El Clasico: Real Madrid vs Barcelona. Two of the biggest football clubs in the world and Spain’s biggest football clubs. Between them, they have won 59 Spanish League titles, 18 European Cups, 49 Copa del Rey’s, and numerous other domestic trophies. When these two teams meet, it is arguably the biggest football match on the planet.
The El Clasico is not a classic derby as in both teams don’t come from the same city. But everything else surrounding the match makes it arguably the biggest derby in club football. Victory in the match can often decide which team wins the league at the end of the season.
The last El Clasico reportedly has a massive 700 million viewers from across 185 countries tune in to watch the teams go head to head. But what exactly makes this match so special? Why do so many people from across the world stop whatever they are doing to tune in to this game?
The obvious reason would be the players on the pitch. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have been home to some of the best football players over the years from the likes of Zidane and Ronaldinho to Messi and Hazard now. But the Clasico has always been more than just a game.
Real have always been viewed as the preferred team of Spain’s political establishment. Barcelona on the other hand is linked with the cause of Catalanism and the independence of Catalonia from Spain. The colours of the Catalan flag have always been represented in their badge.
With such political undertones always in the background, whenever the two teams meet, it becomes easy to understand why these two clubs have such a fierce rivalry. Not only are they playing for bragging rights over their rivals, but also for the cultural identity of the people of Spain and Catalonia.
Over the years however, the political issues have been pushed to the background and the games have become more about the football. Barcelona have become synonymous with the tiki-taka style of football created by Johan Cryuff which was later perfected by Pep Guardiola while Real have continued to add to their vast trophy cabinet by any means necessary.
Barcelona has always been the club that builds the team around their academy players while Real have been more or less defined by their Galactico style signings. While Barcelona have built great teams around the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta who came through their famed La Masia academy, Real have repeatedly broken the world transfer record by signing the likes of Zidane and Ronaldo.
Arguably the most famous football transfer of all time took place between the two clubs. While rival clubs signing each other’s players in unheard of, that’s exactly what the two clubs did when Real signed Luis Figo from Barcelona for a world record fee back in 2000 in a transfer that sent shockwaves across the football world.
On the pitch however, the two continue to be extremely competitive. With over 244 competitive meeting between the two, they are locked on 96 wins each. With a total of 44 appearances, Real captain Sergio Ramos leads the way in terms of appearances while Barca captain Lionel Messi has scored the most with 26 goals over professional meetings between the two clubs.
With the rivalry only getting more intense with each passing season as both teams continue to dominate on and off the pitch, the popularity of this match only seems to grow over time and shows no indication of slowing down any time soon.