A Season in the Spotlight - La Liga 1982-83

Background – Football in Spain was in need of a boost. The country had staged the twelfth World Cup Finals during the summer of 1982 and despite a vast investment on infrastructure and publicity, the tournament had failed to capture the Spanish public’s imagination. The sombre mood was not helped by the host nation’s poor showing, which the Madrid-based press had unfairly blamed on the large number of Basque players in La Selección. Real Sociedad had won back-to-back titles and much of the pre-season talk had focussed on a return to form from the countries two biggest clubs. Barcelona showed its hand first of all with the capture of Diego Maradona from Boca Juniors for a then world record fee of 1,200 million pesetas. However few had counted on another challenge from the Basque country, this time in the shape of Athletic Club de Bilbao. 
Naranjito proved to have a bitter after-taste
The Story of the Campaign – After Real Zaragoza, Atlético Madrid and Athletic Club had all led the league in the first month of the season, normal service appeared to have been restored when Real Madrid took over the leadership of the league in week five. Here they remained for the next 18 weeks, gaining important victories over Atlético at home and Athletic Club at San Mamés. Their only setback in the first half of the season was a home defeat to Barcelona in week 13. Barça however, was far too inconsistent and star player Maradona struggled with his fitness after contracting hepatitis. After Real Madrid was crowned winter champions, Barcelona went on a nine match unbeaten run, which coincided with Los Merengues own loss of form. However, after Barça hit the top in Week 23, cracks soon started to appear, culminating in a home defeat to bottom club Racing Santander in Week 26 which cost manager Lattak Udo his job. Athletic Club, coached by the 32 year old Javier Clemente were now neck and neck with Real Madrid and the clubs exchanged the lead on five occasions in final weeks of the season. Going into the final round of matches, Real Madrid held a one point lead over Athletic Club.
At 32, Javier Clemente was La Liga's youngest coach.
Matches of the Season – Not only was the title race a tight affair, but all of the European and relegation places remained unresolved entering the final week of the season. The final set of fixtures saw both Real Madrid and Athletic Club pitched away to clubs involved in the relegation fight. Athletic had to win in Las Palmas, who in turn required a point to survive. Real Madrid on the other hand need only a point at third from bottom Valencia, who knew that nothing but a win would prevent relegation from La Primera for the first time. Elsewhere, Racing Santander, Celta Vigo and Osasuna all required victories to retain their top flight status. The two key fixtures saw an early goal in Las Palmas, where the home side took the lead in the third minute. Athletic Club restored parity with a strike from Sarabia on 12 minutes. The first indication that things were not going to go to plan occurred just before half time when Tendillo put Valencia ahead at the Luis Casanova and Dani scored for Athletic Club at the Estadio Insular. Real Madrid laid siege to the Valencia goal in the second period, hitting the woodwork twice and forcing Los Ches custodian Bermell to make a number of stunning saves. Valencia clung on to earn a surprise 1-0 victory and salvation. Athletic found another gear in the second half and further goals from Argoti and Urtubi and second from Sarabia secured 1-5 victory and the club’s first la Liga title in 27 years.
Champions Athletic pose before their traditional Gabarra parade
Extras – A 1-0 victory for Osasuna over Barcelona was enough to secure their safety, but it was not such a happy ending for Racing Santander & Celta Vigo, who joined Las Palmas in the drop zone. La Romareda in Zaragoza hosted the final of the Copa del Rey, where Marcos Alonso’s 90th minute diving header earned Barcelona a 2-1 win over Real Madrid.
La Romareda got to host its first cup final
For the Record – Athletic Club were the division’s leading scorers with 71 goals, thanks in no small part to the potent front pairing of Dani and Sarabia, who together accounted for 35 of the goals. Real Zaragoza & Barcelona both recorded 7-2 victories against Racing Santander and Las Palmas respectively. Real Madrid defensive unit was breached on only 25 occasions. A total of 780 goals were scored at an average of 2.55 per game.

Pichichi – Real Betis striker Poli Rincón won the Trefeo Pichici with a total of 20 goals in 30 matches. He was the first and to date only player from the club to win the top marksman’s title. Madrid-born Rincón started his career with Real Madrid Castilla, before moving to Diter Zafra and Recreativo Huelva in the mid 1970’s. A two year stint at Real Madrid only yielded 16 starts, before a move to Betis in 1981 saw him make 223 league appearances and score 78 goals. Ricón played 22 times for the national side, and is best remembered for scoring four second half goals in La Selección’s 12-1 rout of Malta during the qualifiers for Euro 1984.
Rincón - Betis' one and only
Zamora – Although Zamora winner Agustin played for Real Madrid for over a decade, this was his only season as first choice keeper. A total of 25 goals conceded in 29 matches secured the trophy. Agustin moved to Tenerife in 1990 and retired from playing four years later. He coached the goalkeepers at Tenerife for a short period and has also worked as a match analyst on state TV.
For one season only, Agustin was top of the stops
The Clubs today – Thirteen of the class of 82-83 played in this season’s Primera, however only Athletic Club, Real Madrid & Barcelona have been ever-present. Real Valladolid, Celta Vigo and Las Palmas play in La Segunda, whilst Salamanca graced Segunda B. CD Malaga folded in 1992 and was replaced by its reserve team as the city’s senior club.

The Final Table - 1982-83