La Liga

When Ronaldinho moved onto another level - La Liga in 2005/06

The Brazilian moved into the realm of greatness in a near-flawless season

11:00am on Friday 3rd April 2020
By
Dan Edwards

An impeccable season for Barcelona saw the Catalans retain their Liga title, blowing away the competition to finish 12 points clear of second-placed Real Madrid. The team built by Frank Rijkaard also lifted the Champions League at the expense of Arsenal, putting in place a formidable unit that in years to come and under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola would enter the history books.

Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho were at the height of their powers at Camp Nou, enthralling fans and rivals alike. But many eyes had already turned to a teenage Argentine phenomenon by the name of Lionel Messi, who at just 18 carved out a spot alongside those two superstars and made the Blaugrana the most formidable attacking force on the continent.

CHANGES

Real Madrid were in turmoil. Los Blancos were going through a barren spell after a number of trophyless seasons, with the reigns of Mariano Garcia Ramon, and Jose Antonio Camacho failing to muster up as much as a cup win. Juan Roman Lopez Caro and Vanderlei Luxemburgo both gave success a go, but it was hard to come by for them too. Sergio Ramos was acquired from Sevilla, with the Spaniard going on to become a Madrid legend and captain, while the Andalusian side was also raided for Julio Baptista. Another Brazilian was brought in by the name of Robinho. Barca were more frugal in the market and only brought in Mark van Bommel of note, but this would be when Lionel Messi would feature more often. Atletico Madrid were making waves too and finalised deals for the likes of Martin Petrov and Maxi Rodriguez, but arguably the best business of the window was by Sevilla, who signed Luis Fabiano and Fredy Kanoute. Cadiz, Celta Vigo, and Alaves joined the big boys from the Segunda.

SUMMARY

Having lifted the league title in 2004-05 to break a six-year drought, Rijkaard spent sparingly in his third season at the club alongside president Joan Laporta. Compatriot Van Bommel and journeyman striker Santiago Ezquerro were the only acquisitions made, while the likes of Gerard, Juan Roman Riquelme, Fabio Rochemback and Javier Saviola were released in a clear-out of the Blaugrana's bulging squad.

The most important signing, however, was the promotion of Messi from Barcelona B. Having made his debut the previous season visa issues complicated his permanent first-team introduction, but the Rosario-born wonderkid finally obtained Spanish citizenship and from September onwards was a fixture in the starting line-up.

On the pitch, early results went against the Liga holders. Barca triumphed in just two of their first seven games, a run that included a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid. But Rijkaard's men later found their stride, and embarked on an awesome run of 15 straight wins in which the trio of Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Messi, admirably supported by Deco playing deeper, began to net against all-comers.

Real Madrid's Galacticos, meanwhile, were struggling to shine. Despite spending almost €100m on stars like Sergio Ramos, Robinho, Antonio Cassano and Julio Baptista the team coached by Brazilian Luxemburgo seriously underachieved, losing six times in the first half of La Liga alone. Luxemburgo's 'magic triangle', an attempt to impose the Brazilian 4-2-2-2 formation on David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and the rest of Madrid's idols, failed miserably, and he was eventually sacked in December; a 3-0 drubbing at home to Barcelona in which Ronaldinho hit twice and was given a standing ovation by the Bernabeu ultimately sealed his fate.

Long-time Castilla boss Caro took over for the rest of the season and results improve in the capital, but it was not enough to change the destiny of the Liga title. While further defeats followed for Barcelona in a subdued second half of the campaign it was enough to waltz to the title, as the Champions League took centre-stage. Barca could even lose their last two Liga outings and still maintain a winning margin of 12 points, testament to their dominance over the season.

Madrid nevertheless grabbed a respectable second; the final Champions League spots, meanwhile, went to Valencia and the season's surprise package Osasuna, who under the direction of Javier Aguirre qualified for the competition for the first time in their history.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

RONALDINHO

The mercurial Brazilian was at the very height of his powers in 2005-06, a year in which he was named FIFA World Player of the Year for a second time as well as his first and only Ballon d'Or. Ronaldinho smashed 17 goals in La Liga and generally tortured his opponents in what many consider his greatest-ever season.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

FRANK RIJKAARD

No arguments over this one, as the Dutchman moulded his talented side into a unit full of attacking flair and collective genius to walk La Liga.

TOP GOALSCORER

SAMUEL ETO'O - 26 GOALS

The principal beneficiary of Ronaldinho's genius, Eto'o built on his memorable debut season with an even better second term at Camp Nou. The Cameroonian hit 26 goals in just 34 games to finish top scorer for the first and only time in Spain, going one better than runner-up David Villa.

MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER

SERGIO RAMOS

Sevilla to Real Madrid

€27m

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

Without a doubt, Ronaldinho's masterclass at the Bernabeu was the pivotal moment of the 2005-6 season. The Brazilian was unstoppable, and became only the second player after the great Diego Maradona to win the grudging admiration of the ever-hostile Madrid support.

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