El Clásico (Spanish pronunciation: [el ˈklasiko]; Catalan: El Clàssic, pronounced [əl ˈklasik]; "The Classic") is the name given in football to any match between fierce rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Originally it referred only to those competitions held in the Spanish championship, but nowadays the term has been generalized, and tends to include every single match between the two clubs: UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey, etc. Other than the UEFA Champions League Final, it is considered one of the biggest club football games in the world, and is among the most viewed annual sporting events. A fixture known for its intensity, it has featured memorable goal celebrations from both teams, often involving mocking the opposition.
Team kits – Real Madrid in white, Barcelona in blue and red
|First meeting||FC Barcelona 3–1 Madrid FC|
Copa de la Coronación
(13 May 1902)
|Latest meeting||Real Madrid 0–1 Barcelona|
(2 March 2019)
|Stadiums||Camp Nou (Barcelona)|
Santiago Bernabéu (Real Madrid)
|Meetings total||Competitive matches: 242|
Exhibition matches: 33
Total matches: 275
|Most wins||Competitive matches: Barcelona (96)|
Exhibition matches: Barcelona (19)
Total matches: Barcelona (115)
|Most player appearances||Manuel Sanchís|
|Top scorer||Lionel Messi (26)[note 1]|
|Largest victory||Real Madrid 11–1 Barcelona|
Copa del Rey
(19 June 1943)
The rivalry comes about as Madrid and Barcelona are the two largest cities in Spain, and they are sometimes identified with opposing political positions, with Real Madrid viewed as representing Spanish nationalism and Barcelona viewed as representing Catalan nationalism. The rivalry is regarded as one of the biggest in world sport. The two clubs are among the richest and most successful football clubs in the world; in 2014 Forbes ranked Barcelona and Real Madrid the world's two most valuable sports teams. Both clubs have a global fanbase; they are the world's two most followed sports teams on social media.
Barcelona leads the head-to-head results in competitive matches with 96 wins to Real Madrid's 95; Barcelona also leads in total matches with 115 wins to Real Madrid's 99 as of match played on 2 March 2019. Along with Athletic Bilbao, they are the only clubs in La Liga to have never been relegated.
The conflict between Real Madrid and Barcelona has long surpassed the sporting dimension, so that elections to the clubs' presidencies are strongly politicized. Phil Ball, the author of Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football, says about the match; "they hate each other with an intensity that can truly shock the outsider".
As early as the 1930s, Barcelona "had developed a reputation as a symbol of Catalan identity, opposed to the centralising tendencies of Madrid". In 1936, when Francisco Franco started the Coup d'état against the democratic Second Spanish Republic, the president of Barcelona, Josep Sunyol, member of the Republican Left of Catalonia and Deputy to The Cortes, was arrested and executed without trial by Franco's troops (Sunyol was exercising his political activities, visiting Republican troops north of Madrid).
Barcelona was on top of the list of organizations to be purged by the National faction, just after communists, anarchists, and independentists. During the Franco dictatorship, most citizens of Barcelona were in strong opposition to the fascist-like régime. During the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera and of Francisco Franco, all regional languages and identities in Spain were frowned upon and restrained. In this period, Barcelona gained their motto Més que un club (English: More than a club) because of its alleged connection to Catalan nationalist as well as to progressive beliefs. During Franco's regime, however, Barcelona was granted profit due to its good relationship with the dictator at management level, even giving two awards to him. The links between senior Real Madrid representatives and the Francoist regime were undeniable; for most of the Catalans, Real Madrid was regarded as "the establishment club", despite the fact that presidents of both clubs like Josep Sunyol and Rafael Sánchez Guerra, suffered at the hands of Franco's supporters in the Spanish Civil War.
The image for both clubs was further affected by the creation of Ultras groups, some of which became hooligans. In 1980, Ultras Sur was founded as a far-right-leaning Real Madrid ultras group, followed in 1981 by the foundation of the initially left-leaning and later on far-right, Barcelona ultras group Boixos Nois. Both groups became known for their violent acts, and one of the most conflictive factions of Barcelona supporters, the Casuals, became a full-fledged criminal organisation.
