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FC Barcelona’s Arch-Rival – The History of Real Madrid
Real Madrid – FIFA ‘Team of the Century’; 31 league titles; 9 European Cups; several UEFA Cups and Club World Cup titles.
It is also, surprisingly, a club that in recent years has nurtured the habit of sacking successful managers. Jupp Heynckes went four weeks after winning a Champions League title, Fabio Capello and Bernd Schuster won the league title before one was essentially sacked for being too defensive and the other for being too reckless. The award, however, for what it’s worth, goes to Vicente Del Bosque, current manager of the national team, who was sacked the day after winning the league in a hotel room where his players were having their celebratory dinner!
Real Madrid started in 1897 when a number of students and lecturers at Institución Libre de Enseñanza started playing friendly matches on Sunday mornings. From these humble beginnings, Madrid Football Club emerged in 1902 – gaining its royal patronage and club name in 1920 from King Alfonso XIII. The club became founding members of the Spanish League in 1929 – when Barça won the inaugural title and El Clasico, as the match between the two clubs is known in Spain – started in earnest.
From the beginning, the rivalry was intense, but it developed significantly in the years after the Civil War. Of course, there are many stories about how the Franco government promoted Real Madrid’s interests to develop its and Spain’s international prestige. Also, the way in which Barcelona tried to maintain a Catalan identity at a time when the language and the flag were banned is well narrated. Barça became ‘More than a club’ and the phrase Así gana el Madrid – this is how Madrid wins – became part of Spanish sports lore.
However, there are two of these stories that perhaps shed more light on the situation in those difficult times.
In 1942, Barcelona had won the Spanish Cup – now known as the Cope del Rey, but later renamed the Copa del Generalísimo. The following season they faced Real in a two-legged semi-final and won the first leg convincingly, three goals to nil, despite their star player, Escolá, being stretchered off. The second leg, however, was quite a different affair – finishing with a stunning 11-1 drubbing of Madrid. Not only was the head of State Security known to have visited Barca’s dressing room before the match to tell some players that their right to stay in Spain was being reviewed, but a player was also sent off in the opening minutes. sure the rest of the team got the right message!
Another classic example of how Barcelona feel they suffered during the Franco years concerns perhaps the most famous player to ever wear a Real Madrid shirt – Alfredo di Stéfano, who remains an iconic figure in the Madrid hierarchy even today . In 1953, the Argentine centre-forward, described by Bobby Charlton as the most intelligent player he had ever seen, was signed by Barcelona from his Colombian club, Millonarios. After di Stefano had appeared in several friendlies, and after a series of involved and secret ‘negotiations’, the Spanish FA declared the transfer void and the player was triumphantly unveiled by Madrid. Two weeks later, he made his debut in a 5-0 win over Barcelona at the Bernabéu – scoring four goals and beginning his journey to legendary status.
Even the transfer of Luis Figo in 2000 pales in comparison to the machinations involved in di Stéfano’s move.
With such a fierce and ongoing rivalry between these two giant clubs, it puts the events of Barcelona’s 3-0 away win in 2000 into even more dramatic perspective; that was the night Madrid fans rose to their feet and gave Ronaldinho a standing ovation after perhaps his best performance in club colours.
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