Believe it or not, but there was a time when La Liga was contested by clubs other than Barcelona and Real Madrid. There was even an occasion when the Catalans needed a 90th minute overhead kick to secure Champions League football. How times have changed. Only as far back as seven years ago Deportivo La Coruna were Champions League semi-finalists, yet since that day the club has been on a gradual decline accumulating to this season, when they were relegated to the Segunda Division for the first time since 1991.
Their latest cycle in the Primera Division was the most successful in the clubs history; three Spanish Super Cups, two Copa Del Reys and their first La Liga trophy that they won in 2000. In the past 20 years ‘Super Depor’ became everyone’s second team. The Galician side of the early 90’s consisted of experienced players like Luis Lopez Rekarte, Donato, Nando and Adolfo Adana and blended that experience with the youthful legs of Fran, and Brazilian internationals Bebeto and Mauro Silva. In only their second season back they showed how good they would become by qualifying for Europe for the first ever time and consisted of the Pichichi (Bebeto) and Zamora (Paco Liaño) holders.
That form transferred to the next season and they were a minute away from that first La Liga title. Regular penalty taker Donato had been substituted and eventual World Cup winner Bebeto shied away from the pressure having missed his last spot-kick. So up steps Serbian defender Miroslav Dukic, whose timid effort was saved by Valencia keeper Jose Luis Gonzalez. Bribe accusations followed after Valencia’s joyful celebrations; perplexing as they had nothing to play for. Irony and fate made sure that Dukic would get his hands on the title, not with his Depor teammates, but with Valencia in 2002.