Ahead of the latest instalment of the El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium on Saturday, we look back at 10 landmark decades in the history of the greatest game in world club football.
1920s: The first LaLiga El Clásico
The first LaLiga El Clásico took place in February 1929, just two weeks into the maiden LaLiga season.
Barcelona’s Les Corts was packed with confident cules that day, but they left disappointed as Real Madrid scored in each half to hang on for a 2-1 inaugural win.
Barça won the reverse fixture 1-0 and the first LaLiga title.
1930s: Real Madrid run up the biggest victory
The 1934/35 El Clásico fixtures were remarkable, with Barça winning 5-0 at Les Corts before Real Madrid turned it around with an incredible 8-2 win at Chamartin. The home side went 5-1 up after just half an hour, prompting Barça’s Hungarian coach Ferenc Plattkó to ask the ball to be changed at the break as he feared foul play. It made no difference as the home side racked up the biggest El Clásico league win.
1940s: The birth of El Clásico as we know it today
It could be said that the intense El Clásico rivalry we know today was born in the 1940s, thanks to several hot-headed encounters between the two sides. Among them was the highest scoring draw ever registered between the two sides – a 5-5 draw at Les Corts in 1943.
1950s: El Clásico becomes Spain’s first televised football match
History was made on February 15 1959 as El Clásico became the first football match to be televised on Spanish television. There was a pre-game scramble for the latest technology, with TV sets quickly selling out across both cities. Real Madrid, featuring the great Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás, won 1-0 that day at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, but were unable to prevent Barcelona from winning their first LaLiga title in seven years.
1960s: Di Stéfano continues to haunt Barcelona
Argentine legend Di Stéfano remains Real Madrid’s all-time leading El Clásico goal scorer in LaLiga matches. He tormented Barcelona time and time again after they thought – mistakenly – they’d beaten Real Madrid to his signing back in 1953. His 14 goals in 20 matches included a double in a memorable 5-3 win at a recently opened Camp Nou in December 1960 and marked a period of generational dominance for Los Blancos.
1970s: Johan Cruyff tilts the balance Barça’s way
Johan Cruyff’s arrival as a Barça player in 1974 helped tilt the El Clásico balance back towards the Catalan capital, and the Dutchman’s performance in a 5-0 win at the Bernabéu that year is still often talked about today. El Salvador, as Cruyff was known, inspired Barça to that season’s LaLiga title, but more importantly instilled a footballing philosophy which forms part of the club’s identity to this day.
1980s: Real Madrid’s Quinta del Buitre generation wins five in a row
Los Blancos had not won a LaLiga title for six years when they faced Barcelona at the Bernabéu in March 1986. A 3-1 win, with club icons Jorge Valdano and Emilio Butragueño among the goal scorers, all but handed the LaLiga title to Real Madrid and opened up a period of unrivalled dominance of the rivalry for the rest of the decade. The so-called Quinta del Buitre generation featuring home-grown talents such as Butragueño, Michel and Manuel Sanchís went on to win every LaLiga title between 1986 and 1990 – a dominance only Cruyff would be able to break. Quinta del Buitre is the moniker given by Spanish sport journalist Julio César Iglesias to the five Real Madrid players who were at the core of the team that dominated Spanish football in the 1980s.
1990s: The birth of the Dream Team
Cruyff’s return to Barça as coach heralded the birth of the Dream Team which won four consecutive LaLiga titles between 1991 and 1994. Yet the story of El Clásico in the 1990s will be remembered for two iconic results – a 5-0 win for Barça at Camp Nou with Brazilian great Romario and current coach Ronald Koeman among the goal scorers in 1994; and Real Madrid getting revenge with the exact same score line almost exactly 12 months later thanks to goals from, among others, future Barça coach Luis Enrique.
2000s: Ronaldinho brings the Bernabéu to its feet
The November 2005 El Clásico at Santiago Bernabéu marked the fixture of a generation. Barça took an early lead, but Ronaldinho’s show was just beginning. Early in the second half, the Brazilian dashed from inside his own half, easily hurdled Sergio Ramos’ attempted tackle, shimmied past Iván Helguera, avoided Roberto Carlos and shot past Iker Casillas. Fifteen minutes later, he again scorched past Ramos and easily beat Casillas for 3-0. The Bernabéu crowd reacted in almost unprecedented fashion, rising to their feet and applauding a genuinely amazing, historic performance.
2010s: Messi makes his mark at the Bernabéu
Lionel Messi is El Clásico’s all-time top scorer and his influence on the fixture has been profound. While it’s hard to single out one performance, it’s equally as hard to find a more iconic or dramatic moment in recent El Clásico history than his injury time winner in Barça’s 3-2 win at the Bernabéu in 2017. The image of Messi holding up his shirt to the Bernabéu fans in celebration will live long in the memory.
Watch El Clásico live this Saturday at 9pm on SuperSport LaLiga, DStv channel 204