Can you imagine the scenes at Barcelona if they didn’t spend a penny this summer?
It wouldn’t be pretty. But guess what? In 2005 that’s exactly what happened. Under Frank Rijkaard Barcelona spent exactly, well, nothing.
So did they spend the season fighting relegation and repeatedly calling Emile Heskey trying to get him to sign on in January? Not quite.
Barcelona were coming off the back of a title-winning season, spearheaded by an attacking duo of Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho, so the squad wasn’t exactly in bad shape.
But when the chance to sign Mark van Bommel from PSV on a free transfer presented itself, Rijkaard couldn’t pass it up.
On the face of it the 28-year-old was the complete opposite of the free-flowing Barcelona Rijkaard had created, but his bite in midfield meant Ronaldinho and co would have some protection when things got tough.
Van Bommel was joined by Santiago Ezquerro, another free signing, this time from Athletic Bilbao, who passed up first-team football for a shot at winning some silverware.
The scariest fax Barcelona ever received
Inter Milan, so impressed by a 17-year-old Lionel Messi’s performance against Serie A rivals Juventus during pre-season, decided to make Barcelona an offer they couldn’t refuse.
A €150million release clause was deemed worth activating which in hindsight would have been a bargain but at the time seemed an astonishing deal.
Barcelona, who had only handed Messi a contract upgrade in June, gave the teenager a new deal three months later, reportedly doubling his wages and increasing his release clause.
Proof that Barcelona would never be bullied in the transfer market. What’s that? Neymar? Good point.
Too many cooks…
You know the saying too many cooks spoil the broth?
Well at Barcelona too many no.10s spoil the team chemistry which meant, with Ronaldinho and Deco ruling supreme, Juan Roman Riquelme was sold to Villarreal.
The 27-year-old never really had a chance at the Nou Camp, only spending one season in the Barcelona first-team.
But over the next three seasons Riquelme proved himself as one of Europe’s great playmakers, and the last of a dying breed of out-and-out no.10s.
Off to a shaky start
A goalless draw away to newly promoted Deportivo Alaves wasn’t an ideal way to kick off the campaign.
Worse was to follow as Barcelona were beaten 2-1 by Atletico Madrid, following that up with draws against Valencia, Real Zaragoza and Deportivo La Coruna.
With only two wins from the opening seven La Liga games Barcelona were wobbling.
In the same period Real Madrid had won five times, including an impressive 3-0 away win in the Madrid derby.
Bouncing back in style
Barcelona fans needn’t have panicked.
With 14 wins in a row, including a 3-0 victory in El Clasico, Barcelona stormed back to the top of La Liga and asserted their authority over the rest of Spain.
Messi was now well and truly a first-team player, linking up with Eto’o and Ronaldinho to form a devastating front three.
There was only one game in the 14-match run in which none of the three scored.
The run was ended with consecutive defeats against Atletico and Valencia in February, but Barcelona bounced back once again to lose just once in 13 games.
On 3 May 2006 Valencia’s loss against Real Mallorca meant Barcelona had retained the title without spending a penny on transfers.
Barcelona weren’t just dominant in Spain.
Rijkaard’s side saw off Chelsea, Milan and Arsenal on the way to lifting the Champions League, adding to the league title and Spanish Super Cup and completing the treble.
An 18th minute Jens Lehmann red card should have handed Barcelona the final on a plate but they were made to work for it when Sol Campbell powered in a 37th minute header.
Goals from Eto’o and Juliano Belletti rescued the game in the last 15 minutes of the match, much to the dismay of Gunners fans.