Few rivalries have captured the attention of the entire world quite like El Clasico. Barcelona’s 3-1 victory in the Supercopa de España on January 15 was the 251st time that Real Madrid and their Blaugrana rivals faced off against each other in official competition, with Real winning 101 of them, Barcelona claiming 98 wins, as well as 52 draws. With 419 goals for Real Madrid and 412 for Barcelona, it could hardly be more even-keeled and competitive.
From Lionel Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo, from Pep Guardiola to Jose Mourinho, both teams have been graced with the presence of some of football’s greatest players and managers. In total, there have been 37 players who have suited up for both Real Madrid and Barcelona since the first Clasico in 1902. Today, we’re taking a look at eight of the best players who have crossed the El Clasico divide.
Barcelona picked up the electric Brazilian talent that lit up the Dutch league for the past two years for a world record fee at the time ($19.5 million). His time at the club was relatively short but oh so sweet. Having signed an 8-year contract, he scored 47 goals in 49 games, as defenses seemed to have no idea how to stop him. However, at the end of the season, a contract issue meant that Inter could pay his release clause and take Ronaldo to the Giuseppe Meazza.
One Ballon d’Or, one World Cup trophy and one destroyed patellar tendon later, he joined Florentino Perez’s Galacticos in 2002. His Madrid career was plagued by injuries and weight issues, especially in the latter stages, but from time to time the genius that saw him obliterate defenses single-handedly shone through. Arguably, his commercial success was even more important than his on-field performances, cementing Real’s status as the kings of world football, at least from the point of view of prestige.
2. Luis Figo
Controversy surrounded Luis Figo even before his transfer to Barcelona. He signed contracts with both Juventus and Parma, which saw him banned from joining an Italian club for two years. He signed for Barcelona, but was loaned back to Sporting, due to a rule stating that Portuguese players could only move to foreign clubs during a specified timeframe. The same rule saw Manchester City miss out on signing Figo, in one of football’s greatest what-if moments.
He was adored in Barcelona, having helped them to La Liga and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, but would break Catalan hearts in the 2000 summer transfer window. Florentino Perez wanted to announce himself to the world as Real Madrid president. Real met the €62 million release clause and Figo became the number one enemy in Barcelona. At his first Camp Nou appearance in the white shirt of Real the stadium was a cauldron of insults and jeers, every time he touched the ball.
Missiles would fly down from the stands, with the fans seemingly emptying their pockets in order to express their disgust. In 2002 the most iconic image of Figo’s career was captured, when a severed pig’s head was thrown next to him as he attempted to take a corner kick, amongst the usual projectiles made of lighters, oranges and mobile phones. To this day, some older Barcelona fans refer to him as Judas.
3. Marcos Alonso
The only currently active footballer to have played for both clubs, Marcos Alonso was a Madrid youth product and made one appearance for the club. His father had been a Real player and his grandfather represented Atletico de Madrid and Barcelona. This family history maybe had a role in his agreeing to represent Real’s archrivals after signing for them in 2022.
4. Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique made over 500 appearances in a very successful career, which started out at his local club Sporting Gijon. His goal-scoring and high work rate prompted Real Madrid to sign him. Despite winning the league with Real, he stated after his retirement that he had never felt appreciated by the fans and did not have good memories of his time in Madrid.
This became even more apparent, as, after his 1996 move to Barca where he became a fan favorite. This did not happen overnight, however, as the Cules were initially reluctant to cheer for a player that had represented their Madrid rivals. His dedication towards the club ultimately won them over, Enrique remaining in the Barcelona setup even after his retirement. This led to him becoming Barcelona boss between 2014 and 2017.
5. Julen Lopetegui
The current Wolves boss did not have a career as illustrious as Luis Enrique, only making one appearance in Real’s first team and moving away from the club in 1991. After playing in goal for CD Logroñés and helping them stay in the league, Barcelona came calling. Much like with Real, Julen Lopetegui could not hold down a starting position, losing out to Carles Busquets. And yes for those of you wondering, that is Sergio Busquets’ dad. And just like Enrique, he managed one of his former clubs, Real, but lasted just a few months before getting the boot.
6. Samuel Eto’o
Not many people remember Eto’o having been a Real Madrid player, partly because he spent much of his time out on loan. Having been a part of Real’s youth setup, Eto’o joined Mallorca in 2000 his performances started to pick up and after four years he was hot property on the European transfer scene. Real Made an attempt to sign their former player, but Barcelona came out on top this time.
At Barcelona, he really rubbed salt into Real Madrid’s wounds, becoming one of the best strikers of his generation. His time in Catalonia culminated in a treble-winning year, where a front three of Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Eto’o scored 100 goals between them. After another treble, this time at Inter he embarked on a journeyman career that saw him play for seven more clubs before retiring in 2019.
7. Michael Laudrup
Laudrup is weirdly loved and held in high regard by both sets of fans, despite taking part in two 5-0 demolitions, once for each club, but always on the winning side. He moved to Italy from his native Denmark and after spells with Lazio and Juve ended in disappointment, Johan Cruyff, his childhood idol, convinced him to join his project at Barca. After winning four consecutive La Ligas and one European Cup, with Laudrup playing superbly, Cruyff signed Romario.
At the time, only three foreign players were allowed in the squad at any one time. This came to mark the downfall of his relationship with the manager, as Cruyff left him out for a European Cup final against Milan, which Barca lost 4-0. This prompted Laudrup to move to Real Madrid, however he maintained at the time he was simply looking for a new challenge and did not seek revenge. Immediately after his move, Real won the title and Laudrup hung around for one more year before moving to Japan.
8. Gheorghe Hagi
Romania’s best-ever player gained both of his moves, first to Real and then Barca, off the back of World Cup performances. In 1990 he signed for Los Blancos but his time at the club proved unsuccessful, only winning the Supercopa. After two years he moved to Italy with Brescia and would play a starring role for Romania in 1994 at the World Cup in the US. Barca took a leaf out of Real’s book and signed him, but only won another Supecopa in his two years in Catalonia. He would ultimately find success with Galatasaray, attaining cult status in Istanbul.
By: Eduard Holdis / @HE_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / DeFodi Images