Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid CF and Barcelona are set to renew their explosive rivalry when they clash in the first Clasico of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
El Clasico is the showpiece event of the Spanish football calendar. Millions of fans with divided allegiances tune into their TV sets when these two giants of world football lock horns with each other. Managerial sackings, player revolts, political backlashes and violent flare ups are some of the by products of this tempestuous match up between the two clubs. It is an occasion for the players, managers and fans to assert their one-upmanship over their defeated adversaries.
Some of the greatest players in the history of world football such as Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Alfredo Di Stefano, Diego Maradona, Ferenc Puskas and Johan Cruyff have graced the Clasico with their presence over the years.
Of course, El Clasico is more than just an ordinary football game. Over the past 40 years, this match has become symptomatic of the larger malaise that has plagued the Spanish political leadership – the Catalan Independence Movement.
But perhaps what makes the Clasico truly special is the unrivaled display of skill, artistry and passion on the football field by players on both sides of the great Spanish divide.
Here we look at five of the most memorable clashes between these two bitter rivals over the years.
1. FC Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid CF (2006/07) – Messi announces his arrival on the World stage
Argentine wonderkid announced his grand arrival on the world stage after hammering a brilliant hattrick against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. The Los Blancos took the lead on three occasions during the match through Van Nistelrooy (2) and Sergio Ramos, only to be pegged back every single time by the genius of Lionel Messi. This was Messi’s first match against Barcelona’s great rivals. He is currently the all time top scorer in El Clasico history.
2. Real Madrid CF 5-0 FC Barcelona (1995/96) – Michael Laudrup turns the Clasico on its head
In 1994/15, a Michael Laudrup inspired Barcelona side beat Real Madrid 5-0. That summer, Laudrup committed the ultimate sin – he switched his allegiances from Barcelona to Real Madrid. A year later, a Michael Laudrup inspired Real Madrid beat Barcelona 5-0. Laudrup was later heard muttering to himself in the Real Madrid dressing room, “I won 10-0”.
3. FC Barcelona 0-0 Real Madrid CF (2002/03) – Luis Figo and the Pig’s head
Mercenary, Traitor, Judas – These were some of the words which greeted Luis Figo at the Camp Nou after he moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid in the summer of 2002. Although the match ended in an uninspiring 0-0 draw, it will notoriously be remembered for the hostile treatment received by Figo from the Camp Nou faithful. Figo even had a severed pig’s head thrown at him while he was taking a corner for his new club.
4. Real Madrid CF 4-1 FC Barcelona (2007/08) – The Guard of Honour
Under the stewardship of Frank Riijkaard, Barcelona players were forced to endure their greatest ignonimony – giving a Guard of Honour to bitter rivals Real Madrid. It is incumbent upon all the teams in La Liga to give a Guard of Honour to the would be champions before they take the field. The Los Blancos, who eventually finished 18 points ahead of the Blaugrana at the end of the season, ended up smashing four goals past Victor Valdes en route to a 4-1 victory over the Catalans.
5. Real Madrid CF 2-6 FC Barcelona (2008/09) – Massacre at the Bernabeu
When Josep Guardiola took the hot seat at FC Barcelona at the beginning of the 2008/09 season, many doubted the Board’s decision to appoint someone with no experience of management in top flight football. One year later, no one doubted their decision anymore as Pep’s Barcelona side ended up winning an astonishing 6 trophies in the calendar year. But perhaps, the highlight of Pep’s memorable debut season as manager of Barcelona was the 6-2 dismantling of arch rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Thierry Henry tore Real Madrid to shreds as Barcelona went on to record one of their most famous wins in the El Clasico.