The world knows by now, but in case you live under a rock, El Clasico will once again take place tomorrow at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. Like most Clasicos, this one will have massive La Liga implications as Real Madrid sit atop the league by 4 points over their eternal rivals. Arguably, the world’s two best teams, with the world’s two best rosters, each game is almost guaranteed to be immensely memorable. There have been many unforgettable matches, goals and moments from this old, bitter and famous rivalry. I’ll attempt to name the top 5 greatest moments in the history of this fixture.
5. Teenage Lionel Messi Begins His Greatness With Hat Trick In El Clasico
Messi had already made a few break throughs into the Barcelona first team throughout 2006 and even earned himself a call up to the 2006 World Cup for Argentina. But it was this match in 2007 where the name Lionel Messi rang around the world, and his odyssey began to become the greatest footballer, to walk planet Earth. Only 19 years old at the time, Messi put Barcelona on his little, magical back for the first time and put up a hat trick over Los Blancos in 2007. With Ronaldinho on his way out, Messi emerged as the heir to the skillful Brazilian, becoming the new lethal number 10 with immense skill and unstoppable in space. Both teams drew 3-3 but it was the hat trick hero Messi that won the day. The Argentine had formally introduced himself to the world.
4. Madrid Give Barca the Most Humiliating Day in Clasico History
2007/2008 was the year of Los Blancos in Spain. They won La Liga by a comfortable margin and Barcelona sunk down to 3rd and weren’t even in the same area code as Madrid when it came to the standings. Going into their 2nd Clasico of the season in La Liga, Madrid had already sealed La Liga and Barca rewarded their eternal rivals with the ceremonial Guard of Honor that’s traditionally given to a newly crowned champion. That in itself was humiliating enough for La Blaugrana but Madrid decided to thank their hated rivals by responding with a 4-1 drubbing at the Bernabeu. It was Madrid’s day and it was Madrid’s year, but a humiliating loss coupled with gifting your eternal rivals the Guard of Honor, makes this Clasico the most humiliating day in the history of the rivalry.
3. Cruyff Joins Barca, Annihilates Madrid in First Clasico
Back in 1953, Alfredo Di Stefano was being courted by the Catalan giants to leave Colombian side Millionarios and to come to Spain. After some issues signing the legendary striker arose for Barcelona, due to international transfer bans. Okay no, Di Stefano actually didn’t sign for Barca due to heavy Spanish government intervention that prevented the transfer from going through. Instead Di Stefano would sign for Madrid and the rest is history. 2 decades later, a similar situation pops up, this time, Madrid is looking to steal away a Dutch international, Ajax youth product, Johan Cruyff. Cruyff snubs Madrid in this case, citing “I couldn’t play for a club that affiliates themselves with Franco,” and he joined Barcelona in 1973. The rest was history after that as Cruyff became,, perhaps the most influential figure in the history of football but what is on this list was his first Clasico in particular. A 5-nil “Manita” demolition of Los Blancos ensued with Cruyff being directly responsible for 4 of those goals, setting up three and even popping one in himself. I suppose karma is indeed, alive and well.
2. Messi’s Solo Goal Lights Up Europe
Messi has had countless, unreal runs that wind up in him trashing defenses and him wheeling away after slotting in his goal. His run against Getafe when he was a teen, and his run in the Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Club come to mind, but this one was perhaps his masterpiece. Barca and Madrid were pitted into 4 clasicos withing 17 days due their matching up in the Champions League Semfinals being sandwiched in between their Copa Del Rey Final matchup, and their La Liga Clasico. The 1st leg of the semifinals was the setting for this goal as he received a simple lay off from Sergio Busquets, just outside of the attacking third. He then winded by 4 white shirts on his way to slotting in a shot past Casillas’ right side with his right foot, Messi had given Barca the 2-1 lead and the Bernabeu was left stunned. Madrid did not recover in the 2nd leg and Messi would go on to capture his 3rd Champions League over Man United later that season.
Before I unveil my top Clasico moments, I have a few honorable mentions that has every business being on this list, but I just didn’t have the space for. The first one is Ronaldinho’s Clasico performance from 2005, the Brazilian played so brilliantly, that he would receive a standing ovation from the opposing crowd after the game. That’s unheard of, he had Madristas chanting his name. Sublime. The second is Gareth Bale burning Marc Bartra and lighting up the Copa Del Rey Final in La Mestalla. Ronaldo was out due to injury and it was the new world record signing who took it upon himself to snatch the trophy himself. One of the greatest goals you’ll ever see, it’s Bale with the big moment. The third and final honorable mention was the aforementioned, Alfredo Di Stefano being snatched by Real Madrid and scoring 4 in his first El Clasico. Certainly, one of the deepest cuts for Barcelona in their history.
1. Derbi De La Verguenza
The top moment in the history of the world’s finest rivalry, came from a match that actually ended in scoreless. In 2000, Luis Figo of Barcelona had left the club for Real Madrid in a world record transfer for the time. Absolutely mad, but not the first time someone had made the switch between the clubs, Luis Figo was welcomed back to the Nou camp two years later by having a full bottle of whiskey and an actual pig’s head being thrown at him. Figo had elected not to take corners in the first few clasicos he played but he chose to put an end to that, and resumed corner duties for Barcelona games in 2002. That led to fans throwing multiple projectiles when he took corners and even had a pig’s head thrown at him. The crowd was so hostile that night, Roberto Carlos had led the Madrid team off the field until they settled down. Madrid would get back on the field ten minutes later but the crowd did not settle down at all whatsoever. Perhaps the most hostile crowd in one of the most hostile rivalries to ever take place.