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Real Madrid Versus Barcelona: The History of El Clásico

By George Curtis

El Clasico is considered the biggest club match in the world

El Clasico is considered the biggest club match in the world

David Ramos / Getty Images

Real Madrid and Barcelona’s rivalry is one of the most pungent representations of competitive soccer, not only for the battles they endure on the field, but for reasons that delve deeper beneath the surface of what we see on our screens too. It has been that way since the very beginning, a time when politics forged the soccer warfare that we see today.

Political Upheaval

The forming of the two clubs coincided with one of the most turbulent periods of history that Spain has experienced. General Franco’s revolt against the Second Spanish Republic saw FC Barcelona put to the top of the list of organizations to be purged by the National Faction, whilst Madrid’s ‘centralizing tendencies’ were opposed vigorously by their rivals. It is a history that still resides through the streets of Spain’s two largest cities.

The Battle For Di Stefano

But whilst behind-the-scenes activities were well-documented, so were those of a sporting nature. The rivalry between the sides intensified in the 1950’s when Barcelona and Real Madrid contested the signing of Alfredo Di Stefano. The Argentinean legend was a target for both sides after impressing for Los Millonarios in Colombia, and after attempting to sign him, it was agreed between the clubs and soccer’s governing body that they would have to share the striker. After a couple of appearances for Barcelona, they backed out of the deal and Di Stefano became a Real Madrid player for definite.

Luis Figo's controversial Transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid

On The Field

It is what has happened on the field, however, that has instigated one of the fiercest rivalries in soccer. It was Real Madrid who were victorious in the inaugural meeting between the two, as Rafael Morera’s two goals ensured Los Merengues were 2-1 victors. But whilst that was a tight affair, both teams have enjoyed their fair share of drubbings too. Madrid, who were generally the stronger side through the 1930s, beating their great rivals 8-2 in February 1935 before they were thrashed 5-0 themselves two months later. In more recent times, Barcelona have had the wool over Madrid.

Star Performers

El Clasico has always been memorable for the quality of players on display. The likes of Di Stefano, Emilio Butrageuno, Johan Cruyff, and of modern times Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have all graced Clasicos down the years. It is a shame, therefore, that the modern day Clasico has often been overshadowed by play-acting and simulation from both parties. The soccer seems to have taken a back seat, with the amount of yellow and red cards being the more important statistic. But whilst these two great teams remain rivals, El Clasico, the second-most watched soccer match in the world, will continue to be a spectacle for all to watch.
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