, midfielder Zamora emerged to score the 2-2 that caused the field invasion of the thousands of donostiarras who traveled to Gijón in a joy that they would repeat the following year, in 1982, although in a little looser.

Moment in which the San Sebastian Zamora scored the goal that gave the title to Real Sociedad in the last minute of the 198081 season.
Moment in which the San Sebastian Zamora scored the goal that gave the title to Real Sociedad in the last minute of the 1980/81 season. AS file

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