For many people, Barcelona is still considered as "the rebellious club", or the alternative pole to "Real Madrid's conservatism". According to polls released by CIS (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas), Real Madrid is the favorite team of most of the Spanish residents, while Barcelona stands in the second position. In Catalonia, forces of all the political spectrum are overwhelmingly in favour of Barcelona. Nevertheless, the support of the blaugrana club goes far beyond from that region, earning its best results among young people, sustainers of a federal structure of Spain and citizens with left-wing ideology, in contrast with Real Madrid fans which politically tend to adopt right-wing views.
1943 Copa del Generalísimo semi-finals
On 13 June 1943, Real Madrid beat Barcelona 11–1 at home in the second leg of a semi-final of the Copa del Generalísimo, the Copa del Rey having been renamed in honour of General Franco. The first leg, played at Barcelona's Les Corts stadium in Catalonia, had ended with Barcelona winning 3–0. Madrid complained about all the three goals that referee Fombona Fernández had allowed for Barcelona, with the home supporters also whistling Madrid throughout, whom they accused of employing roughhouse tactics, and Fombona for allowing them to. A campaign began in Madrid. Barcelona player Josep Valle recalled: "The press officer at the DND and ABC newspaper wrote all sorts of scurrilous lies, really terrible things, winding up the Madrid fans like never before". Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Eduardo Teus, who admitted that Madrid had "above all played hard", wrote in a newspaper: "the ground itself made Madrid concede two of the three goals, goals that were totally unfair".
Barcelona fans were banned from traveling to Madrid. Real Madrid released a statement after the match which former club president (1985–1995) Ramón Mendoza explained, "The message got through that those fans who wanted to could go to El Club bar on Calle de la Victoria where Madrid's social center was. There, they were given a whistle. Others had whistles handed to them with their tickets." The day of the second leg, the Barcelona team were insulted and stones were thrown at their bus as soon as they left their hotel. Barcelona's striker Mariano Gonzalvo said of the incident, "Five minutes before the game had started, our penalty area was already full of coins." Barcelona goalkeeper Lluis Miró rarely approached his line—when he did, he was armed with stones. As Francisco Calvet told the story, "They were shouting: Reds! Separatists!... a bottle just missed Sospedra that would have killed him if it had hit him. It was all set up."
Real Madrid went 2–0 up within half an hour. The third goal brought with it a sending off for Barcelona's Benito García after he made what Calvet claimed was a "completely normal tackle". Madrid's José Llopis Corona recalled, "At which point, they got a bit demoralized," while Mur countered, "at which point, we thought: 'go on then, score as many as you want'." Madrid scored in minutes 31', 33', 35', 39', 43' and 44', as well as two goals ruled out for offside, made it 8–0. Basilo de la Morena had been caught out by the speed of the goals. In that atmosphere and with a referee who wanted to avoid any complications, it was humanly impossible to play... If the azulgranas had played badly, really badly, the scoreboard would still not have reached that astronomical figure. The point is that they did not play at all." Both clubs were fined 2,500 pesetas by the Royal Spanish Football Federation and, although Barcelona appealed, it made no difference. Piñeyro resigned in protest, complaining of "a campaign that the press has run against Barcelona for a week and which culminated in the shameful day at Chamartín".
The match report in the newspaper La Prensa described Barcelona's only goal as a "reminder that there was a team there who knew how to play football and that if they did not do so that afternoon, it was not exactly their fault". Another newspaper called the scoreline "as absurd as it was abnormal". According to football writer Sid Lowe, "There have been relatively few mentions of the game [since] and it is not a result that has been particularly celebrated in Madrid. Indeed, the 11–1 occupies a far more prominent place in Barcelona's history. This was the game that first formed the identification of Madrid as the team of the dictatorship and Barcelona as its victims." Fernando Argila, Barcelona's reserve goalkeeper from the game, said, "There was no rivalry. Not, at least, until that game."
