With its roots based in politics, the El Clasico football derby between Spanish giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is generally viewed as the biggest rivalry in the sport. The El Clasico used to be the name given to domestic league meetings only, but is now the term used to describe any contest between the two teams, even exhibition games and friendlies.
Madrid and Barcelona are Spain’s two largest cities and the clubs are both among the richest and most popular in world sports as well as the most successful. They first met back in 1902 and 115 years later still have an intense rivalry going. These are 10 up-to-date facts sports fans may be interested in regarding the famous El Clasico.
10. The Numbers
The roots of the derby can be traced back to 1902, but the first official competitive El Clasico took place on February 17th, 1929 with Real winning 2-1 in Barcelona. The two clubs have met a total of 269 times between 1902 and August 18, 2017 with the next El Clasico scheduled for December 20th. A total of 34 of these meetings have been friendlies or exhibition games and the other 235 have been competitive contests. When it comes to wins in competitive games, Real Madrid leads the way with 95 to Barcelona’s 91 and the other 49 encounters ending in a draw. They’ve also outscored Barca 399-381. For some reason, Barca takes the friendlies more seriously though with 20 wins to just four for Real. When the exhibition games are taken into consideration, the all-time series swings Barca’s way with 111 victories to 99 with 59 draws while outscoring Real 467 to 443.
9. More Numbers
Real holds the overall edge in La Liga at 72-69-33 wins, losses and draws, the Supercopa de Espana at 8-4-2, and the European Champions League at 3-2-3. Barcelona has the edge in the Copa del Rey at 14-12-7, the Copa de la Liga at 2-0-4 and in friendlies at 20-4-10. Real has won by at least five goals on five occasions, which includes the derby’s biggest ever win, 11-1 at home in the Copa del Rey in June of 1943. Barcelona has beaten Real Madrid by at least five goals nine times. Thirteen of the 14 five-goal-or-more wins were administered by the home team, with Barcelona’s 5-0 away triumph in 1974 being the exception. Home field has definitely been an advantage with 67 of Real’s 99 victories coming in Madrid and 72 of Barcelona’s 111 coming at home. Barcelona has won 35 times in Madrid and Real has won 28 of their matches on the road.
8. Not Fit to be Tied
The El Clasico has ended in a draw just 59 times in the 269 meetings which represents 21.9 per cent of the games. This is relatively low for a football derby and it shows the aim of both teams is to defeat their rival. The longest streak of tied games in the history of the derby has been just three. The teams played to three straight draws between Sept. 11, 1991 and March 7th, 1992 and again between May 1st, 2002 and April 20th, 2003. The longest string of games without a draw was 18 from Jan. 25th, 1948 to Nov. 21st, 1954. There has also been streaks of 17, 14, 12 and 10 games without the sides playing to a draw. Both teams hold the record for most consecutive El Clasico wins at six with Real holding the edge in undefeated streaks at 14 games without a loss to Barcelona’s run of 13.
7. The Top Dogs
There has been dozens of world-class players in the El Clasico over the years, but some stand out above the rest. When it comes to the derby’s all-time top scorer the honor goes to Lionel Messi of Barcelona with 26 as of August 18th, 2017. These consist of 16 in La Liga, six in the Super Cup, two in the Champions league and one in the friendly 2017 Internationals Champions Cup. Fellow Argentine striker Alfredo di Stefano of Real is next with 18 goals and he’s followed by Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo at 17. Ronaldo also holds the derby’s record for scoring in six straight games. There has been 11 players to score at least 10 El Clasico goals with eight of them playing for Real, two for Barcelona and one of them, Josep Samitier, played for both clubs. As for games played in the derby, Manuel Sanchis holds the record with 43 appearances for Real, followed by Francisco Gento of Real and Xavi of Barcelona at 42 each.
6. Luis Figo Hate Campaign
Portuguese international winger/midfielder Luís Figo joined Barcelona in 1995 after being banned from transferring to an Italian club for signing for both Parma and Juventus. He scored 30 goals in 172 appearances for Barca and helped the club win several pieces of silverware. However, Barcelona fans were infuriated when Figo signed with Real Madrid in 2000 when Real paid the buyout clause in his contract. It didn’t take long for his former supporters to turn against Figo and he felt their wrath when he returned to play at Camp Nou in October of that year. There were close to 100,000 fans packed in the stadium with numerous banners which refereed to Figo as scum, Judas, a mercenary and a traitor. They let the startled Figo have it all game long both verbally and physically as they threw a variety of objects at him including bottles, coins, mobile phones, fake money, fruit, and cigarette lighters. The never forgave Figo and two years later threw a pig’s head at him during a game in Barcelona.
