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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; a couple of UEFA Cups and World Club Champions titles.
Also, very strangely, it is a club that in recent years has cultivated the habit of sacking successful managers. Jupp Heynckes went four weeks after winning the Champions League title, Fabio Capello and Bernd Schuster won the league title before one was basically sacked for being too defensive and the other for being too reckless. The award, though, for what it’s worth, goes to Vicente Del Bosque, the current manager of the national squad, who was sacked the day after winning the league in a hotel room where his players get their celebratory lunch!
Real Madrid started in 1897 when a number of students and lecturers in the Institucion Libre de Enseñanza started playing friendly games 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 Clásico, as the game between the two clubs is known in Spain – it began in earnest.
From the beginning, the competition was intense but it developed significantly during the years after the Civil War. There are, of course, many stories about the way the Franco government had promoted the interests of Real Madrid in order to develop its, and Spain’s, international prestige. Also, it is well told how Barcelona tried to maintain a Catalan identity at a time when the language and the flag were banned. Barça became ‘More than a Club’ and the phrase Así gana el Madrid – that’s how the Madrid victory – became part of Spanish sports legend.
There are two of these stories, however, which perhaps shed the most light on the situation in that difficult period.
In 1942, Barcelona won the Spanish Cup – now known as the Cope del Rey but later renamed the Copa del Generalísimo. The following season they were beaten by Real in a two-legged semi-final and won the first leg convincingly, three goals to nil, despite having their star player, Escolá, stretchered off. The second leg, though, was a very different affair – finishing a stunning 11 – 1 to Madrid. Not only was the Head of State Security known to have visited the Barça dressing room before the game to tell some of the players that their right to stay in Spain was being reviewed, but also to send a player aside in the first few minutes were done. sure the rest of the team got the right message!
The other classic example of how Barcelona feel they suffered during the Franco years concerns perhaps the most famous player ever to wear a Real Madrid shirt – Alfredo di Stéfano, who remains a figure iconic in the Madrid hierarchy even today. In 1953, the Argentinian centre-forward, described by Bobby Charlton as the most intelligent player he had ever seen, was signed by Barcelona from his Columbian club, Millonarios. After di Stéfano appeared in a couple of friendlies, and after a series of involved and unannounced ‘negotiations’, the Spanish FA declared the transfer invalid 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 towards legendary status.
Even the transfer of Luis Figo in 2000 pales into insignificance compared to the machinations involved in the di Stéfano move.
With such a fierce, and ongoing, rivalry between these two giant clubs, this 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 applauded Ronaldinho after perhaps his best performance in the club’s colours.
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