Along with Athletic Club, Real Sociedad are one of the two biggest LaLiga clubs in the Basque Country. The Spanish top flight has been dominated for decades by Real Madrid and Barcelona, but that has certainly not always been the case. At the start of the 1980s, it was La Real lifting two consecutive league titles.
This remarkable period of time truly begins with one man. Born in the same city of San Sebastián that the club call home, Alberto Ormaetxea came to define Real Sociedad and was the architect for many of their triumphs. As a defender, he would contribute on the pitch in almost 300 appearances for the first team. But as a manager, Ormaetxea was able to push his side further than fans could have imagined.
He took over in 1978, finishing just one point behind champion Real Madrid for the 1979-80 term. That would not happen again for them in the next year. The following season, led by strikers Jesús María Satrústegui and Pedro Uralde up front, Real Sociedad would capture LaLiga’s trophy for the first time. They would finish with the same amount of points as Los Blancos, but a superior head-to-head record delivered the silverware for Ormaetxea’s side.
Real Sociedad would retain their title in the next campaign, as well as add on a Spanish Super Cup in 1982. Ormaetxea was able to get the best out his players, and understood the game extremely well. He put individuals in the best possible position to succeed, and his team responded in a fantastic manner.
Well known with Athletic for their cantera systems and strict use of Basque players, Real Sociedad began to change elements of their recruitment selections by the end of the decade. In an effort to boost the squad, John Aldridge and Dalian Atkinson forever changed the future at the Atotxa Stadium. The effects of those decisions are seen today with Willian José, Adnan Januzaj and Héctor Moreno.
Athletic still continue on with a Basque-only set of rules for new signings. It is an interesting debate, and one that goes back well before the 1980s. As Real Madrid and Barcelona added talents such as Alfredo Di Stéfano and Johan Cruyff, Real Sociedad have also recognised the potential benefits of adding internationals. In recent years there have been some levels of success too with the new policy, finishing second to Real Madrid in the league for the 2002-03 season.
LaLiga can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the influence of its biggest clubs. But for a time, it was Real Sociedad leading the way to victory.