In honour of their La Liga and Copa del Rey triumphs, this week’s Team Spotlight will focus on FC Barcelona.
Despite their crushing defeat to Levante at the weekend, the Catalan club have cruised to the league title while hammering Sevilla 5-0 in the cup final.
With that in mind, this edition will look at one of Barca’s greatest La Liga campaigns, and not the 2008-09 season when they swept up six trophies in the calendar year.
The arrival of Johan Cruyff
It is the 1973-74 term, the campaign that arguably set a precedent for the future of the club, the season that ended a severe drought, the year that saw Barca beat their old rivals Real Madrid 5-0 and of course the first time the most important man in their recent history played in the Blaugrana kit.
It was Johan Cruyff’s debut season in Catalonia, having moved from Ajax for a world record fee of £920,000 in the summer of 1973.
The Dutchman had already won the Ballon d’Or in his homeland and was now being tasked to help win the La Liga title for Barcelona for the first time in 14 years. He did not disappoint.
Cruyff formed one arm of attacking trio that also included Carles Rexach and Marcial Pina, as they stormed to the league title by 10 points from runners-up Atletico Madrid.
Deadly duo lead Barcelona to La Liga
Despite Marcial and Cruyff mainly operating as midfielders, the pair scored a combined 33 goals in the league, with the former only missing out on winning the Pichichi trophy for La Liga top scorer to Sporting Gijon’s Quini.
Yet, incredibly, it was also the season in which Real Madrid finished eighth, with their great enemies beating Los Blancos 5-0 in the league.
Real Madrid got revenge though, beating Barca 4-0 in the Copa del Generalisimo final, but it was the Primera Division where the Catalan outfit had showed their true worth.
The signing of Cruyff by manager Rinus Michels, another former player and coach of Ajax, had proved to be a masterstroke and one that was needed at Barcelona at the time.
It was their first La Liga title since 1960 and while they would not win another for 11 more years, it was the start of a new beginning at Barca and one that still impacts the club today.
Barcelona’s new beginning
The arrival of the Dutch maestro began his love affair with the club and city. Cruyff integrated himself into Catalan culture and his association with Barcelona as a manager, where he followed on from the teachings of Michels.
His one La Liga title as a player is often overshadowed by his remarkable achievements as a manager, winning four league trophies and a European Cup among other honours. Cruyff also helped shape Barca’s youth academy, La Masia, and their style of football.
The most recent Golden Generation was one of the end products of his work, with his former prodigy Josep Guardiola as coach while the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi became a dependable and exhilarating trio.
Yet, it all stemmed from Cruyff’s first season, in which he ended years of heartache and seeing Real Madrid claim league title after league title. It was the start of the new Barcelona.