Di Stéfano transfer
The rivalry was intensified during the 1950s when the clubs disputed the signing of Alfredo Di Stéfano. Di Stéfano had impressed both Barcelona and Real Madrid while playing for Los Millionarios in Bogotá, Colombia, during a players' strike in his native Argentina. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona attempted to sign him and, due to confusion that emerged from Di Stéfano moving to Millonarios from River Plate following the strike, both clubs claimed to own his registration. After intervention from FIFA representative Muñoz Calero, it was decided that both Barcelona and Real Madrid had to share the player in alternate seasons. Barcelona's humiliated president was forced to resign by the Barcelona board, with the interim board cancelling Di Stéfano's contract. This ended the long struggle for Di Stéfano, as he moved definitively to Real Madrid.
Di Stéfano became integral in the subsequent success achieved by Real Madrid, scoring twice in his first game against Barcelona. With him, Madrid won the initial five European Champions Cup competitions. The 1960s saw the rivalry reach the European stage when they met twice at the European Cup, Real Madrid winning in 1960 and Barcelona winning in 1961.
Luís Figo transfer
In 2000, Real Madrid's then-presidential candidate, Florentino Pérez, offered Barcelona's vice-captain Luís Figo $2.4 million to sign an agreement binding him to Madrid if he won the elections. If the player broke the deal, he would have to pay Pérez $30 million in compensation. When his agent confirmed the deal, Figo denied everything, insisting, "I'll stay at Barcelona whether Pérez wins or loses." He accused the presidential candidate of "lying" and "fantasizing". He told Barcelona teammates Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola he was not leaving and they conveyed the message to the Barcelona squad.
On 9 July, Sport ran an interview in which he said, "I want to send a message of calm to Barcelona's fans, for whom I always have and always will feel great affection. I want to assure them that Luís Figo will, with absolute certainty, be at the Camp Nou on the 24th to start the new season... I’ve not signed a pre-contract with a presidential candidate at Real Madrid. No. I'm not so mad as to do a thing like that."
The only way Barcelona could prevent Figo's transfer to Real Madrid was to pay the penalty clause, $30 million. That would have effectively meant paying the fifth highest transfer fee in history to sign their own player. Barcelona's new president, Joan Gaspart, called the media and told them, "Today, Figo gave me the impression that he wanted to do two things: get richer and stay at Barça." Only one of them happened. The following day, 24 July, Figo was presented in Madrid and handed his new shirt by Alfredo Di Stéfano. His buyout clause was set at $180 million. Gaspart later admitted, "Figo's move destroyed us."
On his return to Barcelona in a Real Madrid shirt, banners with "Judas", "Scum" and "Mercenary" were hung around the stadium. Thousands of fake 10,000 peseta notes had been printed and emblazoned with his image, were among the missiles of oranges, bottles, cigarette lighters, even a couple of mobile phones were thrown at him. In his third season with Real Madrid, the 2002 Clásico at Camp Nou produced one of the defining images of the rivalry. Figo was mercilessly taunted throughout; missiles of coins, a knife, a whisky bottle, were raining down from the stands, mostly from areas populated by the Boixos Nois where he had been taking a corner. Among the debris was a pig's head.
During the last three decades, the rivalry has been augmented by the modern Spanish tradition of the Pasillo, where one team is given the guard of honor by the other team, once the former clinches the La Liga trophy before El Clásico takes place. This has happened in three occasions. First, during El Clásico that took place on 30 April 1988, where Real Madrid won the championship on the previous round. Then, three years later, when Barcelona won the championship two rounds before El Clásico on 8 June 1991. The last pasillo, and most recent, took place on 7 May 2008, and this time Real Madrid had won the championship. In May 2018, Real Madrid refused to perform Pasillo to Barcelona even though the latter had already wrapped up the championship a round prior to their meeting.
The two teams met again in the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2002, with Real Madrid winning 2–0 in Barcelona and a 1–1 draw in Madrid, resulting in a 3–1 aggregate win for Madrid. The match was dubbed by Spanish media as the "Match of the Century".
