Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: A Complete A to Z of El Clasico
The historic rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona needs little introduction. El Clasico, as games between the two clubs have come to be known, is always one of the biggest occasions on the football calendar—a game eagerly anticipated for weeks beforehand before being endlessly dissected in the days and even weeks afterwards.
On Saturday, the two clubs will go head-to-head at the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time this season, a game that could also see Luis Suarez make his debut for Barca.
Ahead of the match, here is your A to Z of the biggest game in world football.
A Is for All-Time Records
From their first meeting in 1902 to the present day, the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is deep and lasting.
The overall record between the two sides underlines why it is such an enduring clash—it is a very hard-fought one. In 228 competitive meetings between the sides, Real Madrid have won 91 to Barcelona's 88.
In those games, Real Madrid lead the scoring 385 to 371, with Barcelona closing the gap in recent times.
B Is for Basketball
It should not be forgotten that Barcelona and Real Madrid are not just football teams, they are sports clubs that also incorporate a number of different disciplines. Football is the most prominent of those by some margin, but there is also basketball, handball and even rugby in the mix.
The rivalry in those arenas is every bit as fierce as the one on the football pitch.
C Is for Clasico
El Clasico. The Classic. Not the El Clasico. Not El Classico. Just El Clasico. Simple.
D Is for Di Stefano
The signing of Alfredo Di Stefano is an integral part of El Clasico mythology. Originally supposed to sign for Barcelona, the Argentine star became the centre of a tug-of-war battle between Spain's two biggest clubs, with both sides claiming they had reached a deal to sign the goalscorer.
In the end it was decided that Di Stefano would alternate the team he played for each season, although Barcelona ripped up their agreement—allowing Di Stefano to make Madrid his permanent home. Strong rumours remain that General Franco, known to be pro-Madrid, ensured Barcelona were never able to get their man.
Di Stefano went on to be a star for Real. With 305 goals, he was the club's all-time leading goalscorer for nearly 50 years before he was finally overtaken by Raul (who needed twice as many games to do so).
E Is for Eto'o
Of the limited group of players to have represented both sides, few have done so with such passion as Samuel Eto'o. Signed by Real Madrid when he was just a teenager, the Cameroonian was left distraught by the way he was ultimately treated by the club—loaned out to several teams in Spain and never given the chance to impress for Los Blancos.
He eventually left for Mallorca before joining Barcelona in an eye-catching £16 million deal. From that point he seemed to make it his personal mission to punish Real Madrid whenever the two sides met, scoring four times in Clasico meetings between 2004 and 2009 as he helped the balance of power shift decisively in Barcelona's favour for a while.
F Is for Franco
Perhaps the only non-footballer to be intrinsically linked to both teams, during his time as dictator of Spain General Franco was perceived to be avowedly pro-Madrid, a leader doing all he could to keep Barcelona down (and, by extension, keep Catalonia in check) to promote the glory of the capital (and his regime).
Franco was reported to meddle in club affairs to give Real Madrid the best possible chance of success—some even believing he intervened to prevent Barcelona from completing the signing of Alfredo Di Stefano. He was accused of allowing Barca players and staff to be intimidated before games, although his approach loosened somewhat as his reign continued.
G Is for Goals (lots of Them)
In 228 competitive meetings between the two sides there have been a total of 756 goals. That is an average of over 3.3 goals a game—no wonder meetings between the two sides have become so popular.
H Is for Hans Kamper
Hans Kamper, better known by the Catalan version of his name, Joan Gamper, is the man credited with the foundation of Barcelona in 1899.
Just 22 at the time, Gamper played for the club for many years before taking over as president in 1908. Born in Switzerland, he also captained FC Basel and co-founded FC Zurich.
I Is for Independencia
The historical rivalry between not only the clubs but the two cities (and two regions) often makes Clasico meetings occasions when other issues are aired. One of those is the concept of Independencia (independence) among Barcelona's Catalan supporters, who hope to one day secede from the rest of the Spanish state and form their own nation.
This could spell the end of domestic meetings with Real Madrid. However, the possibility of this happening appears many years away at present (especially following the recent "No" victory in the Scottish referendum).
J Is for Julian Palacios and Juan Padros
Julian Palacios and Juan Padros are credited with founding Real Madrid, with the former bringing a group of men together to start a football club in 1900, and Padros presiding over the club's first board when one was formally agreed upon in 1902.
Neither man could possibly have known what the club would become.
K Is for Karim Benzema
The Frenchman has scored in at least one Clasico match in each of the last three seasons—all of them coming at the Santiago Bernabeu. Barcelona's defenders might be giving Benzema some special attention this weekend.
