Nothing lasts forever. Just when it appeared that Barcelona's domestic domination was set to become depressingly repetitive for rivals Real Madrid, the Blancos responded in 2006-7 with an agonising title victory clinched on the very last day. There was absolutely nothing to choose between the two Clasico giants: in fact, the pair tied on points, and Madrid triumphed by virtue of their superior head-to-head record.
The Liga crown vindicated Merengue president Florentino Perez, who once again spent huge in order to bring glory back to the Santiago Bernabeu after two barren years. In Barcelona, meanwhile, a failure to sustain an impressive start to the season cost Frank Rijkaard dear, as did their poor record in their two Clasico outings which ultimately decided the fate of the title.
In 2006 Italian football was rocked by a corruption scandal which saw Juventus relegated and Milan among others deducted points for allegedly pressuring into the selection of certain referees for certain matches. As a result, several high-profile figures left Italy, with Barcelona and Real Madrid the destination. Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram arrived at Camp Nou, while Los Blancos brought in Fabio Cannavaro, the World Cup winning captain of Italy in the summer of 2006, and Fabio Capello as manager. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Mahamadou Diarra, and Emerson also arrived. Across the capital city at the Vicente Calderson, Atletico Madrid splashed out over 21 million euros on one Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero. Recreativo, Gimnastic, and Levante gained promotion from the previous campaign. One major omission from the league was Zinedine Zidane, who retired in the summer after the World Cup.
Having spent close to €100 million the previous term, Madrid smashed that barrier in 2006 to bring in a host of new faces. Manchester United sharpshooter Van Nistelrooy became the latest Galactico to join the attack, while Italy's World Cup hero Cannavaro arrived to bolster the defence and Lyon were persuaded to part with talented defensive midfielder Diarra.
The Merengue, however, did say farewell to club legend Zinedine Zidane, who hung up his boots at the age of 34 after a glittering career.
Van Nistelrooy paid instant dividends for new coach Fabio Capello. After starting the season with a subdued 0-0 draw at home to Villarreal the Dutchman announced himself to the Madrid faithful by scoring a spectacular hat-trick to down Levante.
The wins kept coming, and Van Nistelrooy was on target again alongside Raul as Barcelona were beaten 2-0 in the first Clasico of the season at the Bernabeu.
I couldn't have dreamt it any better. It's been about winning the title for the last six months - and we've deserved it tonight. It's been an incredible experience, but all I remember now is the great things. Winning this tonight now puts to bed everything else.David Beckham
Not even the great Ronaldo could compete with Madrid's new hitman, and the Brazilian left for Milan during the January transfer window in a move that barely caused a ripple for Capello’s men.
Van Nistelrooy came up big once more in the Clasico, this time at Camp Nou, scoring twice and bringing Madrid to the brink of victory before Lionel Messi hit a dramatic last-minute equaliser to secure a 3-3 draw. In total Madrid would go 17 games unbeaten at the end of the season to pile the pressure on leaders Barca, who began to drop points with regularity and went into the last game needing a minor miracle in order to take La Liga.
Drawn on points, Madrid went into the decider knowing they only needed to match their rivals' result due to their advantage head-to-head. Barca nevertheless ensured they would be left sweating as they dispatched Gimnastic 5-1, while the Blancos endured an early scare when Mallorca's Fernando Varela put his side 1-0 up at the Bernabeu.
But two goals from Jose Antonio Reyes in the second half dispelled those fears, and Diarra also found the net to seal a 3-1 victory and bring La Liga back to the Spanish capital.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Ramos guided Sevilla to the Champions League in an excellent campaign for the Andalusians. Not only did the coach seal third place, but his side also managed the rare feat of beating both Madrid and Barcelona in a single season.
RUUD VAN NISTELROOY - 25 GOALS
Van Nistelrooy was one of the greatest centre forwards of his generation, and without his goals it is difficult to see how Madrid could have wrested the title away from Camp Nou. The ex-Man United star hit 25 goals over the course of the season, two more than runner-up, Zaragoza's Diego Milito.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Lyon to Real Madrid
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
That unforgettable double-header on the last day of the season, where Madrid flirted with disaster before Reyes steadied the ship and delivered the crown.