In lifting the title in July, Real Madrid have now secured the latest LaLiga title in Spanish history. I emphasise latest as, despite taking 11 months to complete, the 2019-20 season is still not the longest season in LaLiga history.
1932— Real Madrid C.F.⚽ (@realmadrid) July 16, 2020
Like other top flight leagues in Europe, Spain has experimented with the number of games played per season. When the Spanish top flight started in 1929, there were only 10 teams meaning there were just 18 games played. As the competition began to establish itself, new teams started to join and by the 1950s, each team was playing 30 league matches per season.
Heading into the 1986-87 season, the Spanish FA decided to experiment with how the Spanish championship was won and added a second phase to the then traditional 34-game-season. The second phase saw the league spilt up into three groups of six teams. Real Madrid, having finished the regular season a point clear at the top, were drafted into Group A which decided the championship.
Carrying their record from the previous season over, Real Madrid played the top five LaLiga teams for that season a further two times before winning the championship. Their first match was a home game against Barcelona which they drew 0-0, however, Leo Beenhakker’s side managed to win seven of the following nine, extending their lead at the top by a further three points to wrap up the 44-game long title.
The experiment didn’t really have the desired effect of adding more drama. The only major effect of adding the extra 10 games was that Sabedell managed to make up a two point deficit to avoid relegation at the expense of Osasuna. The following season saw the introduction of the 38-game-season which has remained in place for all but two seasons.
In 1995-96, Sevilla and Celta Vigo were relegated to the third division for failing to make payments to the Spanish FA having entered administration. To fill their space, Ablacete and Real Valladolid were readmitted to LaLiga. Sevilla and Celta were later reinstated to LaLiga and, instead of relegating Albacete and Real Valladolid for a second time, the Spanish top flight was played out with 22 teams for the following two seasons.
Atletico Madrid won the first 42-game title as defending champions Real finished a distance sixth. Interestingly, Los Blancos all four of their extra games with their poor start and mid-season record the cause of their lowly finish. The following year saw Fabio Capello take charge and the club’s fortunes turn dramatically. Having finished 17 points behind the champions the previous year, Real finished 21 clear under Capello and won the title by two points over Barcelona. Real lost just two games in the usual 38 games, however they doubled that undesirable record with defeat to Athletic Bilbao and Celta Vigo on the final day, the former beating them 4-0.
As Los Sergio Ramos and co lift the title once more, veteran Madridistas might be hoping for a few more prolonged (deadly virus free) seasons in the future as it seems to suit the 34-time Spanish champions.