5. Di Stefano Agrees to Join Both Barcelona and Real Madrid
Striker Alfredo Di Stefano was born in Argentina, but then played for Colombia. He appeared in a friendly in Spain in 1953 and was so impressive Barcelona reached a deal with his Argentine club to sign him. FIFA authorized the transfer, but the Spanish Football Federation didn’t. When Di Stefano showed up in Barcelona in May of 1953, Real Madrid also approached the player. Since he wasn’t officially signed with Barcelona, Di Stefano was persuaded by Real Madrid to join them instead. The Spanish Football Federation waited four months before announcing Di Stefano would be allowed to play four years in the country, two seasons with Real and two campaigns with Barcelona on an alternating basis. However, Barcelona didn’t agree with the terms and they allowed Di Stefano to join Real. This was a huge mistake as Real won eight La Liga titles and five European Cups with Di Stefano. He also led the domestic league in scoring five times with 418 goals in total for the club in 510 appearances. Di Stefano became a Spanish citizen in 1956 and played 31 times for Spain.
There has been a total of 32 players who have suited up for both Barcelona and Real Madrid over the years with Luis Figo being the most notorious of the bunch. However, there has been several other big stars who have swapped sides and these include Bernd Schuster, Michael Laudrup, Nando, Ronaldo, Gheorghe Hagi, Luis Enrique and Samuel Eto’o. Twenty players have left Barcelona to join Real with 16 of them signing directly with the rival and four of them joining another club before heading to Madrid. On the other side of the coin, 12 players have left Real for Barcelona with just three of them signing directly and the other nine joining a different club first before moving on to Barcelona. However, nobody has changed allegiances for the past decade as the last player to move clubs was Javier Saviola, who left Barcelona for Real in 2007.
3. World’s Most Popular Rivalry
There are hundreds of local and city football derbies throughout the world such as Everton vs Liverpool, Manchester United vs Manchester City, Inter Milan vs Ac Milan, Rangers vs Celtic, Roma vs Lazio, Ajax vs Feyenoord, Boca Juniors vs River Plate and even Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid, However, the El Clasico is second to none. The Barcelona vs Real Madrid clashes have been known to attract more than 400 million worldwide television viewers in the past. It’s believed the only games which draw more fans are World Cup and European Champions League Finals. This number is likely higher since millions of fans also watch games on internet steams these days and often gather in large groups to watch matches at clubs, pubs and restaurants etc.
2. Can’t get Enough?
In general, most football derbies take place twice a season in league play as each team plays a home and away fixture. Of course, additional contests can take place if the two clubs meet in a domestic cup competition or a European tournament. But for those who follow the El Clasico, they were in seventh heaven back in the 2010/11 campaign when Barcelona and Real Madrid battled each other four times in a matter of 18 days. The teams met in the La Liga on April 16th and played to a 1-1 draw in Madrid. The Copa del Rey Final took place on April 20th with Real winning 1-0 after extra time in Valencia. They met again on April 27th in Madrid with Barcelona winning the first leg of the Champions League semifinal 2-0. The second leg was held May 3rd and ended in a 1-1 draw in Barcelona. The teams met seven times in 2011 with Barcelona winning three, drawing three and losing just once.
1. Who’s the Best?
We’ve analyzed the head-to-head meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but which team is actually better? This is a matter of opinion, so the next best thing is to compare the silverware each club has won domestically and on the world stage. Real leads the way in Primera Division titles at 33-24. However, Barcelona is in front in the Copa del Rey at 29-19 and the Supercopa de Espana at 12-10. They also led the now-defunct Copa Eva Duarte 3-1 and the Copa de la Liga 2-1 for a total of 70 domestic trophies compared to 64 for Real. In worldwide competition, Real leads in European Cup/Champions League titles 12-5 with Barcelona winning four UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups to none for Real. Barcelona also leads in 5-4 in UEFA Super Cups, 3-0 in the old Inter Cities Fairs Cup, and 3-2 in the FIFA Club World Cup. Real Madrid has added a pair of Europa League titles as well as three UEFA / CONMEBOL Intercontinental Cups to lead the world stage at 23 trophies to 20. But when domestic and world silverware are combined, Barcelona has the edge at 90-87.