El Clásico is the football match played between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, Spain’s richest and most successful clubs. The fixture is regarded by many as the biggest football match in the world. As with many key matches of this nature, there is an element of political and nationalistic feeling creeping in – with Madrid being the capital of Spain and Barcelona a hot-bed of Catalan nationalism.
With the success that these two sides consistently enjoy, there can be more than two El Clásico matches in a season. Thus apart from their battles in La Liga, should they meet in the UEFA Champions League or the Copa del Rey, such matches will also be dubbed El Clasico.
The first match between the two was contested in 1902 when Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-1. Every match since then has been fiercely contested on the pitch and much discussed and analyzed off it!
Real Madrid play their home football at the 85,000-seater Santiago Bernabéu while Barcelona’s home stadium is the Camp Nou which has a capacity just short of 100,000, making it the biggest stadium in Europe.
The biggest win in the Clásico was Real Madrid’s 11-1 thrashing of Barcelona in 1943. The clubs have also drawn 6-6 and 5-5 in 1916 and 1943 respectively. Barcelona’s biggest victory came in 1950 when they beat Madrid 7-2. More recently, Barcelona beat Real 5-0 in 2010.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s superstar has now overtaken Real Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano as the highest goal scorer in the El Clasico history with 21 goals by the start of 2015-16 compared to Di Stefano’s 18. Three players have fifteen goals in these matches to their name: Raul Gonzalez and Cristiano Ronaldo, both of Real Madrid, and Cesar Rodriguez of Barcelona. Gonzalez and Rodriguez represent the highest goal scoring achievement by local, home-grown, players.
The player with the most El Clásico appearances is Madrid’s Manuel Sanchis who played all his life for the side. Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona has the most appearances for the Catalans.
The rivalry between the two clubs has not prevented players switching allegiances. Many world class players have made played for both, such as Samuel Eto’o, Ronaldo, Michael Laudrup and Bernd Schuster, however, the transfer which stands out is that of Luis Figo. Figo joined Real Madrid from Barcelona for a fee of €60 million in a very controversial move which infuriated Barcelona supporters. In 1996 Luis Enrique made the opposite move when he signed for Barcelona on a free transfer, eventually becoming captain of the club.
Much of the current tension between the two sides can be ascribed to the rivalry between two of their greatest players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Two La Liga matches in 2014-15 saw very different outcomes: Real winning 3-1 at Bernabéu while Barcelona triumphed 2-1 at the Nou Camp.
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