With La Liga in full swing, Rupert Crookenden gives an insight into one of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time: Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona.
IN THE BEGINNING
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona first battled it out as part of the Copa de la Coronación in 1902, a tournament held to celebrate the crowning of the new king, Alfonso XIII. Barcelona, which had only been in existence for a couple of years, were the victors of that first meeting. The two Spanish footballing gargantuas were joined by three other clubs in the Copa, namely Club Español de Foot-Ball, New Foot-Ball de Madrid and Club Bizcaya (with Bizcaya emerging as the eventual champions).
Both Madrid and Barça were, to an extent, political pawns during the autocratic reign of Franco. The dictator invested a lot of time and energy in promoting Real Madrid, as he wanted the strength of the capital’s biggest football club to promulgate a message of the greatness of Spain. Conversely, FC Barcelona served as a symbol of the Catalan struggle against Franco’s fascist regime.
HOW THEY WEIGH UP
Real Madrid leads the way in competitive head-to-head victories (La Liga, Copa del Rey, League Cup, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Champions League), although by the tightest of margins, nudging ahead of Barcelona with a total of 88 victories to the Catalan club’s 87.
There is disagreement in some quarters about these figures, however. For instance, the Real Federación Española de Fútbol does not recognise the 1902 Copa de la Coronación as an ‘official tournament’ and Barcelona’s victory is not therefore included in the offically compiled Clásico statistics.
The largest margin of defeat was suffered by Barcelona in 1943—they were comprehensively beaten 11-1 (with legendary Spanish striker Barinaga Alberdi scoring four goals for Real Madrid). That being said, Barcelona had been a goal up at half time and allegedly only conceded 11 goals after Franco’s secret police stormed their changing room.
Prior to Real Madrid’s August victory against Barça at the Bernabéu (in the return leg of the Spanish Super Cup), they had failed to win their last seven home meetings with their great rivals.
Cristiano Ronaldo cost Real Madrid nearly as much (€93.8 million) as the whole of Barcelona’s starting XI in the last Clásico combined (€94.5 million).
Lionel Messi’s goal tally against Real Madrid currently stands at 15, meaning he is now joint second all-time top scorer in Clásico matches (with Raul) and only three goals behind Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano.
• 726 = the number of goals that have been scored in El Clásico matches (according to official records)
• Aside from the UEFA Champions League final, Clásicos are the most watched football matches in the world with hundreds of millions of people tuning in.
• The Camp Nou has a capacity of 99, 354 people making it the largest stadium in Europe and the 11th largest in the world. The Bernabéu has a capacity of (only!) 85, 454.
• Twenty-one players have moved from FC Barcelona to Real Madrid but only nine have made the move from Real Madrid to Barcelona.
• Only one player from Real Madrid’s current starting XI is a product of its youth academy (Iker Casillas). In contrast, Barcelona has eight regular players who have emerged from La Masia (Victor Valdés, Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Pedro Rodríguez and Lionel Messi).