A brief history of El Clásico, Part II

A brief history of El Clásico, Part II

In a new series, each month totalBarça’s Jason Pettigrove will examine one of the many facets of FC Barcelona’s intriguing and storied history. In the first edition of the series, Barça’s long standing rivalry with Real Madrid is examined through the many scorelines and story lines of El Clásico throughout the years. Part 2 looks at some of the important matches between the two teams, from the 1940s through the present day, and the influence of certain individual players on these Clásicos. Part 1 can be found here

In 111 years of El Clásico matches, only one has ever been played on Boxing Day.

The Antonio Franco Tribute match was played at Les Corts on 26 December 1943 and Los Blancos were probably still feeling the effects of the previous days’ Christmas dinner as they succumbed 4-0 to a rampant Barça, which included a first half Martin hat trick.

There were other, notable scorelines in the early El Clásico clashes. A 5-5 draw was played out on 10th January 1943. Barça leading 4-2 at the break, and then 5-3 with a quarter of an hour to play, but late goals from Botella and Mardones saw the points shared.

Real’s astonishing 11-1 win on 13th June 1943 remains a Clasico record to this day, Barinaga the chief protagonist of the match scoring four. Team mate Pruden also weighed in with a hat trick. Alonso (2), Curta and Botella completed Madrid’s demolition of a Barça side whose solitary 89th minute consolation through Martin meant nothing. Images from this game are below:

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Barça’s record win remains the 7-2 destruction on 24 September 1950, a solitary blaugrana win sandwiched between four Madrid successes which included victories by 4-1, 5-1 and 6-1, Pahino scoring in all 3 matches.

During the 1950s, the rivalry between the teams intensified further due to the transfer of one Alfredo di Stefano.

Owing to a players’ strike in Argentina, Di Stefano played for CD Los Millonarios in Columbia, where his performances caught the eye of both Spanish clubs. In a muddled set of negotiations, both clubs emerged saying that they had secured the transfer of the player.

A farcical decision from Munoz Calero of FIFA, that both clubs could have the player over alternate seasons, was never going to work. Barça have always claimed that their ‘Franco-imposed’ President was forced into allowing the player to sign for the all whites, whilst the Madrid hierarchy insist that the blaugrana gave up their rights to the player voluntarily.

The fact the Di Stefano went on to play an integral part in the most successful Madrid side in history, winning the first 5 European Cups on offer, only made the pill harder to swallow for cules.

Whatever the truth of matters pertaining to the transfer, the issue gave rise to further recriminations on both sides.

The scoring rate of Di Stefano in his early Clásico appearances was quite extraordinary and his prowess alongside that of Puskas, Gento, et al saw the blaugrana unable to register a single league win against their eternal rivals between January 1962 and December 1965. Indeed, only Lionel Messi, with a goal in the most recent Clásico to equal Di Stefano’s 18 goal mark in the fixture, has come anywhere close to his fellow Argentine’s tally.

The arrival of Johan Cruyff from Ajax in 1973 saw a sea change of optimism in Catalonia. Cruyff went public to declare that he could’ve signed for Real Madrid but that he “would never go to a club associated with Franco”. It was a statement that earned him kudos from the Catalan people with immediate effect, and the naming of his son Jordi (the Catalan derivative of George) further endeared him to the Camp Nou faithful and the wider Catalan public.

The famous 5-0 manita at the Bernabeu on 17 February 1974 will go down in Clásico legend. Cruyff was at his imperious best, Barça were inspired. Asensi (2), Juan Carlos, Sotil and Cruyff himself were the scorers, and they would go on to win the first La Liga title for Barcelona since 1960. It was around this time that Barça began to revert to their old, and correct, name (Futbol Club Barcelona), with Franco’s health now in rapid decline.

Real did enjoy a one sided victory in the Copa del Rey Final at the end of that 1973-74 season, the 4-0 scoreline putting paid to any gloating from Catalonia post manita, however it would not be until the 4th December 1977 before Madrid tasted victory in the league again with a hard earned 3-2 win at Camp Nou.

