El Clasico vs. Milan Derby: Which Is Better and Why?

Neri Stein@neristeinFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 29:  Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid CF (L) duels for the ball with Jordi Alba of FC Barcelona during the Super Cup second leg match betwen Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 29, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

If you're a fan of derby football—and who isn't—this weekend is going to be a good one. 

Real Madrid visits Camp Nou to take on La Liga leaders Barcelona Sunday at 1:50 ET. Los Blancos are wallowing away in sixth place in the table, a whopping eights points behind their rivals. 

Meanwhile, AC Milan will have the home-field as they take on Inter Milan Sunday at the San Siro at 2:45 ET. Milan has started the season miserably with just seven points from six games, while Inter is right in the mix early up in third place with 12 points. 

It's the biggest match of the year for each team, but which matchup is bigger? This year and in many recent ones, it's no question El Clasico trumps the Milan Derby. But what about historically?

The History

When debating the best football teams in the world, all four of these clubs are in the mix. Real Madrid have more European Cups than any other club with nine, but AC Milan aren't far behind with seven, and they have 18 UEFA or FIFA titles, tied for most with Boca Juniors. 

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Inter and Barca have each won an unprecedented Treble in recent years in their respective leagues. 

But what about the derby history?

El Clasico clearly began as a political divide, and politics still play a big part in the Madrid-Barcelona rivalry. But the football division really got going in the 1950s with Alfredo Dí Stefano's ultimate snubbing of Barca in favor of Madrid.

Dí Stefano went on to win the first five consecutive European Cups with Los Blancos. 

The Milan Derby, like many intercity derbies, began due to a schism within the hierarchy of one club, due to, of course, which players should be signed and which shouldn't. 

The Milan clubs have traded periods of dominance in both the Serie A and Europe since the 1960s. 

Heated Matchups

Like any football rivalry, these teams have seen their fair share of heated matchups. The Coppa Italia, Spanish Supercopa and European Cup have all seen derbies during the knockout stages, and in many years, these derbies have decided the league titles. 

Milan leads Inter with 81 official wins to 76, while Madrid leads Barcelona in official victories 88 to 87. 

Like many derbies, it was certain players who helped make it what it was. Sandro Mazzola of Inter and Gianni Rivera of Milan were two of the best Italian players of their generation in the 1960s, and their rivalry transferred over to the Italian national team as well. 

El Clasico has not let rivalry among players shift to the national team (though granted, Spain does not have the pedigree of Italy from the 1960s through the '80s), but the transfer of star players from one club to the other has intensified the fans' passion recently. 

Every one of these matchups produces fireworks, but El Clasico has seen a lot more of late. 

Dominating the Scene

Aside from having some of the best-ever players, these four clubs have had some of the best ever teams in football, and they've rarely released their strangleholds on their respective leagues.

Barca's current squad is an obvious one, and they are often compared to Milan's Dutch trio in the late '80s and early '90s that dominated Serie A and the European Cup from 1989 to '96.

Though many football fans will call it buying a title, it's hard to argue the talent of Madrid's first Galacticos era, and their dominance in La Liga has never seen a real dry spell.

Inter is the least decorated club among these four, and that's saying a lot for a team with 18 Serie A titles, three European Cups and the only club to win the Italian Treble. 

Aside from dominating La Liga and Serie A, these four teams have had their spells of dominance over Europe. Milan had the early '90s, and Barcelona has now. Madrid had the first years of the European Cup, and Inter was not long after them. 

Aside from Liverpool and Manchester United, European club football's other mega derby, few teams have had stretches of dominance centered around their rivalry. 

Star Gazing

Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Zinedine Zidane, Alfredo Dí Stefano, Lionel Messi, Luisito, Johan Cruyff. Some of the best footballers in history have played their best days with these four teams, and many have faced more of the best players of the generation in the derbies. 

While it's the teams that have won the trophies, it's the players who have brought in fans from across the world. 

Which Is Better?

Like these teams, these two derbies have traded off periods of dominance and glamour, but it's hard to argue any football derby has had a bigger effect on football and sports than El Clasico. 

Though Serie A has often had more parity than La Liga, with teams like Juventus challenging the Milan clubs more than Madrid and Barca have been challenged in La Liga, the Spanish sides have exerted their dominance over all aspects of world football. 

El Clasico matches bring in more fans than almost any other football match, and there is often a lot riding on these meetings, no matter when they're played. 

Which to Watch?

The Milan Derby and El Clasico are going head-to-head this Sunday, and El Clasico clearly has the edge this season. 

Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo, so fans can continue to debate who is better. Jose Mourinho's revolution at Madrid continues until they win the Champions League, and Tito Vilanova in his first year as manager trying to make sure Barca doesn't slip on his watch.

But don't sleep on the Italian teams. They produce fireworks with the best of them. 

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