Real Madrid won the La Liga title five years in a row between 1985 and 1990, matching their own record of five consecutive titles that they had set between 1960 and 1965. No other Spanish club has ever won five league championships in a row and, it could be argued, no other side has been as dominant as that Real Madrid team of the late 1980s.
That team was so good that it became known as the ‘Quinta del Buitre,’ the nickname of the five homegrown talents who formed the core of the side: Emilio Butragueno, Manolo Sanchis, Rafael Martin Vazquez, Michel and Miguel Pardeza.
It all started on November 14th, 1983, when journalist Julio Cesar Iglesias published a story in Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais coining the term to describe the five generational talents who were poised to break into the first team. Butragueno was the pick of the bunch and his nickname, Buitre (the ‘Vulture’), stuck.
During that 1983/84 season, Real Madrid’s B team, Castilla, played some of their matches at the Santiago Bernabeu and fans would flock to the stadium to see the mercurial youngsters play. In one match, almost 80,000 packed in to watch them. Castilla actually won the second division that season, but were of course prevented from being promoted to the top tier given that they would not be allowed to play in the same division as the senior side.
The stars of Castilla were soon playing regular first division football, though. One by one they were promoted to the senior squad, and Amancio Amaro was promoted from his role as Castilla coach to take over the senior squad in time for the start of the 1984/85 campaign. That year, Real Madrid won the UEFA Cup and the short-lived League Cup. They retained the UEFA Cup and won a first La Liga title in six years in 1986, kick-starting their period of complete dominance of Spanish football.
Funnily enough, though this quintet came through together and marked a generation, they only ever started together at senior level on one occasion: in a 1986/87 Copa del Rey semi-final game against city rivals Atlético de Madrid. Butragueno and Pardeza both played as strikers, with the former the entrenched starter and the latter usually a substitute. Pardeza moved on to Real Zaragoza in 1985, breaking the unit up, but the quintet continued to feature alongside each other in Spain squads in the late 1980s.
Butragueno remained the star of the group throughout this era, scoring 123 La Liga goals in 341 matches. Martín Vázquez and Míchel ran the midfield, providing the ammunition for El Buitre, while Sanchis was the rock at the heart of the defence. With other stars such as Hugo Sanchez, Jorge Valdano and Juanito, the Real Madrid side of the late 1980s were nigh-on unstoppable.
Their supremacy hit a peak that few had ever seen before early in the 1987/88 LaLiga season. Real Madrid returned from their summer holidays meaning business, starting the campaign with eight wins in a row, scoring 32 and conceding just two during that run. That run got going with a 4-0 win at Cadiz and a 7-0 win at home to Real Sporting. After that, Jesus Gil, the notorious Atletico de Madrid president at the time, claimed it was a fluke and that Real Madrid wouldn’t score seven again that season. Six days later, on just the third match of the season, they thrashed Real Zaragoza 7-1, proving that they were by far the best team in the country.
While they did completely dominate for five seasons in a row domestically, the one trophy that was missing from this group’s collection was the European Cup. At a club like Real Madrid, with its 13 continental crowns, this remains a lingering disappointment. However, it’s the only blemish on the record of the ‘Quinta del Buitre.’ In fact, many older Real Madrid fans even hold that side in higher regard than some of the more recent Champions League-winning teams, because of the attractive and dominant football they produced. This really was a special team, the last team to achieve five in a row.