The real disturbing news of the season was Real Madrid – contrary to expectations, they had terrible season and finished at 9th place. Hard to tell why: the same team with the same coach won the two previous seasons. It was not aging squad – it was just in its prime. May be the absence of Netzer? Hardly – he was getting old and going downhill. Whatever it was, Real was a disaster, and the remedy was familiar all over the world: the coach was sacked. Two titles in two years? So what? Did he win THIS year? Good bye Miljanic. Good bye Breitner too.
Good fortune came to other clubs: Athletic Bilbao finished third. The Basques looked like they were coming back to the very top of Spanish football, may be beginning a new and long waited strong spell.
Athletic reached the final of the UEFA Cup, reached the final of Copa del Rey, and finished with bronze medals the championship. They were not ripe for success yet, for they ended 7 points behind the 2nd placed team, not contenders for the title at all, but improving. May be next year?
The race for the title was between two teams and was tough: a single point divided champions from vice-champions. The silver boys finished with better goal difference and were the points equal, the champions were to be different. But point is a point and Barcelona lacked that point.
Rinus Michels evidently sparked the Catalans, but still came a little short. May be there was no more to be extracted from this squad. Cruyff and Neeskens were the grand masters, but both were a bit bellow their performance from few years back. Rebuilding of the team already started and was painful – somehow no great new player emerged, and veterans were still essential. One big problem was goalkeeping, where the crisis was acute. Michels managed to extract one last spurt, one last run, but it was clearly ailing team. At the end, it was in the mouth of Cruyff – he seemingly was immune to firing, so revolution was possible only if he decided to leave.
The unexpected fall of Real Madrid and the well known handicaps of Barcelona opened opportunity for Atletico Madrid. And they did not miss it – Atletico fought and managed to edge Barcelona and win the title.
Spain appeared stilled, but there was at least somebody suggesting brighter future: Mario Kempes, playing for Valencia, was the best goalscorer of the season with 24 goals.