If we told you Real Zaragoza were one of Europe’s most exciting sides in 2006/07, what would you say?
Once we’d sifted through the swear words and insults we’d probably find a lot of people telling us we were wrong.
So allow us to put our case forward.
Everything starts at the back
Any self-respecting team needs a solid back two and Zaragoza were no different.
Zaragoza had a centre-back pairing to rival any in Europe in captain Gabriel Milito and loanee Gerard Pique.
The pair dovetailed perfectly, both more than comfortable coming out from the back while the combination of Milito’s left foot and Pique’s right foot made them especially easy on the eye.
With Pique and Milito at the back Zaragoza conceded 43 goals, compared to 51 the previous campaign, keeping 16 clean sheets throughout the season.
The South American mavericks
Defence? Tick. Now it’s time for an injection of flair. Step forward Pablo Aimar and Andres D’Alessandro.
Aimar had arrived from Valencia where he’d been the creative force behind two league titles, a UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup,
D’Alessandro- no less talented than Aimar but frequently prone to going missing- joined on loan from Wolfsburg who’d grown tired of watching his on-pitch performances flit between Lionel Messi and Lionel Richie.
The pair scored seven goals together during the 2006/07 season but their ability to unlock La Liga defences- see D’Alessandro’s nine assists- and excite the crowd was immeasurable.
Who’s scoring the goals?
Right. So where are we at? Rock solid defence? Tick. Flair in midfield? Correct. Now we need a goalscorer.
Introducing Diego Milito. Genoa’s relegation to the third tier of Italian football after a spot of match fixing meant Zaragoza were able to get Milito in on the cheap.
After one season of settling in, with a respectable 15 goals, Milito cut loose during the 2006/07 season.
His 23 goals were only bettered by Ruud van Nistelrooy in Spain and Francesco Totti in the race for the European Golden Shoe.
What were the highlights?
This Zaragaoza side weren’t just flat track bullies.
Zaragoza beat Atletico Madrid home and away and bloodied the nose of a Barcelona side featuring Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Deco.
They even nearly managed to stop David Beckham’s Real Madrid winning the title by drawing 2-2 on the penultimate game of the season.
What happened next?
Ahh, it was all going so well.
Losing Gabriel Milito and Pique to Barcelona, the latter going via a return to United, wasn’t the best start in the transfer window.
But they held on to Gabriel’s brother and even managed to add the experience of Roberto Ayala and midfielder Gabi.
However a torrid season saw Zaragoza finish 18th, relegated to the second tier of Spanish football.
The vultures swooped, with Diego Milito rejoining Genoa, Spain international Sergio Garcia and Brazil international Ricardo Oliveira going to Real Betis and Pablo Aimar moving to Benfica.
The journey was well and truly over. But it was fun while it lasted.