Atletico Madrid won La Liga and Luis Suarez found vindication, his goal securing the 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday that clinched his team another remarkable Spanish title.
Suarez began the season crying after being forced out of Barcelona but ended it with his 21st goal of the season earning Atletico a first league triumph since 2014, this one at the expense of Real Madrid.
Atletico knew victory would guarantee them the title regardless of what Real Madrid did at home to Villarreal but it was never comfortable, with Valladolid taking a shock early lead.
Real Madrid were behind too for most of the afternoon but Karim Benzema equalised in the 87th minute and Luka Modric even scored a late winner for 2-1 at Valdebebas, leaving Atletico hanging on at the end, as they were suddenly one goal away from squandering it all.
When the final whistle blew, the players ran onto the pitch, Suarez underneath a pile of red and white shirts, with Europe’s most nerve-wracking and unpredictable title race finally complete.
Just over a week ago, coach Diego Simeone said this was the “Suarez Zone” and so it proved, the Uruguayan scoring the winner against Osasuna last week to keep the title in Atletico’s hands and then again on the last day to put their name on the trophy.
This is only the second time in 17 years that a team other than Barcelona or Real Madrid have won the title, with Atleti claiming the other one under Simeone in 2014.
Atletico went into the game having been top since December and on the back of beating Osasuna with two goals in the last eight minutes, a victory that was so dramatic it felt like it would prove decisive.
But Atletico have done nothing the easy way this season, with their 10-point lead in February cut to two in May and their position at the top of the table relying on numerous slip-ups from both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
So it was apt that faced with beating Real Valladolid, who were 19th on the table, they still had to scrape over the line.
Several hundred Atletico fans gathered in Valladolid’s Plaza Mayor in the hours before kick-off to sing songs and a similar number made it outside the stadium, where they were cordoned off in a cess-pit of nerves and anticipation.