While El Clásico is regarded as one of the fiercest rivalries in world football, there have been rare moments when fans have shown praise for a player on the opposing team. In 1980, Laurie Cunningham was the first Real Madrid player to receive applause from Barcelona fans at Camp Nou; after excelling during the match, and with Madrid winning 2–0, Cunningham left the field to a standing ovation from the locals. On 26 June 1983, during the second leg of the Copa de la Liga final at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, having dribbled past the Real Madrid goalkeeper, Barcelona star Diego Maradona ran towards an empty goal before stopping just as the Madrid defender came sliding in an attempt to block the shot and crashed into the post, before Maradona slotted the ball into the net. The manner of Maradona's goal led to many Madrid fans inside the stadium start applauding. In November 2005, Ronaldinho became the second Barcelona player to receive a standing ovation from Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabéu. After dribbling through the Madrid defence twice to score two goals in a 3–0 win, Madrid fans paid homage to his performance with applause. On 21 November 2015, Andrés Iniesta became the third Barcelona player to receive applause from Real Madrid fans while he was substituted during a 4–0 away win, with Iniesta scoring Barça's third – it should be noted however that Iniesta was already a popular figure throughout Spain for scoring the nation’s World Cup winning goal in 2010.
A 2007 survey by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas showed that 32% of the Spanish population supported Real Madrid, while 25% supported Barcelona. In third place came Valencia, with 5%. According to an Ikerfel poll in 2011, Barcelona is the most popular team in Spain with 44% of preferences, while Real Madrid is second with 37%. Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao complete the top five.
Both clubs have a global fanbase: they are the world's two most followed sports teams on social media—on Facebook, as of July 2018, Real Madrid has 107 million fans, Barcelona has 103 million fans, on Instagram, Real Madrid has 60 million followers, Barcelona has 57 million followers.
The rivalry intensified in 2011 where, due to the final of the Copa Del Rey and the meeting of the two in the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona and Real Madrid were scheduled to meet each other four times in 18 days. Several accusations of unsportsmanlike behaviour from both teams and a war of words erupted throughout the fixtures which included four red cards. Spain national team coach Vicente del Bosque stated that he was "concerned" that due to the rising hatred between the two clubs, that this could cause friction in the Spain team.
In recent years, the rivalry has been "encapsulated" by the rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Following the star signings of Neymar and Luis Suárez to Barcelona, and Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to Madrid, the rivalry was expanded to a battle of the clubs' attacking trios, BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) against MSN (Messi, Suárez, Neymar). Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018, and in the week prior to the first meeting of the teams in the 2018–19 La Liga, Messi sustained an arm injury ruling him out of the match. It would be the first time since 2007 that the Clásico had featured neither player, with some in the media describing it as the 'end of an era’. Iniesta's long spell at Barcelona had also ended after playing in 38 clashes from November 2004 to May 2018. Barcelona won the match 5–1.
A fixture known for its intensity and indiscipline, it has also featured memorable goal celebrations from both teams, often involving mocking the opposition. In October 1999, Real Madrid forward Raúl silenced 100,000 Barcelona fans at the Camp Nou when he scored before he celebrated by putting a finger to his lips as if telling the crowd to be quiet. In 2009 Barcelona captain Carles Puyol kissed his Catalan armband in front of Madrid fans at the Bernabéu. Cristiano Ronaldo twice gestured to the hostile crowd to “calm down” after scoring against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 2012 and 2016. In April 2017, Messi celebrated his 93rd minute winner for Barcelona against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu by taking off his Barcelona shirt and holding it up to incensed Real Madrid fans – with his name and number facing them.
