Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have shared some of the best football stories in Spanish football. In this blog, we will go through some of the memorable games between the two and the origin of the fierce rivalry that comes to the fore in the El Classico. There are more to what meats the eye in this rivalry, and maybe you, the reader, will learn a thing or two about these great clubs. If you like what you read, hop onto our LV BET Sports Blog section to see other articles that might interest you.
Some of the topics that we will cover in this blog:
- Political and sporting dimensions of the El Classico
- Player transfers
- Player rivalries
- Memorable matches
Political and sporting dimensions of the El Classico
The rivalry between the two clubs is not characterised by on-pitch disputes but also in the political dimension. In the 1930s, Barcelona had developed a reputation as a symbol of Catalan identity, as opposed to the centralising tendencies of Madrid. During the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera and, more notably of Francisco Franco, all regional languages and identities in Spain were frowned upon. Most citizens of Barcelona were in strong opposition to the regime, and it this period, Barcelona gained its motto Més que un club, which means – More than a club, because of its alleged connection to Catalan nationalists as well as to progressive beliefs.
Huge controversies surround Francisco Franco and his influence on activities on the pitch for both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, but most historians agree that Franco did not have a preferred football team, but Spanish nationalist’s beliefs led him to associate himself with the established teams, such as Atletico Aviacion and Madrid FC.
The most contested stories of the period include Real Madrid’s 11-1 home win against Barcelona in the Copa del Generalisimo. In the first leg, FC Barcelona won 3-0, Real Madrid complained about all three goals conceded; the home crowd whistled Madrid throughout, whom they accused of employing roughhouse tactics and Fombona for allowing this to happen without any consequences. After the match, a campaign began in Madrid; Ya, which was a local newspaper, reported the whistling as a ‘clear intention to attack the representatives of Spain”. Such a campaign saw Barcelona fans being banned from travelling to Madrid for the second leg.
On the day of the second leg, the Barcelona team were insulted, and stones were thrown at their bus as soon as they left their hotel. Barcelona goalkeeper Lluis Miro rarely approached his line, but when he did, he was bombarded with stones. Real Madrid went 2-0 up after just 30 minutes of play. The third goal came after Benito Garcia was sent off for a ”completely normal tackle”. At that point, FC Barcelona’s morale was at an all-time low, and Real Madrid seized the chance to make the most out of it and scored in minutes 31′, 33′, 35′, 39′, 43′ and 44′, with the score at 8-0.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation fined both clubs, and Barça appealed but to no avail. The match report in the news were all on the game, some mentioning true events and other sites trying to use propaganda to their advantage. The performance in the second leg was the first stage of this epic rivalry. With many headline pages written and most of the events being politicised, it was hard for the fans not to hold a grudge. This event was the first time that Madrid identified as the team of the dictatorship and Barcelona as its victims.
The goals scored and the link to the horrendous events will be stored in the head of many Barcelona fans, but for Real Madrid nowadays, it’s not a match result they are proud of.
As with any other big rivalry around the world, transfer sagas fuel tensions between the teams and develop an even more hostile atmosphere at the relevant home ground.
Alfredo Di Stefano
Di Stefano captured the attention of the world’s best teams, and both Barcelona and Real Madrid wanted his services. Barcelona made the first move when they visited Buenos Aires and agreed with River Plate for his transfer in 1954. This started a battle between the two Spanish rivals for his rights. FIFA appointed Armando Munoz Calero, former president of the Spanish Football Federation as mediator. Calero decided to let Di Stefano play the 1953-54 and 1955-56 seasons in Madrid and the 1954-55 and 1956-57 seasons in Barcelona. The agreement was approved by the Football Association and their respective clubs. What you have read here is one of the most complicated transfers to date, but the story does not stop there.
Although the Catalans agreed, the decision sparked controversy within the club and subsequently, the president was forced to resign. After these events, Barcelona sold Madrid their half-share, and Di Stefano was a Madrid player 100%. Di Stefano became an integral part to the success of Real Madrid, winning the first five editions of the European Cup.
Another event in a long list of events that lead up to great tensions between the two main clubs in Spain. Luis Figo was a Barcelona player until Real Madrid’s then-presidential candidate, Florentino Perez, had his first meeting with the player and offered him $2.4 million to sign an agreement binding him to Madrid if Perez was to be elected. The Portuguese agent confirmed the deal, but Figo denied this agreement on various sites and TV stations. He also went the extra mile and informed his teammates Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola that he would stay.
Figo then had an interview in which he said: ”I want to send a message of calm to Barcelona’s fans, for whom I always have and always will feel great affection. I want to assure them that Luís Figo will, with absolute certainty, be at Camp Nou on the 24th to start the new season… I’ve not signed a pre-contract with a presidential candidate at Real Madrid. No. I’m not so mad as to do a thing like that.”
On the 24th of July, Figo was presented in Madrid and handed his new shirt by Alfredo Di Stefano. Gaspart, the new Barca president, admitted that Figo’s move had destroyed them.
One could only imagine the hostile reception he received when he played in the return to Barcelona in a Real Madrid shirt. with most of the match characterised by taunts aimed at Figo, coins being tossed and amongst the debris, there was a pig’s head, which to date is one of the most defining images of the fierce rivalry.
Kubala and Di Stefano
Up until the early 1950s, Real Madrid did not measure to the same pedigree as it does today; between 1929 and 1953, they only won two Primera Division titles. This trend changed when Alfredo Di Stefano, Paco Gento, Raymond Kopa and Ferenc Puskas joined the team and took La Liga and other tournaments by storm. During the same period of time, Barcelona relied on Laszlo Kubala and Luiz Suarez (not the one we all know); with such great talent divided between the two clubs, both teams became among the most important European clubs in those years.
