Club football’s biggest derby is back as Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona clash at the fabled Santiago Bernabeu.
The ongoing La Liga season has neatly led up to the latest edition of the clash between world football’s heavyweights as Barcelona and Real Madrid head into the biggest grudge match in the sport placed one and two in the league table respectively.
Victory in the fixture has been celebrated akin to titles as the European mammoths fight tooth and nail to outperform their bitter rivals every time they meet on the field.
The 1920s: The first ever LaLiga El Clasico
The first LaLiga Clasico took place in February 1929, just two weeks into the first ever LaLiga season. Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium was packed with confident cules that day, but they left disappointed as Real Madrid scored either side of halftime for a 2-1 inaugural win. Barça won the reverse fixture 1-0 – and the first ever LaLiga title – but the first El Clasico win went to the capital.
The 1930s: Real Madrid run up the biggest victory in LaLiga El Clasico history
The 1934-35 ElClasico fixtures were remarkable, with Barça winning 5-0 at Les Corts before Real Madrid turned it around with an incredible 8-2 win at Chamartin. The home side went 5-1 up after just half an hour, prompting Barça’s Hungarian coach Ferenc Plattko to ask the ball to be changed at the break! It made no difference as the home side racked up the biggest ever LaLiga El Clasico win.
The 1940s: The birth of ElClasico as we know it today?
It could be said that the birth of the intense El Clasico rivalry we know today was born in the 1940s, thanks to a number of hot-headed encounters between the two sides. Among them was the highest-scoring draw ever registered between these two sides: a 5-5 draw at Les Corts in 1943.
The 1950s: ElClasico becomes Spain’s first televised football match
History was made on February 15th 1959 as El Clasico became the first football match ever televised on Spanish television. There was a pre-game scramble for the latest technology, with TV sets quickly selling out across both cities. Real Madrid, featuring the great Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, won 1-0 that day at the Bernabeu but were unable to prevent Barcelona to win their first LaLiga title in seven years.
The 1960s: Di Stefano continues to haunt Barcelona
The Argentine legend remains Real Madrid’s all-time leading El Clasico goalscorer in LaLiga matches and he tormented Barcelona time and time again after they thought – mistakenly – they’d beaten Real Madrid to his signing back in 1953. Di Stefano’s 14 goals in 20 matches included a double in a memorable 5-3 win at the recently opened Camp Nou in December 1960 and marked a period of generational dominance for Los Blancos.
The 1970s: Johan Cruyff tilts the balance Barça’s way
Johan Cruyff’s arrival as a Barça player in 1974 helped tilt the ElClasico balance back towards the Catalan capital, and the Dutchman’s performance in a 5-0 LaLiga ElClasico win at the Bernabeu that year is still often talked about today. El Salvador inspired Barça to that season’s LaLiga title, but more importantly instilled a footballing philosophy which forms part of the club’s identity to this day.
The 1980s: Real Madrid’s Quinta del Buitre generation wins five in a row
Los Blancos had not won a LaLiga title for six years when they faced Barcelona at the Bernabeu in March 1986. A 3-1 win, with club icons Jorge Valdano and Emilio Butragueño among the goal scorers, all but handed the LaLiga title to Real Madrid and opened up a period of unrivalled dominance of the rivalry for the rest of the decade. The so-called ‘Quinta del Buitre’ generation featuring homegrown talents such as Butragueño, Michel and Manuel Sanchis went on to win every LaLiga title between 1986 and 1990 – a dominance only Johan Cruyff would be able to break.
The 1990s: ‘Manitas’ all round
Cruyff’s return to Barça as coach heralded the birth of the ‘Dream Team’ which won four consecutive LaLiga titles between 1991 and 1994. Yet the story of ElClasico in the 1990s will be remembered for two iconic results: a 5-0 win for Barça at Camp Nou with Romario and former coach Ronald Koeman among the goal scorers in 1994; and Real Madrid getting revenge with the exact same scoreline almost exactly 12 months later thanks to goals from, among others, future Barça player and coach Luis Enrique!
The 2000s: Ronaldinho brings the Bernabeu to its feet
The November 2005 El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu marked the fixture for a generation. Barça took an early lead, but Ronaldinho’s show was just beginning. Early in the second half, the Brazilian dashed from inside his own half, easily hurdled Sergio Ramos’ attempted tackle, shimmied past Ivan Helguera, avoided Roberto Carlos, and shot past Iker Casillas. 15 minutes later, he again scorched past Ramos and easily beat Casillas for 3-0. The Bernabeu crowd reacted in an almost unprecedented fashion: by rising to their feet and applauding a genuinely amazing, historic performance.
The 2010s: Messi makes his mark at the Bernabeu
Lionel Messi is El Clasico’s all-time top scorer in LaLiga and his influence on the fixture over the years has been profound. While it is hard to single out a single performance, you would be hard-pushed to find a more iconic or dramatic moment in recent ElClasico history than his injury-time winner in Barça 3-2 win at the Bernabeu in 2017. The image of Messi holding up his shirt to the Bernabeu fans in a celebration will live long in the memory.