Sports Strength

The History of El Clasico

El Clasico has been one of the biggest spectacles not only in the European football landscape, but in all of sports.

It is a match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, two teams in the top Spanish football league known as La Liga, and two of the most successful clubs in all of Europe.

Leading up to match day between Real Madrid and Barcelona, fans are given the opportunity to reminisce the greatest matchups between the two historic Spanish clubs, like in 2014, when Gareth Bale turned into the human flash and dusted Barcelona at their Camp Nou, or in 2017, when Lionel Messi sent his flaming spear into the heart of Real Madrid at their Santiago Bernabeu.

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VALENCIA, SPAIN – APRIL 16: Gareth Bale (L) of Real Madrid celebrates beside Xabi Alonso after scoring Real’s 2nd goal during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Throughout the past decade, the intense rivalry of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi doubled the attraction that is already garnered for arguably the biggest soccer match on the planet. Even without two of the games greatest stars, the historic rivalry between the two teams and hatred amongst the fans should be enough to make this weekend’s El Clasico one to remember.

How did El Clasico Begin?
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Barcelona striker Gary Lineker (r) gets in a shot as Hugo Sanchez of Real Madrid looks on during the ‘El Clasico’ between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on January 31, 1987 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images)

Football analysts and minds alike point to the 1940s as the timeframe for which El Clasico became what it is today. One of the more memorable matches from that decade happened in 1943. Barcelona were up 5-3 in the 73rd minute against Real Madrid during a La Liga match at Les Cortes, Barcelona’s home stadium. In a hostile environment, Madrid would proceed to score two unanswered goals to tie the score, salvaging a draw in a 5-5 result for the record books.

Who has the most goals in El Clasico?
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Alfredo Di Stefano entertaining in Real Madrid during September of 1963 / Getty Images

Argentinean striker Alredo Di Stefano was at the forefront of Real Madrid’s dominance against Barcelona during the 1960s. Di Stefano is the all-time leading goal scorer in El Clasico with 26 goals, and was known for playing some of his best football against arch rival Barcelona.

Most Memorable El Clasico Moment
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Barcelona’s Brazilian Ronaldinho (L) celebrates his goal against Real Madrid with teammate Cameroonese Samuel Eto’o during their Spanish Liga football match in Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, 19 November 2005. AFP PHOTO/ Pierre-Philippe MARCOU (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Imagine Alex Rodriguez earning a standing ovation at Fenway Park, or J.J Redick receiving love from UNC fans at the Dean Dome. Both of those inconceivable scenarios equate to what Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabau did for Barcelona’s Ronaldinho in 2005.

Ronaldinho was the reigning world footballer of the year. The golden boot winner (awarded to the player with the most goals in a league) was a stalwart on a Barcelona team full of such. Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi were forces to be reckon with as well during that year. Against Real Madrid in 2005 though, Ronaldinho put on a solo exhibit of greatness, and did it all with a big smile on his face. Among displaying his outstanding dribbling and playmaking to the Madrid fans during the match, he scored two spectacular goals to seal a comfortable Barcelona victory.

After his second goal, around half of the supporters in the stadium were standing up and cheering on the Barcelona superstar, just as he tormented their team.

What’s Next?
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Barcelona’s Guinea-Bissau forward Ansu Fati (R) kicks the ball during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on February 2, 2020

This will be the first time in over a decade that we’ll see these two teams play without Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo on the team.

While there won’t be any players on the pitch that have half of the quality of those mentioned above, there are reasons to be as excited as ever for this weekend’s El Clasico.

There are young stars in both squads, including 18 year-old Ansu Fati for Barcelona and 21 year-old Vincius Junior for Real Madrid, that will vie to become the next El Clasico hero. After all, there was a point in time when a 20 year-old Lionel Messi wasn’t even considered the best player on his team, but nonetheless, burst onto the scene with a hat-trick in El Clasico in 2007.

Considering the amazing moments we’ve seen between these clubs, expect to see the birth of a new hero, and maybe even a world superstar, when the two teams play this Sunday. After all, it always delivers.

