El Clasico: Why do Real Madrid and Barcelona have a rivalry?

El Clasico: Real Madrid vs Barcelona
(Image credit: Getty)

Real Madrid and Barcelona battle in El Clasico at least twice a season: often more, given how often they both meet in cup competition. 

Both sides have their own rivalries in the form of noisy neighbours, too. Atletico Madrid are a traditional adversary for Los Blancos, while Barca battle it out with Espanyol: a club who are more akin to a little brother.

But just because the El Clasico pair are nowhere near each other, it doesn't mean that it's not a heated rivalry.

Just ask Luis Figo, who drew the ire of thousands of Catalans when he crossed the divide to become a Galactico at the turn of the century, resulting in a pig's head being thrown at him during a clash between the pair.

These two teams have long been the top dogs in the league, too. Real Madrid have won LaLiga 34 times, Barcelona 26. In Europe, the Merengues have lifted the Champions League 13 times, Barca five. These are the two biggest institutions of the two biggest cities in the country. 

The rivalry is political too, though. Spain was under a dictatorship for years, with Barcelona's football side held as a symbol of Catalan pride; for some Catalans, Real Madrid was regarded as "the establishment club", with their own side the rebels. 

The pair have clashed ever since. Both clubs claimed to sign Alfredo Di Stefano in the 1950s, humiliating Barcelona, while in the modern-day, the two sides have gone down altering paths of their vision for how a football club should be run. In the 2000s, Real Madrid attempted a Galactico model of signing the biggest and best stars in the world, while Barcelona favoured homegrown stars from their famed La Masia academy. 

The rivalries between key figures on either side have only fuelled the clash in recent seasons, too. Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho and Gerard Pique vs Sergio Ramos have all become defining battles on the pitch. It seems the pair are forever fated to diametrically oppose one another…

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