David Villa lifted the first trophy of his career when Zaragoza shocked Real Madrid in 2004
The mid-2000s represented a frustrating period for Real Madrid, who struggled to to secure the success that Florentino Pérez’s lavish spending demanded.
Under his leadership a number of marquee signings were made but they failed to establish a dynasty reminiscent of the 1960s in the Spanish capital.
Raúl, who turned pro at the club, was joined by Ballon d’Or winners Zinedine Zidane, Luís Figo and Ronaldo, plus David Beckham.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Incredibly, despite his bulging trophy cabinet, one prize eluded the former Real number seven, the Copa del Rey.
During his stay at the Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid reached two finals, losing to Deportivo La Coruña (2-1) in 2001 before falling to Real Zaragoza two seasons later.
But what of that Zaragoza side that edged out an entertaining 3-2 win in Barcelona?
Goalkeeper: César Láinez
Career path since: Retired
Not quite a one-club man despite beginning his professional career at Zaragoza, the 43-year-old former goalkeeper spent a year on loan at Villarreal, before registering a more than century of league appearances at Los Maños.
Their 2004 success proved to be his second and final Copa success having also been present for the 3-1 win over Celta Viga three years earlier.
Right Back: Carlos Cuartero
Career path since: Retired
Cuartero skippered his hometown club in the 2004 final and would only represent Zaragoza during a 16-year playing career that was often dogged by injury. Nevertheless, a fan favourite, lifting their last major honour was arguably his proudest moment.
Centre Back: Álvaro
Career path since: Levante (2006-08) > Internacional (2008-09) > Flamengo (2009-10) > Vila Nova (2011) > Linense (2013) > Bragantino (2013) > Mogi Mirim (2014) > Vila Nova (2014) > Linense (2015) > Democrata (2016-present)
A journeyman if ever there was one, Álvaro had turned out for no fewer than five different clubs before signing for Zaragoza in 2003, and capped off that debut season with a Copa del Rey medal. Since leaving he regularly moved from one club to another, eight in total, notably representing Brazilian giants Flamengo for a single campaign.
Centre Back: Gabriel Milito
Career path since: Barcelona (2007-11) > Independiente (2011-12)
Four accomplished seasons at Zaragoza was enough to convince Barcelona that Gabriel Milito was their man. After enjoying a solid debut campaign under Frank Rijkaard he soon lost his spot to a returning Gerard Pique who Milito already played alongside after the Spaniard enjoyed a season on loan at La Romareda from Manchester United.
He subsequently rejoined boyhood club Independiente where he ended his playing career before moving into a managerial career that has seen him lead them as well as Estudiantes.
Left Back: Delio Toledo
Career path since: Kayserispor (2006-10) > 3 de Febrero (2011)
The former 35-time Paraguayan international spent the best part of the early 2000s at Zaragoza, where he felt most at home. After leaving the northern Spanish city, Delio Toledo saw out the decade at Turkish outfit Kayserispor before calling time on his playing career at native 3 de Febrero.
Centre Midfield: José María Movilla
Career path since: Murcia (2007-09) > Rayo Vallecano (2009-12) > Real Zaragoza (2012-14)
José María Movilla made his switch from Atlético Madrid to Zaragoza permanent soon after helping them avoid relegation and secure the 2004 Copa del Rey. He left several years later, joining Real Murcia, before moving closer to home by signing for Rayo Vallecano though the midfielder returned to Zaragoza to close out his professional career.
Central Midfield: Leonardo Ponzio
Career path since: River Plate (2007-08) > Real Zaragoza (2009-12) > River Plate (2012-present)
Sitting alongside Movilla was Argentine midfielder Leonardo Ponzio who had initially joined Zaragoza from Newell’s Old Boys at the turn of the century. He left for River Plate in 2007 before returning two years later. Ponzio, now 38, is back at River and across his second spell has amassed well over 150 league appearances.
Right Wing: Cani
Career path since: Villarreal (2006-15) > Atlético Madrid (2015) > Deportivo La Coruña (2015-16) > Real Zaragoza (2016-17)
Born and bred in Zaragoza, Cani would turn pro on loan at Utebo before enjoying a stellar career at his boyhood club. That led to a move to Villarreal and he went on to ultimately represent Atlético Madrid, albeit on loan, and Deportivo La Coruña.
Cani, who failed to complete the 90 minutes against Real in 2004 due to receiving a second yellow, returned home in 2016 before hanging up his boots.
Attacking Midfield: Dani García
Career path since: Espanyol (2004-05) > Olympiacos (2005-07) > Denizlispor (2007) > Rayo Majadahonda (2007-08)
A Real Madrid academy graduate, Dani García was signed from Barcelona — where he made 50 league appearances — but didn’t last for more than a year at Zaragoza as he swiftly moved on to Espanyol.
He would spend the remainder of his career in Greece and Turkey, but came back home to retire at Rayo Majadahonda.
Left Wing: Sávio
Career path since: Flamengo (2006) > Real Sociedad (2007) > Levante (2007) > Desportiva Capixaba (2008) > Anorthosis (2008-09) > Avaí (2010)
Savio was a former teammate of Raúl’s and lifted three European Cups at Real Madrid before finding his way to Zaragoza, by way of a loan spell at French side Bordeaux, the winger though became somewhat of a journey after leaving and last turned out for Brazilian outfit Avaí where he called time on a solid career.
Centre Forward: David Villa
Career path since: Valencia (2005-10) > Barcelona (2010-13) > Atlético Madrid (2013-14) > New York City (2014-18) > Melbourne City (2014) > Vissel Kobe (2019)
Having made his name at Sporting Gijón the promising Spanish marksman opted to join Zaragoza and it wasn’t long before Spain’s elite clubs were knocking on his door after he netted in the 2004 final against Madrid to claim the first honour of his senior career. Valencia enjoyed five seasons of David Villa excellence before Barcelona added him to their already impressive line-up and he helped the Catalan club secure club a fourth European Cup at Wembley.
Spain’s all-time record goalscorer had further success at Atlético Madrid, even if it was for one season, before heading stateside to represent New York City. He last turned out for Japanese side Vissel Kobe where he linked up with former teammate and compatriot Andres Iniesta before retiring with his place in Spain’s footballing pantheon secured.