Between Kubala and Di Stefano, a rivalry was born, with both teams reaching the latter stages of most tournaments a lot of important matches were played between the two, in total El Clasico was played 26 times, Real won 13 matches, Barcelona 10 matches and three ended in a draw. Di Stefano scored 14 goals, and Kubala managed to score four.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
Two of the modern greats occupied Spanish football between 2009 and 2018. Both players are their clubs’ all-time top scorers. What is astonishing is that in their period, many records were broken, with both alternated as top scorers in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League during most seasons. The rivalry was mainly one wanting to be the better player, with both pushing each other on to extraordinary limits. During the nine years they played in the La Liga, Messi and Ronaldo scored a total of 922 goals, including 38 goals in El Clasico matches, 20 scored by Messi and 18 by Ronaldo. For many fans in Spain and around the world, it became Ronaldo vs Messi instead of Real Madrid vs Barcelona, something that rarely happened in history. The longevity of both players is almost superhuman, and we are truly lucky to be able to witness such great football players in front of our eyes.
Ronaldo vacated his Real Madrid CF position when he moved to Juventus in 2018, and in the week prior to the first meeting of the teams in the 2018-19 season, Messi sustained an arm injury ruling him out of the match. It would be the first time since 2007 that the Clasico had featured neither player, with some in the media describing it as the ‘end of an era.’
Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona May 2009
Match Highlights – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eDpBUwxW7E
It was showtime as one of the biggest games between the two clubs was to be played in front of a Madrid crowd. All the TV channels were buzzed to show the match with a lot of hype on both sets of players. The action started from the word go as in the 14th minute Sergio Ramos who at the time was playing as a right back, swung in a cross towards Gonzalo Higuain, who was totally unmarked in the box and nodded the home side into the lead. Barcelona, who had to win the game to win the title, bounced back almost immediately as a clever little dinged ball from Messi got Thierry Henry into space, and he scored his 18th of the season.
The tide turned in favour of the Catalan club, as in the 20th minute, a sublime run from Henry provoked Fabio Cannavaro into committing a foul, which was converted by Carlos Puyol, who jumped the highest and made it 2-1. A lapse in judgement at the back saw a Xavi press high up the pitch, winning possession and playing Messi on with a simple 1-on-1 situation with the keeper, and obviously scored.
Sergio Ramos got one back for Los Blancos from a driven Arjen Robben free kick which gave the keeper no chance to react. But as they did in the first half, they conceded a couple of minutes after when Casillas came flying out to block the attempt from Henry, but the Frenchman cleverly poked it beyond his reach as the ball trickled into the net to restore a two-goal cushion.
From that point onward, it was one-way traffic with some of the best football being played between the front men of Barcelona. Xavi danced his way around two defenders and seduced another whilst playing a perfect ball to Messi, who once again came face to face with Casillas and scored the fifth. With Barcelona sensing blood, Pique played a ball wide to Eto’o and continued his run into the box, Eto’o returned the favour and played Pique on, but Casillas came out to block his attempt, the ball bounced back into Pique’s path, and with a quick, sharp shot he shocked the defence and scored his first ever league goal for Barcelona.
Real Madrid had no answer to the short passes that Barcelona played around the box, with most of the players being sucked into trying to take the ball from Xavi and/or Iniesta, which in turn freed up more space for the wide men like Messi and Henry to exploit. It was truly a show of how great that 2008/09 squad of Barcelona was. Barcelona won the title that season in style, with three of their forwards scoring more than 20 goals each and in total, between Messi, Eto’o and Henry in all competitions, they managed to score 100 goals.
Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid March 2007
Match Highlights – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZq4ANSZU6c
One of the matches that showcased great talent on either side was the 2007 El Classico with the likes of Ronaldinho, Henry, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta for Barcelona and Sergio Ramos, Van Nistelrooy, Raul and Casillas for Real Madrid. The stage was set for an all-time classic, and it was.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy opened the scoring after the ball fell kindly into his patch, and he side-footed into the far right corner. The goal silenced the odd 98,000 supporters in the stands. Barcelona piled on the pressure to get the equaliser, but Casillas showed great reflexes to keep Barca at bay for the opening few minutes.
A great inter-changing pass saw Samuel Eto’o in space, where he picked up the run of then 19-year-old Lionel Messi, who delicately netted the equaliser. Later that half, Gutti was tripped inside the box, gifting Los Blancos a golden chance to go ahead once more. Van Nistelrooy tucked it away as he usually did throughout his stellar career.
In one of the many Barca attacks, Ronaldinho picked up the ball on the far left side and ran past his marker, played a neat one-two with Eto’o and fired a shot which Casillas parried into the patch of Lionel Messi, who fired his shot into the roof of the net to make it 2-2 and his second on the night. Right on the halftime whistle, Oleguer was sent off after a reckless challenge whilst on a yellow card.
The opening few minutes of the second half were all about Real Madrid, and eventually, a free kick met the head of Sergio Ramos, who scored to make it 3-2. A lot of chances came and went for both sides who failed to be clinical in front of the goal. It was down to the little Argentinian once again; in stoppage time, Ronaldinho picked up Messi, whose control took him towards the favoured left foot and with a couple of touches, he found himself inside the box and rifled a shot into the right-hand corner to get his hattrick and equalise for his side for the third time.
This game was one of those matches that got fans excited for the future of Lionel Messi as he outshined most of the veteran world-class players such as Henry, Ronaldinho and Eto’o, which is no easy feet.
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