L Is for Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez should make his debut for Barcelona on Saturday after serving his FIFA-imposed suspension for biting Giorgio Chiellini during the summer World Cup.
If he does, he will become the second Luis Suarez to play in El Clasico—the great Spaniard Luis Suarez Miramontes played for Barcelona between 1955 and 1961, scoring six goals in Clasico meetings.
M Is for Manuel Sanchis
No player knows the Clasico better than Manuel Sanchis—who made 43 appearances in the game during his time at Real Madrid.
N Is for No Goals
There have been just six goalless draws involving these two teams in history. That's what can happen when some of the finest attacking talent in the world is on display.
O Is for Oro (Gold)
The Ballon d'Or is awarded to the best individual player each year by France Football magazine (and, since 2010, FIFA). Unsurprisingly, Clasico stars are often recognised with the award.
Since its inception in 1956, a Real Madrid player has won the trophy on seven occasions (Alfredo Di Stefano winning it twice). Barcelona, thanks to Lionel Messi, can trump that—winning it 10 times (among seven different players) to make them the most successful club in the award's history.
P Is for Pig's Head
A pig's head was infamously thrown onto the pitch when Luis Figo, a Barcelona hero in his time at the club, returned to the Nou Camp as a Real Madrid player in 2002.
When the Portuguese winger went over to take a corner he was bombarded by missiles sent down from the crowd—with the pig's head the most surprising and shocking of all. It was a moment destined to be remembered, even if Figo handled the whole situation with remarkable equanimity.
Q Is for Quashed Result
In 1943 came the biggest result in Clasico history, as Real Madrid beat Barca 11-1 in the second leg of a Spanish Cup tie. Barcelona had won the first leg at home 3-0, so they went out 11-4 on aggregate.
The game was clouded in controversy, however, with some reports stating that General Franco's director of state security had visited the Barcelona dressing room before the match to deliver a chilling warning about what needed to transpire.
Eventually, the result would be officially wiped from the slate by FIFA—although Madrid fans still delight in needling their rivals about the result.
R Is for Ronaldinho
There have been few better individual performances in the Clasico than Ronaldinho's in 2005, as he travelled to the Santiago Bernabeu and ripped a shell-shocked Real Madrid team apart.
Ronaldinho followed in a long line of great Brazilians to play for the club—such as Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo—but he arguably elevated himself above all of them with his performances against the club's biggest rivals.
S Is for Standing Ovations
Barcelona players have earned standing ovations from Real Madrid fans in the Santiago Bernabeu on two occasions. In 2005, Ronaldinho was given the honour by Madridistas after his aforementioned scintillating display in a 3-0 win, emulating Diego Maradona's achievement 22 years earlier. Proof, perhaps, that this rivalry does not always prevent each side from recognising the other's brilliance.
T Is for Turncoats
In total, 33 players have represented both Real Madrid and Barcelona, with Javier Saviola—who moved to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2007—being the most recent of them. Some switches have been more controversial than others; Luis Figo, Luis Enrique and Michael Laudrup are among the more notable double agents.
U Is for Ultras
Both clubs have a section of supporters referred to as "Ultras"—fans more outwardly passionate about their club than others. Real Madrid's are known as the Ultras Sur, Barcelona's the Boixos Nois.
V Is for Villarato
Villarato was the name given to the idea that Barcelona received preferential treatment from referees in Spain during their extraordinary run of success.
The name came from that of the one-time president of the Spanish Football Federation Angel Maria Villar, who was perceived to favour Barcelona, despite spending his entire playing career at Athletic Bilbao.
W Is for Worldwide Audience
Over 400 million people around the world are said to watch any one Clasico meeting—making it the second only to the Champions League final as the most watched club football match each season.
X Is for Xavi
The brilliant Spanish midfielder will become the all-time record appearance maker in Clasicos if he features in just four more over the remainder of his career.
Y Is for Yogurines
Yogurines, quite simply, means youth teams. Both clubs are proud of the youth systems they have in place, although in recent times Barcelona have done a better job of seeing those players reach the first team. That will likely be on display on Saturday night.
Z Is for Zamora
Ricardo Zamora had the honour of playing for both Barcelona and Real Madrid in his career—playing for Barca between 1919 and 1922 before joining Real Madrid from Espanyol in 1930.
He is perhaps most famously remembered for a save he made in the 1936 Spanish Cup final, a sprawling effort that denied Barca's Josep Escola that enabled 10-man Madrid to win the first final meeting between the two sides.
The Ricardo Zamora trophy is now awarded to the best goalkeeper in La Liga each season. Unsurprisingly, Clasico goalkeepers tend to dominate; Barcelona 'keepers have won the award 19 teams, with a Real shot-stopper taking it home on 16 occasions.