A look back at some classic goals, debuts, players and moments from this week in LaLiga history…
December 21: Iniesta looks at home on his LaLiga debut (2002)
Patrick Kluivert grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick and another Dutchman, Marc Overmars, was also on the scoresheet in a 4-0 win at RCD Mallorca, but 21 December 2002 is a date circled in Barcelona history as the day that Andres Iniesta made his LaLiga debut. Blaugrana coach Louis Van Gaal put his faith in the 18-year-old playmaker, who showed some neat touches and clever movement in a role at the tip of a midfield diamond.
He kept his place in the team and the following week provided his first LaLiga assist, setting up fellow midfielder Fabio Rochemback to score the opener in a 3-0 at home to Recreativo de Huelva. 16 seasons in the blaugrana first team also saw the club icon score 35 goals and provide 87 assists in 442 LaLiga Santander games. The scorer of Spain’s winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final is currently playing for Japanese team Vissel Kobe but has been touted to return to a new role at the Camp Nou sooner rather than later.
December 22: Hasselbaink keeps scoring and scoring (1999)
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink spent just one season in LaLiga but that was more than enough time to make an impression during what was a historically dramatic season, even by the standards of Atletico de Madrid. In summer 1999, Hasselbaink moved from Leeds United to join an Atletico team which had been LaLiga champions just three years before, with new teammates including Juan Carlos Valeron, Santi Solari, Jose Chamot and Radek Bejbl.
The Dutchman quickly found his feet, and a double in a 5-0 LaLiga win over Cadiz on 22 December made it 15 goals in his first 17 LaLiga games. His scoring rate dipped a little as Atletico’s form fell apart after the winter break, but he still finished the season with 24 LaLiga goals, making him runner-up to Racing Santander’s Salva Ballesta (27) in the pichichi top scorer race.
Incredibly, that wasn’t enough to save Atletico from relegation with a team who were supposed to be ‘too good to go down’ dropping to LaLiga SmartBank level. Hasselbaink also moved on, returning to England to join Chelsea, but his goalscoring knack is still remembered by many rojiblanco fans.
December 23: Messi stars in the ‘Christmas Clasico’ (2017)
Real Madrid started well in the ‘Christmas Clasico’ which kicked off in the early afternoon of 23 December 2017 at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, Zinedine Zidane’s side could not make their first half domination pay with a Cristiano Ronaldo effort ruled out for offside, and Karim Benzema’s clever header bouncing back off the post.
Barça by contrast showed ruthless efficiency when they got on top after the break, with Luis Suarez finishing emphatically from Sergi Roberto’s cross, Lionel Messi smashing home a penalty after Dani Carvajal was sent off for blocking Paulinho’s header on the goal line with his hand, and Messi setting up blaugrana substitute Aleix Vidal to make it 3-0 late on.
The result put Ernesto Valverde’s Barça team nine points ahead of second placed Atletico de Madrid at the top of the LaLiga Santander standings. They were also a full fourteen points clear of Zidane’s team, effectively ending their hopes of retaining the title they’d won in 2016/17.