With Johann Cruyff & his Dream Team focussing on European glory, Real Madrid stole a march, only to be undone by a minute of madness in Tenerife

 

Background - Johann Cruyff and his Barcelona team could have been forgiven for focussing on their European Cup campaign during the 1991-92 season. The so called Dream Team had won the 90-91 La Primera title with ten points to spare and talk in the Catalan capital had turned to securing a first European Cup. Stung by the previous season’s relatively low finish, Real Madrid retained faith in an ageing team that included Emilio Butragueño, Manolo Sanchís, Martín Vázquez & Míchel. Atlético Madrid was a team in the ascendancy however, looking to build on their runners-up position and Copa del Rey success from the season before.

The Story of the campaign – Real Madrid & their neighbours Atlético were the early season pace setters, whilst Barcelona had a dreadful start losing three of their first five matches. An important point at the Bernabeu in week six seemed to get their season back on track, but by week seven, Real Madrid had taken over from Atlético at the top of the league and started to build a commanding lead. In fact Los Merengues won 12 of their first 13 fixtures, with their first defeat coming in week 16, a 0-2 reverse to Atlético at the Vicente Calderon. Atléti’s win over their cross-city rivals came in the middle of an appalling run of form, but seven consecutive wins in the second half of the season, coupled with Barça’s improving form, saw all three club’s close to within two points of each other with four games to play. Atléti’s hopes of a first title in 15 years were dealt a fatal blow in week 35 when they let a 1-2 lead slip in the final quarter of the match at the Bernabeu, to lose 3-2. Real Madrid were not having it all their own way however, and careless points dropped to Real Oviedo and Osasuna, saw the league enter its final week with the title in the balance.  

Wembley 1992 and dreams come true for the Dream Team

Significant matches – The matches between the three protagonists had been tight affairs, with only Atlético’s home win over Real Madrid seeing more than a goal’s difference. Both El Clasicos had ended in 1-1 draws, whilst Barca had beaten Atlético at the Camp Nou by a goal to nil and drawn at the Vicente Calderon. Going into the final match of the season, Real Madrid had 54 points, just one ahead of Barcelona. Whilst Real Madrid had stumbled on the run in, Barcelona had scored ten times without replay in the two league matches since their European Cup triumph over Sampdoria. The final fixtures saw Barça at home the Athletic Club, whilst Real Madrid had to travel to the Canary Islands and face a Tenerife side managed by their old boy Jorge Valdano. Tenerife had experienced a tough season, but with their top flight status secured in the penultimate match of the season, they had little to play for. All seemed to be going to plan, when Hierro and Hagi gave Real Madrid a 0-2 lead. Estebaranz pulled a goal back for Tenerife just before half-time, but there was little evidence to suggest an upset. Barcelona was doing all it could thanks to two Stoichkov goals. Then Barça’s prayers were answered when Tenerife stuck twice in the 77th minute. First Rocha equalised for the islanders, before Pier scored a goal that sent the crowds wild in both Santa Cruz and Barcelona. Despite intense pressure from Real Madrid, Tenerife hung on to record a famous victory and a place in the hearts of all Cules.

The curse of Tenerife. A year later and it would all happen again

Extras – The battle at the other end of the table was also tight, with any one of eight sides facing relegation in the final month. In the end, Real Valladolid & Real Mallorca were automatically relegated, whilst Cadiz & Deportivo de La Coruña entered the play-offs. Both held on to their top tier status after victories over Figueres and Real Betis respectively. Atlético gained some consolation when they retained the Copa del Rey. Their 2-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu completed a miserable season for Los Merengues. Albacete Balompié became the first representatives from the region of Castille La-Mancha to appear in the top flight, and in doing so became the fiftieth club to debut in La Primera.

New to La Primera. Albacete & the Estadio Carlos Belmonte

For the record – Both Real Madrid and Barcelona recorded seven goal victories over Espanyol and Albacete respectively. Barca’s 0-6 win at Real Valladolid was the biggest away win of the season, made all the more impressive by the fact that it came just four days after their extra-time triumph in the European Cup Final. Barcelona was also the league’s top scorers with 87 strikes, whilst Espanyol escaped relegation by a point, despite conceding a league high of 60 goals.

Pichichi – Atlético Madrid striker Manolo topped the goal scoring charts with a total of 27 strikes. A native of Extremadura, Manolo started out a CP Cacereño, before moves to Sabadell and Real Murcia put him on Atléti’s radar. Manolo scored a total of 76 goals in 219 matches for Atlético and a further 9 in 28 games for the national team. He moved to CP Merida in 1995, but a serious leg injury saw his career cut short and he retired 18 months later.

Manolo - Top striker with 27 goals

Zamora – With just 27 goals conceded in 35 matches, Real Madrid’s Francisco Buyo won the Trofeo Zamora. It was his second success, following up his victory in the 87-88 campaign. Buyo’s seven international caps were spread over a 9 year period, but he achieved more success at club level, winning a total of 6 league titles and two Copas during his time at Madrid, before retiring in 1997.

What a lovely Buyo

Today – Twenty years on and only 12 of the clubs can be found in this seasons La Primera. Real Valladolid & Deportivo La Coruña now play in La Segunda, whilst Albacete, Real Oviedo, Tenerife and Cadiz earn their corn in Segunda B. CD Logroñés finally bit the dust in 2009, whilst curiously, Real Burgos still exist, albeit at a very low regional level, having spent 15 seasons in a suspended animation.

The Final Table 1991-92