- As of 2 March 2019
|Copa del Rey||35||12||15||8|
|Copa de la Liga||6||0||2||4|
|Supercopa de España||14||8||4||2|
|Copa de la Coronación[a]||1||0||1||0|
|UEFA Champions League||8||3||2||3|
Biggest wins (5+ goals)
|10||Real Madrid 11–1 Barcelona||19 June 1943||Copa del Rey|
|6||Real Madrid 8–2 Barcelona||3 February 1935||La Liga|
|5||Barcelona 7–2 Real Madrid||24 September 1950|
|Barcelona 6–1 Real Madrid||19 May 1957||Copa del Rey|
|Real Madrid 6–1 Barcelona||18 September 1949||La Liga|
|Barcelona 5–0 Real Madrid||21 April 1935|
|Barcelona 5–0 Real Madrid||25 March 1945|
|Real Madrid 5–0 Barcelona||5 October 1953|
|Real Madrid 0–5 Barcelona||17 February 1974|
|Barcelona 5–0 Real Madrid||8 January 1994|
|Real Madrid 5–0 Barcelona||7 January 1995|
|Barcelona 5–0 Real Madrid||29 November 2010|
Most consecutive wins
|6||Barcelona||25 January 1948 – 15 January 1949|
|6||Real Madrid||30 September 1962 – 28 February 1965|
|5||Real Madrid||5 March 1933 – 3 February 1935|
|5||Barcelona||13 December 2008 – 29 November 2010|
Most consecutive draws
|3||11 September 1991 – 7 March 1992|
|3||1 May 2002 – 20 April 2003|
Most consecutive matches without a draw
|18||25 January 1948 – 21 November 1954|
|17||23 November 1960 – 19 March 1967|
|14||4 December 1977 – 4 June 1983|
|12||19 May 1957 – 27 April 1960|
|10||5 March 1933 – 28 January 1940|
Longest undefeated runs
|14||Real Madrid||31 January 1931 – 3 February 1935|
|13||Barcelona||1 November 1917 – 3 June 1928|
Longest undefeated runs in the league
|7 (5 Wins)||Real Madrid||31 January 1932 – 3 February 1935|
|7 (5 Wins)||Barcelona||13 December 2008 – 10 December 2011|
|6 (6 Wins)||Real Madrid||30 September 1962 – 28 February 1965|
|6 (4 Wins)||Barcelona||11 May 1997 – 13 October 1999|
|6 (3 Wins)||Barcelona||28 November 1971 – 17 February 1974|
|5 (4 Wins)||Barcelona||30 March 1947 – 15 January 1949|
|5 (3 Wins)||Barcelona||11 May 1975 – 30 January 1977|
|6 (4 Wins)||Barcelona||3 December 2016 – ongoing|
Most consecutive matches without conceding a goal
|5||Barcelona||3 April 1972 – 17 February 1974|
|3||Barcelona||10 January 1914 – 7 March 1916|
|3||Real Madrid||29 June 1974 – 11 May 1975|
|3||Barcelona||29 November 2009 – 29 November 2010|
Most consecutive games scoring
|23||Barcelona||27 April 2011 – 13 August 2017|
|18||Real Madrid||3 May 2011 – 22 March 2015|
|17||Barcelona||27 November 1982 – 31 January 1987|
|14||Real Madrid||15 February 1959 – 21 January 1962|
|14||Real Madrid||5 December 1990 – 16 December 1993|
|13||Real Madrid||1 December 1946 – 23 November 1952|
|13||Real Madrid||22 April 1962 – 9 April 1968|
|12||Barcelona||26 March 1916 – 26 April 1926|
|11||Barcelona||11 September 1991 – 7 May 1994|
|10||Barcelona||30 January 1997 – 13 October 1999|
- Players in bold are still active for Real or Barcelona.
|Player||Club||La Liga||Copa||Super Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|Lionel Messi||Barcelona||18||—||6||—||2||26[note 1]|
|Alfredo Di Stéfano||Real Madrid||14||2||2||—||—||18|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||9||5||4||—||—||18|
|Francisco Gento||Real Madrid||10||2||—||—||2||14|
|Ferenc Puskás||Real Madrid||9||2||—||—||3||14|
|Hugo Sánchez||Real Madrid||8||—||2||—||—||10|
|Josep Samitier||Barça / Real||4||6||—||—||—||10|
|Karim Benzema||Real Madrid||6||1||2||—||—||9|
|Jaime Lazcano||Real Madrid||8||—||—||—||—||8|
|Iván Zamorano||Real Madrid||4||2||2||—||—||8|
|Santiago Bernabéu||Real Madrid||—||8||—||—||—||8|
|Player||Club||Consecutive matches||Total goals in the run||Start||End|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Real Madrid||6||7||2011–12 Copa del Rey (1st leg)||2012–13 La Liga (7th round)|
|Iván Zamorano||Real Madrid||5||5||1992–93 La Liga (20th Round)||1993 Supercopa de España (2nd leg)|
|Simón Lecue||Real Madrid||4||5||1935–36 La Liga (7th Round)||1939–40 La Liga (9th Round)|
|Ronaldinho||Barcelona||4||5||2004–05 La Liga (12th Round)||2005–06 La Liga (31st Round)|
|Giovanni||Barcelona||4||4||1997 Supercopa de España (1st leg)||1997–98 La Liga (28th Round)|
- Five players have been able to score more than one hat trick: Jaime Lazcano, Santiago Bernabéu, Paulino Alcántara, Lionel Messi and Ferenc Puskás have all scored two hat-tricks in El Clásico history (2).
