At this point in Spanish football history, the ‘big three’ included not only Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Valencia also, who had previously won the Spanish Primera Division the previous campaign in 2004 and in 2002. However, prior to the 2004-05 campaign Barca were arguably the third biggest power in that trio as they had not won the league since before the turn of the Millennium.
The previous season Barcelona finished second under the tutelage of Frank Rijkaard, but the Dutchman would start a revolution at the Camp Nou which would see them once again become one of the elite sides in Europe.
The previous season, Barcelona came under criticism for allowing David Beckham to join Real Madrid while they purchased Ronaldinho from PSG, and even though the critics were proved hilariously wrong, the Blaugrana would not be undone in the transfer market two years in a row.
In a bid to get back to winning trophies, they brought in two prolific goalscorers in Samuel Eto’o and Henrik Larsson, as well as Ludovic Giuly and Brazilians Edmilson and Juliano Belletti. In the overall arc of Barca’s history, however, the most important debut came in the form of young La Masia graduate, Andres Iniesta.
Real Madrid witnessed a managerial merry-go-round with no less than three head coaches taking the reigns. Mariano Garcia Remon, Mariano Garcia Remon, and Vanderlei Luxemburgo all had a go, with the Brazilian making it into next season, but success evaded them. However, their playing staff was boosted with the arrival of mercurial Englishman Michael Owen, his compatriot Jonathan Woodgate, and bustling centre-back Walter Samuel.
Lionel Messi, meanwhile, made his competitive debut.
Champions, Valencia, blew most of their budget on Stefano Fiore from Lazio as their influential manager, Rafa Benitez, left for Liverpool.
Barcelona got their season off to a flyer as two of their new signings, Giuly and Eto’o, netted in a 2-0 victory away at Racing Santander. Rijkaard’s men only dropped points in one out of their first eight Liga matches, a draw against Atletico Madrid.
In the sixth fixture of the season, Larsson scored the only goal of the match as the Blaugrana defeated Numancia 1-0 at the Camp Nou. This result put them top, and they would remarkably not surrender the summit across the next 32 matches to eventually be crowned champions.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, won their opening two games by a solitary goal, with Ronaldo and Beckham getting the goals. However, their title assault was derailed before it even got going as they lost three out of their next four fixtures against Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao, and Deportivo.
They would go on to lose two more matches before the end of the year, including a damaging 2-0 defeat against Barcelona in the Clasico. By the first of January 2005 they were already on their third manager of the campaign. Under Luxemburgo, they did win their next seven matches, but were unable to topple Barca from top spot.
In the last 10 matches of the season Los Blancos went on a superb run of 10 matches without defeat and even came out on top against Barcelona 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the damage had already been done with previous losses as they were defeated in eight games overall in the league.
Messi is God, as a person and even more as a player. I knew him when he was a boy and I’ve watched him grow. He deserves it all.Samuel Eto'o
Claudio Ranieri was Valencia’s replacement for Liverpool-bound Benitez, but the Italian could not replicate his predecessor’s success as Los Che eventually finished seventh with Antonio Lopez replacing Ranieri in February.
It was a positive season for both Villarreal and Real Betis, who both enjoyed qualification for the Champions League for the first time in their history.
At the bottom end of the table, it always looked like it was going to be three out of four possible teams to face the drop - Mallorca, Levante, Numancia, and Albacete.
Albacete and Numancia were never close to staying up as they lost a whopping 22 and 21 matches in the league, conceding close to 60 goals each.
It was much more touch-and-go between Mallorca and Levante, with the former struggling for form without their star striker, Eto’o who was tearing up the league in Catalunya. Mallorca would survive thanks to a late surge which saw them record impressive wins over Athletic and Deportivo.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
The Spanish playmaker was by no means near the peak of his powers, but was beginning to be recognised as one of the best midfielders in the world after mastering the craft of ‘tiki-taka’.
FOREIGN PLAYER OF THE SEASON
JUAN ROMAN RIQUELME
The enigmatic Argentine may have had a career which did not live up to potential for one reason or another, but in this season he led Villarreal to their first ever Champions League qualification, with his command of the ball and creative passing lighting up the league.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
This would be the season when the Dutchman started to stamp his authority on the team, and it paid dividends with the passing and movement reminiscent of 1970s Netherlands sides.
DIEGO FORLAN - 25 GOALS
The Uruguayan put an inconsistent period with Manchester United behind him and combined with Riquelme to fire Villarreal to a Champions League berth, netting 25 goals in the league.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Mallorca to Barcelona
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
In November, Real Madrid came into the Clasico after winning four games on the bounce, but were humbled by Barca at the Camp Nou in a 3-0 loss, with Eto’o, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and Ronaldinho getting the goals.