For the second straight season La Liga's champions broke the 100-point barrier, as Barcelona wrested the title back off holders Real Madrid. It was a turbulent season for the Merengue, who after winning the Primera in spectacular fashion the previous term saw Jose Mourinho walk away from the Bernabeu at the end of the campaign amid reports of conflict in the dressing room with senior figures such as Iker Casillas.
Barca's success, meanwhile, was bittersweet as coach Tito Vilanova battled on two fronts. Pep Guardiola's successor was diagnosed with cancer in December 2012 but stayed in his post and delivered the Catalans' best-ever points haul in a near-perfect season. Once more Lionel Messi proved vital to Barcelona's efforts, as the Argentine continued to consolidate his position as the world's finest player.
The previous season, Real Madrid stormed to the Spanish Primera Division trophy and broke the 100-point barrier for the first time in the competition’s history. Mourinho had finally got the better of Guardiola, with the Catalan continuing with his sabbatical from the game and leaving Barca at the end of the campaign. His replacement ensured a seamless transition for Los Cules as Vilanova, his assistant, was given a promotion to the role of head coach. Mourinho and Madrid strengthened with a signing which would prove vital in their Champions League successes in subsequent years, with Luka Modric arriving from Tottenham. Barca, meanwhile, shrewdly acquired Jordi Alba and Alex Song. Deportivo, Celta, and Real Valladolid gained promotion from Segunda B to feature in the top tier this season.
While Barcelona were rocked by the resignation of Guardiola, under his old assistant Vilanova the Catalans picked up exactly where they left off with the legendary treble winner. Having maintained the squad that Pep built based on the magic of La Masia, Vilanova added young Valencia full-back Alba and enjoyed a scintillating start to life on the bench.
The Blaugrana romped to victory in all but one of their games in the first half of the Liga season, a gripping 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid which featured doubles from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo the only blip in that all-conquering run. The goals were flowing: Basque sides Athletic and Real Sociedad were both dispatched 5-1, while Rayo were humiliated 5-0 in front of their own fans, derby rivals Espanyol beaten 4-0 and Deportivo overcome 5-4 in a nine-goal thriller. It was not until January 19, when Real Sociedad gained revenge with a 3-2 win, that Barca finally tasted defeat in La Liga.
Madrid, meanwhile, settled into a distant second place. A string of negative results before Christmas heightened the pressure on Mourinho and caused intense friction inside the club, most notably between the coach and goalkeeping icon Casillas. Apparently blamed for the poor run of form and struggling with fitness, Casillas was unceremoniously dumped out of the first team in January in favour of ex-Valencia shot-stopper Diego Lopez - a final, desperate attempt to stop the inevitable and put the brakes on Tito's Blaugrana juggernaut.
After five wonderful years as part of a team that has made dreams come true for any coach, it's time to face a change in my professional life and focus my energy on continuing to fight the disease I was diagnosed with a year and a half ago.Tito Vilanova announces his departure from Barcelona to concentrate on his fight against throat cancer, July 2013.
It was all to no avail, however, as Barca maintained their grip on La Liga. Not even a Clasico reverse in March, the side's only other defeat in that year's Primera Division, could make a dent in their lead at the top, and 10 wins in the last 12 Liga rounds made the identity of 2012-13's champions something of a foregone conclusion. Madrid finished 15 points off the eventual winning tally of 100, as Vilanova equalled Mourinho's winning mark of the previous year.
There was also reason to celebrate in the red and white half of Madrid. In Diego Simeone's first full season as coach Atletico sealed a Champions League berth for the first time since 2009, a feat that along with Europa League glory made the former Colchonero midfielder an instant hit on the bench. The Argentine's arrival would soon propel Atleti into the eternal title fight that for a decade had been dominated solely by the two Clasico giants.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
The Argentine brought Champions League football back to the Vicente Calderon and started building a team which would fight for that title as well as on domestic fronts.
LIONEL MESSI - 46 GOALS
Thirty-two games. Forty-six goals. Ridiculous.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
CABALLERO; MARTINEZ, SERGIO RAMOS, PIQUE; ISCO, FABREGAS, INIESTA, KOKE; MESSI, FALCAO, RONALDO.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
ANTOINE GRIEZMANN keeps his eye on the ball all the way as he received a ball over the top of the opposition defence to control in mid-air before firing a volley home - all with the ball not touching the ground.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Tottenham to Real Madrid
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Moment of the season: When Eric Abidal and Tito Vilanova teamed up to lift the Liga title, there was not a dry eye left in Camp Nou. Both player and coach had battled cancer but teamed up for the most emotional of trophy presentations.