On Sunday, one of world football’s most prestigious matches takes place at the Santiago Bernabeu, El Clasico.
This is a heated rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona which stems all the way back to May 1902 when they met in the Copa de la Coronacion, of which Barcelona emerged victorious via a 3-1 scoreline.
These two sides are Spanish football’s most successful, as Real Madrid have 99 trophies or honours to their name, whilst Barca are just two shy. In context, the third most successful side in Spain are Athletic Bilbao with 35 honours.
Sunday’s clash will be the 250th competitive clash between the duo, with Real winning 100, whilst Barcelona have 97 victories. Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi have made the most appearances in this fixture, doing so 45 times each, whilst the latter has scored the most goals, doing so 26 times.
Players That Have Played for Both Sides
There have been a handful of players that have played for both clubs, something which is usually forbidden. Below, we have listed some of the most notable players to have played for both sides in recent years.
Luis Figo is perhaps the most notable, having made a direct transfer between the two clubs back in 2000, following contract issues caused by Florentino Perez and Figo’s agent which forced Barca to sell their man for €62m.
Notably, when the Portuguese international returned to the Nou Camp, a stadium where was previously idolised, there we insulting banners and even whiskey bottles thrown at him, whilst the following season, a pig's head was aimed towards him.
The 49-year-old had won seven trophies at Barca, before going on to play a key role in winning seven trophies at Real. Figo was part of the Real Madrid side that beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Hampden Park in the 2002 Champions League final.
Brazilian Ronaldo spent just one season at the Nou Camp in 1996/97 under the management of Sir Bobby Robson, scoring 34 league goals in 37 appearances. During his time at Barca, he won the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
However, Ronaldo did move to Inter Milan in 1997, staying at the San Siro for five years until joining Los Blancos in 2002, where he bagged 83 goals in 127 La Liga matches. Staggeringly, during his five years at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo won just four honours in the Galactico era, with two of these being La Liga titles in 2002/03 and 2006/07.
Legendary Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o made just three appearances for Real Madrid.
Following this though, he had a four-year spell at Mallorca between 2000 and 2004 where Real part-owned his contract, forcing Barcelona to pay a fee of €24m.
Eto’o would go on to become a Barcelona legend, playing crucial roles in them winning the Champions League in 2006 and 2009 - he even managed to score 108 goals in 144 La Liga outings during his time at the Nou Camp.
Current Spain manager Luis Enrique made a direct switch from Real Madrid to Barcelona in 1996, having been an established player at Real, making 157 league appearances between 1991 and 1996. Enrique himself ran down his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu and stated that he rarely felt appreciated by their fans during his time there.
Despite some hesitance from Barcelona’s fanbase, Enrique was signed by the club in 1996 and would go on to win over the Nou Camp faithful, as he scored 73 league goals in 207 matches, eventually becoming Barca’s captain during his eight-year period at the club.
Many would be surprised to know that Enrique won just three league titles in his career, despite playing for both Real and Barca for a combined 13 years.
Memorable El Clasico Encounters
There have been many memorable El Clasico meetings down the years, of which some were under current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, who oversaw Barca’s 6-2 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2009, as well as their 5-0 win at the Nou Camp in 2010.
These hammerings of their bitter rivals weren’t the first time that Barca had hammered Real, having won by a 3-0 scoreline at the Bernabeu in 2005, a match with is regarded by many Cules as Ronaldinho’s greatest-ever performance in a Barcelona shirt.
In terms of wins for Real, they hammered Barca 11-1 back in 1943, whilst also winning an El Clasico 5-0 in 1995. Arguably their most recent memorable victory came in the 2002 Champions League semi-final first leg when they won 2-0 at the Nou Camp via goals by Zinedine Zidane and Steve McManaman.
Perhaps one of Barca’s most recent humiliating defeats in this rivalry came in May 2008, when they gave Real a Guard of Honour at the Santiago Bernabeu, before being thrashed 4-1 as Raul, Arjen Robben, Gonzalo Higuain and Ruud van Nistelrooy all got on the scoresheet.