The next years saw the Clásico fixtures peppered with wins for either side. Santillana weighed in heavily with Clásico goals for Madrid in the late 70s and early 80s, with the great Hugo Sanchez prominent in the mid to latter part of the decade. For Barça, Gary Lineker’s hat trick on 31 January 1987 in a 3-2 win is one for the blaugrana history books. Lineker also scored in 2 out of the next 3 Clásicos, both ending in wins for Barça.

The ‘see-saw’ nature of the fixtures around this time is perhaps never better illustrated than during the mid 90s. Barcelona’s 5-0 win at Camp Nou on 8 January 1994 included a hat trick for Romario. In a synergy of sorts, Real Madrid’s 5-0 win at the Bernabeu on 7 January 1995 included a hat trick from Zamorano. The keen statisticians amongst you will know that Michael Laudrup was on the winning side on both occasions!

With the ‘Galactico’ era then upon us, Madrid were catapulted to the top of the rich list. The ‘money men’ of world football set about buying the world’s best players at the whim of President Florentino Perez, and systematically broke the world transfer record each year in the process. It was vulgar, it was brash. It was Real Madrid to a tee.

Lest we forget however, with the purchases of the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham, we were treated to some wonderful acts of skill and finesse. The Clásicos were as absorbing as ever. Yet this era of the Clásico will probably most famously be remembered for one of the most unpalatable sights ever seen at a football ground. The sight of a pigs head thrown at the returning Luis Figo, on duty for Los Blancos at Camp Nou, is an image that will be forever etched into the history of these fixtures. Whilst Barça’s far right Boixos Nois may have claimed responsibility for the stunt, it only harms the image of a club which is rightly revered throughout the world for its exacting standards.

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There are a handful of players that have played for both teams, however none have elicited the hatred directed towards Figo, who will never be forgiven by cules who see his as the ultimate betrayal.

Not wanting to be outdone, Barcelona pulled off a master stroke in outbidding Manchester United to land themselves a galactico of their own – Ronaldinho. This came hot on the heels of Madrid’s capture of Barça President Joan Laporta’s prime target David Beckham, who had decided that the Santiago Bernabeu would be his preferred destination.

The Brazilian, despite fading badly toward the end of his time at the Camp Nou, will always be remembered for his performance at the Bernabeu on the night of 19th November 2005. It was so good that even fervent Madridistas rose in unison to acclaim him. Two goals merely capped one of the great all time Clasico cameos and the applause he received during the game itself and when leaving the field was the very least he deserved.

My very first match at the Camp Nou, in fact my first Barça match at all, was a Clásico – and what a Clásico!! The 10th of March 2007 is a date I will never forget. It will probably have a special place in Lionel Messi’s heart too. For this was Messi’s night. A hat trick, including a last minute equaliser in a 3-3 draw, showed the whole world a glimpse of what was to come from this magician of the modern game.

The last five years have been wonderful indeed. The ‘2-6’ in 2009 was very special – who can forget Puyol’s triumphant raising of the captains armband for all to see !!

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However the manita of 29 November 2010 was from another planet entirely. It was Jose Mourinho’s first Clásico as manager of Real Madrid and he couldn’t have got off to a worse start. I defy anyone to suggest there has EVER been a better performance on a football pitch than the one Barça produced that night. Simply put, it was footballing perfection.

Cristiano Ronaldo was but a bystander in that game, yet he has become Barça’s nemesis in the recent match ups with some crucial goals, including the towering header which won Madrid the Copa del Rey in 2011.

That same season, he was once again overshadowed by Messi’s slaloming second goal in the second leg of the Champions League Semi-final. Given the opposition, the importance of the tie and the timing, I rate that as the best goal I’ve seen (minute 1:20 in the video below).

As I conclude this piece, I remind myself that there are still so many other talking points that could be debated – the Dutch legacy (Kluivert, van Nistelrooy, et al) and their impact on the fixtures, the recent 4 Clasicos in 18 days, Mourinho’s eye gouging……the list is endless. Perhaps the best stories are still to be written.

One thing is for sure. For sheer entertainment, desire, passion, theatre and spectacle, El Clásico was, is and always will be a class apart.

Image Credits: Diver and Aguilar, Victor Caivano (AP), Marca