As Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in what promises to be another fiery El Clasico on Saturday night, here is a look back at how world football’s most famous rivalry developed.
Ghana’s Michael Essien has played in the fixture before during his time at Real Madrid on loan from Chelsea.
El Clasico meaning
First things first… El Clasico, or ‘The Classic’, is the name given to any match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. It originally only applied to Spanish championship games between the two, but has come to be used for their meetings in any competitions.
El Clasico results
The first ever El Clasico ended 3-1 to Barcelona in the 1902 Copa de la Coronacion. Since then, Real just shade competitive meetings, winning 97 times to Barca’s 96 along with 52 draws. Including exhibition games, there have been 278 El claiscos – Barca have won 115, Real 101, and 62 draws.
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 half time and hang on 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.
1930s: Real Madrid run up biggest victory in LaLiga El Clasico history
The 1934-35 El Clasico 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 as he feared foul play! It made no difference as the home side racked up the biggest ever LaLiga El Clasico win.
1940s: The birth of El Clasico 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.
1950s: El Clasico 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.
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.
1970s: Cruyff tilts the balance Barça’s way
Johan Cruyff’s arrival as a Barça player in 1974 helped tilt the El Clasico balance back towards the Catalan capital, and the Dutchman’s performance in a 5-0 LaLiga El Clasico 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.
1980s: 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.
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 El Clasico in the 1990s will be remembered for two iconic results: a 5-0 win for Barça at the Camp Nou with Romario and current coach Ronald Koeman among the goal scorers in 1994; and Real Madrid getting revenge with the exact same score line almost exactly 12 months later thanks to goals from, among others, future Barça coach Luis Enrique!
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 almost unprecedent fashion: by rising to their feet and applauding a genuinely amazing, historic performance.
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 has been profound. While it’s hard to single out a single performance, its hard to find a more iconic or dramatic moment in recent El Clasico 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 celebration will live long in the memory.