Current Best XI (4-4-2 Narrow Diamond)
The current best XI between the pair is a fierce debate in itself, with both sides featuring a series of world-class players, meaning that there will be several top-drawer players out of the squad.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
This one is a close battle between two very good shot-stoppers in Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Thibaut Courtois, however, the latter's performances in the Champions League last season played a pivotal role in Real winning the competition as a whole, so the Belgian would likely win the battle here.
Defence: Dani Carvajal, Ronald Araujo, Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba
Real Madrid have some of the best defenders in world football, with the reputations of Dani Carvajal, Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba speaking for themselves, as they have a combined tally of nine Champions League titles to their names, with Alaba and Rudiger managing some of these triumphs at Bayern Munich and Chelsea.
Jules Kounde is already one of the best centre-backs in the world at present, however, Ronald Araujo has proven himself to be just as good in the past couple of years, playing a key role in a side that has conceded just once in eight La Liga matches this season.
Other notable absences here are the likes of Ferland Mendy who is widely regarded as one of the best left-backs in the world, as well as Jordi Alba, however, it was impossible to leave Alaba out of the side. Eder Militao can also feel hard done by.
Midfield: Pedri, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos & Frenkie de Jong
All of these four players are regarded as competitors for the best players in their positions in world football.
Pedri and Frenkie de Jong are still young, being just 19 and 25 years old and have big futures ahead of them, whilst Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have both been sensational for Real, winning 37 trophies between themselves at the club.
Federico Valverde can feel hard done by to miss out, having proven to be an excellent player for Real since joining Los Blancos from Penarol in 2016. The Uruguayan is one of many high-quality midfielders not to make it in, alongside Sergio Busquets, Eduardo Camavinga, Franck Kessie, Gavi and more.
Strikers: Karim Benzema & Robert Lewandowski
Unfortunately, due to the lack of quality for both sides at right-wing, Vinicius Junior has had to miss out to offer some balance to the side - despite scoring the winner in last season’s Champions League final against Liverpool.
Karim Benzema looks on course for the Ballon d’Or having fired in 44 goals and created 15 assists in 46 matches.
Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski has started life at Barca in superb form, scoring 14 and making two assists in 12 games for them. The 34-year-old Pole joined the Nou Camp club in the summer after firing in 344 goals in 375 appearances for Bayern Munich.
Value For Card Markets
Legendary Barcelona midfielder Busquets is the joint most carded player in La Liga, having received four yellow cards so far during the 2022/23 campaign, he is certainly a player to look out for on any yellow card bets.
Meanwhile, Araujo and Kessie have both received two yellow cards in the league so far this season.
Los Blancos defensive trio, Carvajal, Alaba and Mendy have the worst disciplinary records of any Real players, with all three of them being shown two yellow cards each so far this season.
In terms of goalscorer markets, Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema are the most likely goalscorers.
As mentioned above, Lewandowski has scored 14 goals in 12 matches following his brace against Inter Milan in midweek, whilst Benzema is coming into the 2022/23 campaign off the back of a superb 2021/22 season that saw him rack up 59 goal contributions in 46 matches.
34-year-old Pole, Lewandowski, is priced at evens to score anytime and 4/1 to score first or last and even has boosted odds of 9/1 to score a header.
Interestingly, the French forward has played against Barca on 41 occasions, scoring 11 times, whilst creating ten assists. The last time Benzema featured against Barca, he scored once and created an assist in Real’s 3-2 Supercopa semi-final victory back in January. Benzema is the favourite to score first in the match, at 7/2, whilst like Lewandowski, he is priced at 1/1 to score in the match itself.
Vinicius Junior is actually Real’s top scorer in La Liga so far this campaign, having bagged five times in eight matches, averaging a goal every 141 minutes. The Brazilian has the odds of 5/1 to score first or last.
Barca’s second top scorers in the league are Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati, who have both found the back of the net twice in eight appearances.