Another look back at some classic goals, players, and moments from this week in LaLiga history…
30th November: Bale’s first Real Madrid hat-trick is perfect (2013)
Gareth Bale had a frustrating first two months at the Santiago Bernabeu due to several niggling fitness issues but on 30 November 2013, just 13 games into his Real Madrid career, the former Tottenham star did something that few players ever manage. 33 minutes into a LaLiga Santander game at home to Real Valladolid his smart header made it 1-0. After the break came his second of the game, rolled to the corner with his right-foot after Marcelo’s cross deflected invitingly into his path. With time almost up, the Brazilian also laid on Bale’s third of the game, a clinical close-range finish with his left boot. It was a ‘perfect hat-trick’ of left foot, right foot and header. “Everything I hoped for has come true,” the delighted Welshman said afterwards in the Bernabeu mixed zone.
1st December: Xabi Alonso debut for Real Sociedad (1999)
There were not too many happy memories for Real Sociedad from their 1-0 Copa del Rey defeat to Logroñes on 1 December 1999 at the Reale Arena, as result which saw them crash out of the competition 3-1 on aggregate. The one bright light, however, was a debut for a tall, skinny midfielder called Xabi Alonso, who had recently just turned 18 years old, and acquitted himself admirably in what was a tight, physical encounter. The teenager then headed on loan to local rivals Eibar, where he gained experience at LaLiga SmartBank level, before La Real coach John Toshack called him back to San Sebastian in January 2001. Within a couple of years Alonso was the driving force in a txuri-urdin team which came super close to winning a LaLiga Santander title, something he would then eventually achieve in 2011/12 as a key part of Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid team.
2nd December: Messi wins his 6th Ballon d’Or (2019)
There was tension at the historic Theatre du Chatelet on 2 December 2019 as everyone present – and millions watching around the world – waited on the results of that year’s Ballon D’Or trophy. Messi had an outstanding year – scoring 34 goals in 32 LaLiga Santander games and winning yet another LaLiga Santander title with Barcelona. However, Barca had been shocked by eventual champions Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals. In the end, Messi’s personal brilliance won the day, only just – with the Argentine taking the prize with 686 votes to Virgil van Dijk’s 679. A record-breaking sixth Ballon d’Or for the all-time great.
3rd December: Ronaldo Nazario’s last goal in LaLiga (2006)
Real Madrid were 1-0 down to Athletic Club at the Santiago Bernabeu at half-time on 3 December 2006, and Blancos coach Fabio Capello made a change. On came Ronaldo Nazario, who was coming back from persistent ankle injury issues. Within 19 minutes the 30-year-old hit the equaliser, instantly controlling a ball forward by Sergio Ramos, and clinically finishing past Athletic goalkeeper Inaki Lafuente. Another Brazilian Roberto Carlos later completed the comeback for a 2-1 victory. Amid the celebrations, nobody realised that they had just watched the last of Ronaldo’s 83 LaLiga goals in five seasons in a Blancos shirt. Less than two months later he made a surprise move to Italian club AC Milan, although he is of course now back in LaLiga as club president of Real Valladolid.
5th December: Samuel Eto’o makes his LaLiga debut – for Real Madrid! (1998)
Saturday 12 May 1998 at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, and Real Madrid are visiting Espanyol. With the game scoreless midway through the second half, Blancos coach Guus Hiddink removes Croatian striker Davor Suker and sends on a young Cameroonian striker by the name of Samuel Eto’o for his LaLiga debut. Eto’o did not score, and the game ended goalless. But Eto’o would go on to score eight goals and provide five assists in 16 LaLiga games AGAINST Real Madrid over the course of his career, including a famous double as RCD Mallorca won 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2003/04 and four goals in eight LaLiga ElClasico matches while at Barcelona. It was in the Catalan capital where he had made his LaLiga debut, and then across town with the Camp Nou outfit that he won three LaLiga Santander titles.