Sports Strength

Kylian Mbappe’s Dream Move to Madrid Speaks Volumes About PSG

Money can’t buy happiness. That’s a mantra that rings true in many facets of life, but in the case of Paris Saint-Germain the French side have been doing just fine operating under unlimited financial means since the club was overtaken by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) in 2011.

Since club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the rest of Qatar’s powerful brass took over nearly a decade ago, money has reigned supreme in France and it’s led to a great deal of success both on and off the pitch.

For starters, the club’s presence on a global scale has never been more significant and that’s in large part due to the star talent the organization has been able to acquire over the years.

PSG’s relevance created one of the most important branding deals in recent football history when the club signed on with Nike’s Jordan Brand, an iconic global presence founded by none other than Michael Jordan himself. 

During Qatar’s influence on the club, PSG have won Ligue 1 seven times and reached the Champions League final just two seasons ago.

With that goal in mind, PSG dug even deeper into its infinite checkbook this summer, adding onto existing superstar talents like Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel di Maria.

When Lionel Messi’s contract situation at Barcelona became so dire that the Argentina legend was forced to leave the club, the Parisians pounced and secured one of the greatest footballers of all-time to move to the Parc des Princes.

The club had previously already added Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Giorginio Wijnaldum during the summer transfer window to bolster an already-talented roster.

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But sometimes, greed creates problems. That’s not to say that PSG hasn’t built something incredible and in many ways the club should be applauded for the awareness that has been brought to it.

Conversely though, by bringing in additional star talent Mbappe has grown displeased in Paris — his home since he was a young boy. The common narrative since Mbappe joined PSG in 2017 was that he would forever be the savior of Paris if he could deliver the club’s first Champions League title in club history.

When Mbappe and Co. fell short in the 2020 final against Bayern Munich though the tide began to turn. The pressure began to build further. And Mbappe was left in a no-win position if he and his teammates couldn’t get the job done the following season.

Again, they weren’t able to after falling short against Manchester City in last season’s semi finals. That shortcoming led to the massive summer spending spree that PSG are currently in the midst of.

In the new age where the top-tier clubs control nearly all the transfer movement in global football, there’s something to be said about having too many stars on one team.

For years, La Liga supporters had the opportunity to witness one of the greatest back-and-forth battles in the history of the league when Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo battled it out twice — sometimes more — each season for Barcelona and Madrid, respectively.

The two players never teamed up. Then again, they never needed to. Messi and Ronaldo won every trophy imaginable at the club level and that’s why their ability to succeed on the biggest stages has led to the constant debates over which one is better.

Mbappe, who will turn 23 in December, is at a point in his career where he has the opportunity to move into that same breath as the two aforementioned legends. The Frenchman is already a World Cup champion — something neither Messi or Ronaldo have added to their resume.

There’s no question that Messi, Ronaldo and other greats throughout history have had tremendous talents on their squads to help ease the burden and carry those teams to greater heights, but it’s becoming more and more evident that Mbappe wants the challenge of winning a Champions League without the shadow of Messi or Neymar lingering.

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For that very reason, Mbappe reportedly rejected three different contract extensions from PSG within the past year, some of which came prior to Messi even joining the team.

For years now, one specific photograph of Mbappe continues to make its rounds across social media. It’s an image of a young Mbappe in his childhood bedroom with photos and posters covering his walls; nearly all of which represent his love for Real Madrid.

His love for Ronaldo and many of Madrid’s Galacticos throughout the club’s history created an enticement that was always leading to this very moment. Now, the French superstar is at a point in his career where PSG have little say in what comes next, because the truth is there’s only one destination for Mbappe at this point in time.

There’s something to be said about that determination and Mbappe’s willingness to constantly challenge himself. The aura of Real is something unmatched in comparison to playing in Paris, and the Frenchman clearly views the opportunity as something he cannot pass up.

It’s been well documented that Mbappe has always wanted to compete at the Santiago Bernabeu, and now the young superstar could be on the brink of making that dream a reality.

Similar to how Messi and Ronaldo dictated the pace set by their clubs for the longevity of their stays in Spain, Mbappe will have that opportunity in Madrid, if a deal is completed, and his chance at creating a lasting legacy will be immensely enhanced.