La Liga

When Pep Guardiola changed the face of football - La Liga in 2008-09

11:00am on Monday 6th April 2020
Dan Edwards

Already a Camp Nou legend as a player, Pep Guardiola proved he was not a bad coach either with a debut season at Barca that shattered all expectations – not to mention a few records, too. Under his command the Catalans touched new heights, easily claiming the Liga title and adding the Copa del Rey and Champions League for good measure to complete the club's, and Spain's, first-ever treble.

Real Madrid, in contrast, were in disarray. A severely disappointing start to the season saw Bernd Schuster dismissed less than a year after delivering La Liga in such emphatic fashion. Neither the change in coach, however, or Barca's battles on three fronts could change the course of the season, as Barca eventually ran out winners by nine points over their rivals.


In one of the most influential managerial appointments in football history, Barcelona would promote former captain, Guardiola, from their ‘B Team’ to the senior squad. The Catalan quickly turned his squad upside down to mould it into his image. Senior players Gianluca Zambrotta, Deco, and the talismanic figure of Ronaldinho were moved on, while Dani Alves and Gerard Pique arrived among others and Sergio Busquets and Pedro were promoted to the senior squad full-time. Real Madrid got rid of two Brazilians in the form of Julio Baptista and Robinho, and signed Rafael van der Vaart and Ezequiel Garay. Numancia, Malaga, and Sporting Gijon gained promotion from the previous season.


Guardiola's promotion from Barcelona B to the first team was accompanied by a series of key signings. Dani Alves arrived from Sevilla, while former La Masia student Gerard Pique returned from Manchester United and Sevilla also released midfieder Seydou Keita to give Pep's midfield extra bite.

One of Barca's most important transfers did not cost them a single penny; a young talent by the name of Sergio Busquets followed his Barcelona B coach to the senior side, and at the age of 20 quickly established himself as a key part of the midfield alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho left Camp Nou for Milan, and Pep's reign got off to an inauspicious start with defeat to Numancia and a subdued 1-1 draw at home to Racing. But his team finally clicked in the third round of La Liga, thrashing Sporting 6-1 in the first of nine straight wins.

Not until February would the Catalans taste defeat again, as they embarked on an undefeated run of 23 games that included a thrilling Clasico victory over Real Madrid at Camp Nou.

Winning at the Camp Nou is impossible. The state we're in, all we can do is go there and put in a decent performance.Bernd Schuster

Madrid, meanwhile, were reeling after losing Ruud van Nistelrooy to a serious knee injury in November, and after an encouraging start to the campaign the wheels started to fall off for Schuster.

The Blancos lost three consecutive games to drop as low as sixth in the standings: the third of those reverses, inflicted at Camp Nou thanks to goals from Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi, marked a miserable debut for Juande Ramos in La Liga after Schuster had been relieved of his duties.

Results did pick up under Ramos, and by the time May came around Madrid held out hopes of wrestling the summit back from their rivals. At the Bernabeu, however, their dreams of a remarkable comeback were cruelly smashed.

A rampant Barca recovered from an early goal from Gonzalo Higuain to thrash Madrid 6-2 in front of their own fans, with Messi and Thierry Henry both hitting doubles. A demoralised Blanco side went on to lose all four of their last Liga clashes, while Pep's side coasted through their final games to take the crown.


The little genius from Rosario was the symbol of Pep's Barcelona revolution. Shifted out to the right wing by his new coach, Messi enjoyed his best season to date and finished the season with 23 goals, three of which he netted in back-to-back Clasico victories.



In his very first season on the bench Pep was already on the way to revolutionising football. The Catalan moulded one of the finest teams La Liga had ever seen, and he was only just getting started.



The jeers and jibes that accompanied Forlan during his mixed spell with Manchester United were now long behind him. The Uruguayan smashed 32 goals for Atletico Madrid in just 33 games, and formed a potent partnership with Sergio Aguero that helped the Colchoneros grab a Champions League spot.



YAYA TOURE, a defensive midfielder playing at centre-back, suddenly bursts forward, displaying lovely footwork on the way, before flashing a cracking strike into the bottom corner from range.



Sevilla to Barcelona



Barca's 6-2 demolition of Madrid in the Bernabeu, a result that knocked the fight out of the Merengue and accelerated Guardiola's march to the title.

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