When it comes to football rivalries, there is arguably no bigger rivalry in the world game than Barcelona and Real Madrid. At the height of their rivalry, over a billion people around the world watched El Clasico’s between the two Spanish giants.
An age-old rivalry
These two behemoths of the world game have been fighting it out to be the top dog in the Spanish game for what seems like an age.
Barcelona were founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, Catalan, German, and English footballers. Since that day, they have never looked back. Real Madrid had to wait until 1902 for their formation. However, Los Blancos have made up for that lost time in recent decades.
Since the national league began, the two clubs have been regarded as representing their regions and cities, Barcelona from Catalonia and Real Madrid from Castilla, so the rivalry goes way beyond just football, as it goes much deeper into culture and politics.
The background of the rivalry is far too complicated to portray in one article. However, to put it mildly, there is no love between the two regions and clubs, which makes the rivalry even more fierce.
Real Madrid is the more successful club
The men from Madrid have proven the more successful when it comes to winning trophies, as they have won a record 35 La Liga titles and 14 European Cups/Champions League, among numerous other trophies. In fact, Los Blancos are one of the most successful clubs in the history of the beautiful game.
Barcelona is lagging behind slightly on the major trophy front, as the Blaugrana has won just 26 La Liga titles and five European Cup’s/Champions Leagues. However, the Catalan giants have been pretty successful in the last quarter of a century, especially in the Spanish top-flight.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi
For close to a decade, the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid intensified due to the fact that the two clubs had the two best players on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The pair were consistently competing not only to be the best in La Liga but also the best in the world as they went blow to blow in the fight for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.
The pair took the art of goalscoring to a new level, breaking records along the way. In season 2011/12, Messi struck an incredible 72 goals in all club competitions. Ronaldo’s best in a Real Madrid shirt was 61 goals in season 2014/15. Both produced goalscoring stats that La Liga is unlikely to see again in the near future. They were quite simple goal machines.
Their perceived rivalry seemed to spare each other on as they went blow for blow in the fight for individual and team honours. Messi won La Liga on ten occasions during his Barcelona career, while Ronaldo only won the Spanish top-flight twice during his time with Los Blancos.
Both players also inspired their teams to four Champions League triumphs, although Ronaldo’s career at Real Madrid was shorter than Messi’s time with the Blaugrana.
When it came to El Clasico clashes, Messi is the record scorer in the big game, scoring 26 goals in 45 matches against Real Madrid. The Argentinian, along with centre-back Sergio Ramos is the player who has made the most appearances in El Clasico. Ronaldo is the joint second highest goalscoring alongside Alfredo Di Stefano in El Clasico, having scored 18 goals.
However, Ronaldo has the record for scoring in most consecutive El Clasico meetings, scoring in six straight games between seasons 2011/12 and 2012/13.
The stats bare out that the pair were two highly influential players in El Clasico games. Both players helped their team win vital games and points in the clashes between the two rival teams.
Both players have moved on to pastures new, but their spells spent at the Spanish giants will always be what the pair will be remembered for best. They were two players at the peak of their powers during their La Liga careers. They produced some magic moments that will go down in the annals of the beautiful game’s history.
The pair will always be bitter rivals
Real Madrid and Barcelona will always be bitter rivals, no matter what happens in football. A slight dip in form and financial issues caused Barcelona to drop off the pace in recent seasons. However, the appointment of club legend Xavi as head coach seems to have revived the Blaugrana’s flagging fortunes.
An intense rivalry between the two teams is good for the Spanish game. If one or the other team is significantly weaker than the other, then it makes La Liga much less competitive, as few teams baring Atletico Madrid seem capable enough to challenge the duology of Spain’s big two.
Some will claim that other world game rivalries are stronger, usually based on location bias. People on Merseyside will say their derby is the biggest, the same with people in Milan, Manchester, Glasgow, Buenos Aires, and north London.
However, a billion people can’t be wrong, as when the two teams meet in El Clasico, it is still one of the most viewed games by a global audience and a fascinating battle between two teams steeped in history.