- Players in bold are still active for Real Madrid or Barcelona.
|42||Manuel Sanchís||Real Madrid|
|Francisco Gento||Real Madrid|
|Sergio Ramos||Real Madrid|
|37||Fernando Hierro||Real Madrid|
|Iker Casillas||Real Madrid|
Players who played for both clubs
- Barcelona then Madrid
- 1902: Alfonso Albéniz
- 1906: José Quirante
- 1911: Alfonso Albéniz
- 1911: Arsenio Comamala
- 1913: Walter Rozitsky
- 1930: Ricardo Zamora (via Espanyol)
- 1932: Josep Samitier
- 1950: Alfonso Navarro
- 1961: Justo Tejada
- 1962: Evaristo
- 1965: Fernand Goyvaerts
- 1988: Bernd Schuster
- 1990: Luis Milla
- 1992: Nando
- 1994: Michael Laudrup
- 1995: Miquel Soler (via Sevilla)
- 2000: Luís Figo
- 2000: Albert Celades (via Celta Vigo)
- 2002: Ronaldo (via Inter Milan)
- 2007: Javier Saviola
- Madrid then Barcelona
- 1905: Luciano Lizarraga
- 1939: Hilario (via Valencia)
- 1961: Jesús María Pereda (via Real Valladolid, then Sevilla)
- 1965: Lucien Muller
- 1980: Lorenzo Amador (via Hércules)
- 1994: Gheorghe Hagi (via Brescia)
- 1994: Julen Lopetegui (via Logroñés)
- 1995: Robert Prosinečki (via Real Oviedo)
- 1996: Luis Enrique
- 1999: Dani García (via Mallorca)
- 2000: Alfonso Pérez (via Real Betis)
- 2004: Samuel Eto'o (via Mallorca)
|From Barcelona to Madrid||16|
|From Barcelona to another club before Madrid||4|
|From Madrid to Barcelona||3|
|From Madrid to another club before Barcelona||9|
The rivalry reflected in El Clásico matches comes about as Real Madrid and Barcelona are the most successful football clubs in Spain. As seen below, Barcelona leads Real Madrid 95–92 in terms of official overall trophies. While the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup is recognised as the predecessor to the UEFA Cup, it was not organised by UEFA. Consequently, UEFA does not consider clubs' records in the Fairs Cup to be part of their European record. However, FIFA does view the competition as a major honour.
|19||Copa del Rey||30|
|10||Supercopa de España||13|
|1||Copa Eva Duarte (defunct)||3|
|1||Copa de la Liga (defunct)||2|
|European and Worldwide|
|13||UEFA Champions League||5|
|—||UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (defunct)||4|
|2||UEFA Europa League||—|
|4||UEFA Super Cup||5|
|2||Latin Cup (defunct)||2|
|—||Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (defunct)||3|
|3||Intercontinental Cup (defunct)||—|
|4||FIFA Club World Cup||3|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Real Madrid-FC Barcelona rivalry.|
- Ball, Phill (2003). Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football. WSC Books Limited. ISBN 0-9540134-6-8.
- Farred, Grant (2008). Long distance love: a passion for football. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-59213-374-6.
- Lowe, Sid (2013). Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Random House. ISBN 9780224091800.