After losing out to Barcelona in such emphatic fashion the previous season, Real Madrid had a new deadly weapon in their arsenal. Hopes of recovering domestic supremacy were rested on the most expensive player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, who would kick off his eternal rivalry with Lionel Messi in the 2009-10 campaign after moving from Manchester United.
Unfortunately for Real Madrid, however, Messi and Barcelona had no intention of losing their grip on the La Liga crown. Perhaps spurred on by the new kid on the block, the Argentine hit back with a campaign to remember as an enthralling title race ended with records being shattered.
The main managerial change during the summer of 2009 saw Manuel Pellegrini leave Villarreal for Real Madrid, where he and chairman Florentino Perez would undertake one of the biggest spending sprees in the history of European football. Los Blancos spent in excess of 250 million euros on new faces, including Kaka, Raul Albiol, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Esteban Granero, and of course, one CR7. The older guard or Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, and Fabio Cannavaro would make room for the acquisitions. Barcelona conducted some incredible business of their own, too, and purchased Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter, with Samuel Eto’o going in the other direction. Some transfers would work out significantly better than others. La Liga welcomed Xerez, Real Zaragoza, and Tenerife from the Segunda.
Madrid's pitiful end to the 2008-9 season had accounted for Juande Ramos, who was removed from his charge shortly after Pep Guardiola got his hands on the league trophy. Stepping in was Pellegrini, the Chilean whose brilliant five-year spell at Villarreal convinced the Merengue to bring him to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Pellegrini and Ronaldo, moreover, were far from the only new faces at the club. Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Raul Albiol were just some of the players who arrived in the unprecedented €265m spending spree, which yielded instant reward as Madrid won their first five Liga outings. Ronaldo alone hit five in those opening clashes, a glimpse of the Portuguese star's incredible ability in front of goal.
Barca, however, began in even more impressive fashion. Pep too had swooped for a marquee forward, bringing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Camp Nou in a move that saw the popular Samuel Eto'o leave for Inter, and the Swede was on fire in a season opening that included six straight wins and 17 goals scored.
It was becoming clear that, with both Clasico sides in imperious form, the season's two clashes between the rivals might prove crucial. Barca struck first blood on November 29 when Ibrahimovic's solitary goal sealed victory at Camp Nou, with both sides reduced to 10 men as Sergio Busquets and Lass Diarra both saw red.
I have to congratulate the coach and players of Real Madrid for an extraordinary campaign. Without them we would have not been able to get 99 points, they have pushed us all the way. They have dignified their profession and their club.Pep Guardiola
The wins just kept coming for Guardiola's charges, and it was not until Valentine’s Day, 2010 that goals from Diego Forlan and Simao inflicted Barca's first and only defeat of the Liga campaign against Atletico.
That loss aside, the beginning of 2010 heralded a furious race to the finish from both Barcelona and Madrid. The Blancos triumphed in 18 of their last 20 fixtures to keep up the heat, losing just once. But that reverse came at the worst possible time, in the heat of the Bernabeu against their arch-enemies.
For yet another season Madrid's players were forced to trudge out of their own stadiums with the fans insults in their ears, as goals from Messi and Pedro guided the Catalans to a 2-0 win. Pellegrini's men would eventually finish with a brilliant 96 points, but even that tally proved insufficient compared to the 99 picked up by Barcelona, a new all-time Liga record.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
With 98 goals, 31 victories and just a solitary defeat Pep's 2009-10 Barcelona came as close to perfection as any Spanish team in history. It was not just Barca's incredible attack, however, that stood out: just 24 goals were conceded in the entire season, testament to the strength across the pitch the team possessed.
LIONEL MESSI - 34 GOALS
The talented Argentine was finding his feet among the elite players in the world, and scored just under a goal a game which, incredibly, would pale in comparison to future goalscoring achievements.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
VALDES; ALVES, NUNES, SERGIO RAMOS; NAVAS, XAVI, BANEGA, RONALDO; MESSI, VILLA, HIGUAIN.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
JAVI MARTINEZ shows twinkly toes inside the penalty box to evade a number of challenges before neatly finishing into the corner.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Manchester United to Real Madrid
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
April's Clasico win put Barcelona back in the driving seat after one of the most exciting Liga campaigns in recent memory. Madrid had no answer to Messi and Pedro, and were forced to face up to yet another season without the Primera title.