El Clasico: Best Moments of The Last 20 Years

Real Madrid suffered a lacklustre season after the highs of their Decima win. Source: Getty Images.
Real Madrid suffered a lacklustre season after the highs of their Decima win. Source: Getty Images. /

Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona has always been the greatest soccer rivalry in the world and it is perhaps one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

They are the best teams in Spain (32 La Liga titles vs 22, 19 La Copa titles vs 26 and 9 Spanish Super Cup titles vs 11) and probably the most awarded clubs in Europe (10 Champions League vs 4, not to mention UEFA cups, Inter-Cities Fairs Cups and European Super Cups).

This rivalry has always existed, since Di Stefano years in the 50’s when the Argentinian forward didn’t sign with Barcelona, but he did it with Real instead in the last moment. And it is not only about soccer, the city rivalry between Madrid-Barcelona comes from some political, ideological and cultural factors from centuries ago.

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  • Soccer fans all over the world (an estimated 400-500 million) will be in front of the television watching a significant game for the fate of La Liga: Barça could caress its 23rd championship, keep its 1-point lead or, on the other hand, Real could be the new top ranked team with not only a 2-point lead but also a moral boost.

    This famous sport rivalry has always been very avid, raw in some points of the history. Real 11-1 win in 1943, Evaristo’s header in 1961 which broke Madrid’s streak in Europe, Johan Cruyff‘s performance in Santiago Bernabeu in 1973 in that historic 0-5… But the scope of El Clasico has been blowed up in the last twenty years by the globalization and new media landscape, TV and the Internet, to the point that today almost half a billion people on the world (7,14% of world’s population) watch the game.

    The key moment of this fever was probably 1994 when Cruyff’s “Dream Team” demolished Real Madrid 5-0 with a spectacular Romario performance scoring a hat-trick and a wonderful goal. One year later, the “Dream Team” was over and Jorge Valdano’s Real claimed revenge in Santiago Bernabeu. In 2000, the rivalry reached a new peak when the new Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, brought Luis Figo from its greatest rival (two years before scored a brilliant goal against his new club). Barça fans inevitably labelled him a traitor and lighters, glass bottles, coins (and even a pig’s head in 2002) were hurled from the stands every time the Portuguese player visited Nou Camp. Also a knife was seen on the grass.

    After those incidents (never punished by La Liga Committee), the rivalry has never been the same. Raul boosted some of this avid hate one year before shushing the Nou Camp. During this new century, Real and Barça have switched the dominance in ‘El Clasico’, Spain and Europe, depending of their bad or good eras. Ronaldinho‘s performance in 2005 was applauded by part of Santiago Bernabeu (a very unusual image) after his second goal. That was in the Rijkaard era but Real Madrid took control soon and, in 2008, Barcelona suffered a hard humiliation when the players had to applaud their rivals after Real’s La Liga title the previous week.

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  • The Guardiola‘s era gave a new dominance for the Catalonian club. Barça’s soccer style had never a solid response from Real and that created a frustration in the Spanish capital’s club with some incidents such as Jose Mourinho giving Tito Vilanova (Barcelona’s assistant coach in that time) a poke in the eye in the 2011 Spanish Super Cup or Pepe trampling Leo Messi’s hand in the 2011 Champions League semifinals. Messi was spectacular in both games and Barcelona advanced to the final which eventually gave the second Champions League title to Pep Guardiola. That round was also the revenge of 2002 Champions League semifinals where Real advanced to the final after a amazing performance in Nou Camp (0-2).

    The unique relief that Mourinho’s team enjoyed in Guardiola’s years was the 2011 La Copa final. Cristiano Ronaldo hung in the air to head the winner ball. The end of Guardiola’s era has given Real a tiny advantage, but the rivalry seems more equal than ever. Gareth Bale heroic acceleration at the end of the 2014 La Copa final was the last great moment of this famous and avid sport rivalry.

    Next: USL: 4 Thoughts on 2015 Season

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