FIVE classic El Classico’s

They call it El Clasico for a reason. Down the years both Real Madrid and Barcelona has been the habitat of some of football’s finest talents, all schooled into traditions of brilliant attacking football. However, this game stretches way beyond the perimeters of the pitch and with political and cultural connotations adding to the mix, few games around the globe produce the sort occasion’s that so frequently occur when the two Spanish giants meet. Lets have a look back of some of the most memorable El Clasico’s.

Barcelona 1-5 Real Madrid, January 27th 1963

In the formative years of Spanish football, Real Madrid undoubtedly reigned supreme over their Catalan cousins.

Madrid can boast an 11-1, an 8-2 and a couple of 5-0’s as evidence of their early superiority, but few victories were as satisfying as this humbling in January 1963.

This was the era of the legendary, immortal Los Blanco’s side of five consecutive European Cup’s from 1956-60. The names roll of the tongue; Santamaria, Zarraga, Gento, Kopa and of course Puskas and Di Stefano were all present for another humiliation of Barca.

With Barca well of the pace, Real regally rolled into Catalan territory en route to a fifth consecutive league title and confirmed just who was boss by firmly putting the hosts in their place.  The ‘Galloping Major’ scored three with Di Stefano and Gento getting the others.

The most frightening aspect about this display was that Puskas was 35 and Di Stefano 36 – ancient by the longevity of the times.

Real Madrid 0-5 Barcelona, February 17th 1974

Barcelona’s blue and red have long had an orange tinge to it, first instilled by legendary Dutch gaffer Rinus Michel’s with help from the super slick Johann Cruyff.

Michel’s was the godfather of ‘total football’ and Cruyff was his on-field entity. The pair combined in Catalonia in 1973 and swiftly helped Barcelona to capture their first La Liga title in 14 years at the end of their first season together.

Ironically Cruyff had rejected the advances of Real to sign for Barca – stating he could never play for a club linked to the fascist regime of General Franco. However, it was Cruyff who dictated proceedings in the Spanish capital, leading los Meringues on a merry dance as Barca’s fluid movement left Madrid chasing shadows.

Juan Manuel Asensi scored twice with Juan Carlos, Hugo Sotil and Cruyff adding the others as the free-wheeling football revolutionaries of Barcelona humiliated the regimental machine of Madrid.

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Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid, January 8th 1994

After he hung up his boots, Cruyff continued the legacy he and Michels had started at the Camp Nou by instilling his footballing virtues on a new generation of Barcelona bred players.

At the start of the 90’s Barca were the equivalent of what they are now – an idyllic testament to the way football should be played. The ball rarely left the dancefloor being moved swiftly and slickly around a brethren of artiste’s.

La Blaugrana were elegantly sweeping towards a fourth La Liga on the spin when hapless Real turned up to try to stop the motion.

Michael Laudrup was the star of the show on this occassion, gliding round like an apparition in his princely manner, providing the tika-taka for Romario to tear strips of a flat-footed los Blanco’s back-line.

The little Brazilian scored three as once again Barca’s beautiful patterns left Madrid in awe.

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Barcelona 0-2 Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League Semi-Final, April 23rd, 2002

Despite over 100 years of domestic encounters, the 2002 UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg took on much more significance as it was the first time the duo had faced each other in the re-jigged version of the European Cup.

Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane’s arrival in Madrid spawned the birth of the galacticos and with a global audience waiting in anticipation, the marketing men had a field day dubbing the clash the ‘match of the century’

The pair had a nightmare year at home with Real finishing third and Barca fourth – so with the title long gone, attention shifted to who could claim the continents main prize.

As per, the whole of Spain came to a standstill with national and political allegiances coming to the fore. “Catalonia is not Spain” read one banner hung from the ramparts of the Camp Nou, whilst the Barcelona newspaper ‘Sport’ led with a front page image of Javier Saviola lancing Fernando Hierro with a spear.

After all the hyperbole, the game largely disappointed with so much at stake. Eventually, Zindine Zidane broke away and astutely lobbed Roberto Bonano to put Real into the lead before the brilliant Frenchmen was trumped by shaggy haired scouser Steve Mcmanaman who emptied the stadium with an audacious dink over the hapless Bonano just before the whistle.

Real squared off the return leg to set up a meeting with Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park where that Zidane volley inspired Madrid to a record breaking ninth European Cup.

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Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid, March 10th, 2007

As William Shakespeare once said…Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. And then there’s Lionel Messi.

These two were once again at each others throats for the La Liga crown when Real pitched up on Barca turf in March 2007 for a title deciding gunfight.

Madrid set the agenda and three times went ahead, only to be pegged back each time by the mercurial Messi – still a few months short of exiting his teens.

The little Argentinian had already cancelled out a pair of strikes from Ruud van Nistelrooy before Sergio Ramos headed the visitors into a 3-2 lead with minutes left.

But as the game entered injury time, Messi once again rescued his side, picking up the ball on the edge of the box and weaving past a trail of stricken lunges before arrowing a low drive past Iker Casillas.

As the ball nestled in the far corner of the goal, 100,000 Catalans and hundreds of millions of football fans worldwide embraced a new god.

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