El Clasico Countdown: 25 Must-Read Real Madrid vs. Barcelona Anecdotes
El Clásico is around the corner, and it's time to educate yourself about this colossal encounter.
Haven't you ever wondered why people constantly say Real Madrid vs. Barcelona is more than just a football game?
Well, you must read this article, because it's a condensed package of the most interesting anecdotes in the history of Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.
It's not a historical recount; moreso, a highlight package of the most intriguing bits and pieces in the history of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
So it's sort of like watching match of the day instead of the actual game.
The Beginning: Real Madrid
The ultimate irony is, Real Madrid was founded in 1902 by two Catalonian brothers, Juan Padrós and Carlos Padrós—Juan was Madrid’s first official President.
Back then, the club wasn’t Real Madrid; moreso Madrid Football Club, and only adopted the Real moniker after it was bestowed upon the club by Alfonso XIII in 1920.
The Beginning: Barcelona
Having been a founding member of FC Zurich, businessman Hans Kamper was simply looking to form his own club to play organised football in Barcelona.
His advertisement in Los Deportes would lead to the formation of the club in 1899.
In fact, of the first six members to sign up, only two were Catalonian: Lluís d'Ossó and Bartomeu Terradas—Terradas later became president of the club.
Profiling Santiago Bernabéu
Santiago Bernabéu made his debut for Real Madrid at just 16 years of age before retiring at 32.
Yet, he is remembered for his 35-year reign as Real Madrid chairman, where he put the G in Galácticos before Florentino Pérez even contemplated about signing Luís Figo.
Bernabéu's biggest coup was snatching Alfredo Di Stéfano away from Barcelona.
He also signed Alfonso Navarro, Justo Tejada, Evaristo and Fernand Goyvaerts directly from Barcelona.
Talk about stroking the fire, though what you need to know about is Bernabéu's relationship with Franco.
Cue the next slide.
Santiago Bernabéu and Franco
Santiago Bernabéu fought under Franco during the Spanish Civil War and contributed to the invasion of Catalonia.
My interpretation of Franco's relationship with Real Madrid is one of a bandwagon jumper.
The guy was not a football aficionado and only started to endorse Real Madrid when Bernabéu had done the hard yards to bring together a historic team—most importantly, a winning team.
We're talking about Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, Paco Gento and José Santamaría on the same team.
Also, why do people forget about Athletic Aviación de Madrid?
If there was any team with clear links to Franco, it would have been Aviación, who were founded in part by members of the Spanish Air Force.
Franco Could Care Less About Barcelona
Did Franco did everything to stop Barcelona's progress as a football club?
Barcelona won eight La Liga titles and nine Copa del Generalísimo (the cup named after Franco) during the dictator's reign.
He had bigger things to do than sabotage a football team, like consolidating his reign and overseeing the persecution of thousands upon thousands of Catalonians, one of which was Barcelona president Josep Sunyol, who was executed.
Mind you, Real Madrid president Antonio Ortega suffered the same fate.
Barcelona was more than a club, as it became a symbol of Catalan independence.
As long as Catalonians didn't mount a serious coup d'état at Franco's reign, he could care less what their team did on the football pitch, and that's justified by the amount of titles Barcelona conjured up.
Do you know what would have precipitated a serious Franco coup d'état from Catalonians?
If Barcelona was removed as a club.
1943 Copa Del Generalísimo Oddity
I still cannot get my head around what happened during the 1943 Copa del Generalísimo semifinals.
Barcelona had won the first leg, 3-0, and then collapsed, 11-1, in the second leg.
You can only think something nefarious was behind the inexplicable result.
Scott Murray at guardian.co.uk offers up the explanation of Spain's director of state security visiting Barcelona's dressing room and saying:
"You are only playing because of the generosity of the regime that has forgiven you for your lack of patriotism."
If Murray's account is true, why this match?
Yet Real Madrid would lose the Copa del Generalísimo final to the Basques of Athletic Bilbao.
In fact, that La Liga season, Barcelona finished ahead of Real Madrid.
Alfredo Di Stéfano
People often forget Alfredo Di Stéfano would have been a Barcelona player if not for circumstances and Santiago Bernabéu's quick thinking.
Barcelona were in awe of Di Stéfano's performances for Millonarios.
He was so impressive the Colombians made him play for their national team even though he was Argentinian and had played for La Albiceleste.
The prospect of pairing him up with László Kubala is one of the big what ifs in world football history.
Eight La Liga titles and five European Cups later, and it's safe to say without Di Stéfano, Real Madrid would not have transformed the club.
It's egregious some people do not know of Di Stéfano.
Sir Bobby Charlton offered his opinion on the Argentine turned Colombian turned Spaniard:
"I had never seen such a complete footballer. It was as though he had set up his own command centre at the heart of the game. He was as strong as he was subtle. The combination of qualities was mesmerising."
Like Alfredo Di Stéfano, László Kubala was chased by both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
He chose Barcelona, perhaps swayed by his father-in law managing the side, and Kubala would score 194 goals in 256 games.
He was part of a Barcelona team which won four La Liga titles and five Copa Del Generalísimos.
In 1999, Barcelona supporters voted him as the greatest player to grace the club.
When Johan Cruyff arrived at Barcelona, he voiced his disdain for Real Madrid due to their links with Franco. Unsurprisingly, he had troubles naming his son Jordi because it was a Catalonian name.
Cruyff in some ways was viewed as Barcelona's version of Alfredo Di Stéfano, yet never reached the same heights.
Real Madrid 0-5 Barcelona (1974)
Two decades or so earlier, Barcelona routed Real Madrid, 7-2.
In 1974, in Johan Cruyff's first season, Barcelona humiliated Real Madrid, 5-0, at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Real Madrid Throughout the 1980s
Real Madrid had a monopoly over La Liga from 1985-1990.
This was mainly due to the great Mexican forward, Hugo Sánchez, who scored 207 goals in 283 games.
His partnership with Emilio Butragueño was a sight to behold, and what made it more amazing was both weren't good friends.
During the 1989-90 season, Real Madrid scored an astonishing 107 goals in La Liga.
Between 1978 and 1984 weren't exactly Diego Maradona's most happiest years.
Sure, he was excelling in Argentina, but remember, he was left out of the 1978 FIFA World Cup squad, which ended up winning the tournament.
I think to this day, it still scars him.
Then, you had the 1982 FIFA World Cup, where he lost his mind against Brazil. In Barcelona, he was butchered by Andoni Goikoetxea and Maradona got into fights.
The Dream Team
Romário, Ronald Koeman, Pep Guardiola, Hristo Stoichkov, José Mari Bakero and Michael Laudrup.
What a team Johan Cruyff had.
Four successive La Liga titles and a 1992 European Cup triumph at Wembley stand out.
Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (1994)
Romário was a genius in the penalty box.
Real Madrid 5-0 Barcelona (1995)
Almost a year to the day Barcelona humiliated Real Madrid, 5-0, Iván Zamorano exacted sweet revenged and imitated Romário's feat of scoring a El Clásico hat-trick.
The fact that Ronaldo still had an excellent career after his long-term injuries is a testament to his ability as a footballer.
That year for Barcelona won't be replicated anytime soon.
He was 6'0, so three inches taller than Lionel Messi, and was stronger, quicker and had better finishing ability.
That goal against Compostela was amazing.
Luís Figo's Betrayal
Luis Enrique did the exact same thing a season before, but I guess he was on his way out of Real Madrid and seemingly over the hill.
Boy, did Real Madrid make a mistake.
Luís Figo was beloved by Barcelona up until he was lured in by Florentino Pérez's money.
By the way, Barcelona needed the money because they couldn't even afford to pay Ronaldo, hence why they sold him to Inter Milan.
Given the amount of money spent, I believe The Galácticos was a failure, and ironically, it was because of the refusal to increase the salary of a defensive midfielder.
Claude Makélélé was the rock of the team, yet he wasn't appreciated.
Nonetheless, the second coming of the team with the signings of Kaká for €57 million, Karim Benzema for €30 million, Xabi Alonso for €35 million, Ángel di María for €30 million and Fábio Coentrão for €30 million has seen Real Madrid build up a potentially historic team.
Florentino Perez deemed Florentino Perez unmarketable, so Barcelona cashed in and Pérez watched on as a Ronaldinho influenced Barcelona to two La Liga titles and the 2005-2006 Champions League title.
Barcelona Guard of Honour
This wasn't a good season for Barcelona, and to compound their misery, they had to give Real Madrid a guard of honour, respecting their La Liga triumph.
I remember hearing Xavi talk about how humiliated he was.
Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona (2009)
This was one of the best games I've seen in recent memory.
Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (2010)
When I was watching this game, José Mourinho's quote about Johan Cruyff rung loudly in my head:
"I don't want him to teach me how to lose 4-0 in a Champions League final."
José Mourinho as Barcelona Manager
José Mourinho could have been the Barcelona manager if he was willing to control himself.
Former Barcelona vice president Marc Ingla candidly revealed:
"Mourinho showed us a PowerPoint summarising his football philosophy: how to evolve our classic 4-3-3, the incomings and outgoings he had in mind, and even people who could work on his technical staff.
He proposed the names of Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Sergi Barjuan and Albert Ferrer to be his No. 2. He [Pep Guardiola] was Txiki's first choice and also because Mourinho said he was never going to change his attitude towards the media."
Cristiano Ronaldo's Arrival
Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival adds another dimension to Real Madrid vs. Barcelona because it's also Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi.
Both have been in FIFA-like form.
In fact, they score more goals than I can get them to score on FIFA.
José Mourinho had instilled this combative nature into Real Madrid; in fact, he has done it with all his teams when versing Barcelona, yet he wonders why so many of his players receive red cards.
It has become must-see drama.
I can't wait for this weekend.
I just wonder will it be attacking or defensive football since Real Madrid have been playing great attacking football.
What do you think the result of the up coming El Clásico will be?
Please watch Cristiano Ronaldo's 10 Greatest Goals for Real Madrid.