Transfers Between Real Madrid and Barcelona
Alfredo di Stefano to the left with a Barcelona jersey and Luis Figo in a friendly match for Real Mdrid after retirement. Credits to Biser Todorov for the Figo photo
Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of the biggest rivals in football and share a thrilling history, including transfer deals.
Coming from the biggest cities in Spain, with opposing political positions, it’s little wonder the two teams and sets of fans despise each other, but this has not stopped players from switching between the clubs.
The Elite Clubs from Spain
Considering both are at the top of European football, being two of the richest clubs in the game, matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona are the pinnacle of the club football season.
The taut relationship of the clubs on the pitch, is matched off the pitch. A look back at past transfer dealings, highlights the hostility between them.
Messi and Marcelo squaring up back in 2011
Both teams are competing to be the best club, not only in Spain, but Europe and beyond, which adds further intensity to the rivalry.
Considering the distinct dislike and competition between the clubs, it’s difficult to imagine the transfer of a player taking place.
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Think of the furor if Sergio Ramos left Real Madrid to play for Barcelona? Or if Luis Suarez swapped the Camp Nou for the Santiago Bernabeu?
Even a player from the reserve team leaving one side and signing for the other has to be out of the question, doesn’t it?
It may come as a surprise to some but Real Madrid and Barcelona do have a history together in the transfer market and as you can imagine, it’s not gone smoothly.
The Transfers Between Real Madrid and Barcelona
The Saga of Alfredo Di-Stefano
One of the earliest transfer clashes between Real Madrid and Barcelona came in the 1950’s. It concerned the signing of Alfredo Di Stefano from Millonarios, a Colombian football club.
Alfredo di Stefano in the early 1960’s. Credits to el grafico magazine
Basically, the Argentine forward signed for both teams. The problem came about due to the nature of the initial deal, which was going to take Di Stefano to Barcelona.
There was even a suggestion the clubs would share him over a 4-year period but that was a non-starter. Can you imagine if Real Madrid and Barcelona were asked to share Lionel Messi?
The transfer to Barcelona fell through on this basis. Santiago Bernabeu, the Real Madrid director at the time, managed to seal the signing of Di Stefano.
Santiago Bernabéu. Credits to Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief
Until this day, it is unclear as to why Barcelona allowed Real Madrid to sign Di Stefano and keep the player entirely to themselves. It proved to be very costly, as the Argentine led Real Madrid to domestic and European glory, scoring over 300 goals for the club.
While the Di Stefano transfer was not a direct movement of a player between Real Madrid and Barcelona, it certainly set the tone for both their future transfer dealings and fierce rivalry.
2 Transfers in 6 Year between Real Madrid and Barcelona
To fan the flames further, two transfers took place between the clubs in the space of six years. In 1988, Bernd Schuster left Barcelona to join Real Madrid having played at the Camp Nou for eight years.
Bernd Schuster in his final years at Barcelona. Credits to Barcelona archive
This left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Barcelona fans. Schuster helped Real Madrid win La Liga in 1989 and 1990, which only made matters worse as far as Barcelona were concerned.
Having won four league titles and a European Cup with Barcelona, Michael Laudrup left the Catalan giants to join Real Madrid in 1994.
The feeling was Laudrup had fallen out with manager, the late Johan Cruyff. Despite helping Real Madrid win La Liga the following season, the Dane is still well respected at Barcelona.
Interestingly, in the same season Real Madrid won the title with Laudrup in the team. Los Blancos defeated Barcelona 5-0 and one of the goal scorers in the match was none other than current Barcelona manager, Luis Enrique.
The Luis Enrique Transfer
When Enrique was the Barca manager knew he was going to be in for a volatile welcome each time he took his Barcelona team to the Santiago Bernabeu.
The former Spanish international started his career at Sporting Gijon before moving to the capital city and playing for Real Madrid.
Luis Enrique in the early 90’s playing for Real Madrid
Enrique was at the Santiago Bernabeu for five years and was a real favourite with the Real Madrid ultra supporters.
Not only that, but Enrique was severely disliked by fans of Barcelona, who failed to appreciate his all-action style on the pitch and the way he celebrated his goal during the 5-0 Real Madrid victory mentioned above.
Enrique followed up on a rebound to slot the ball home inside the six-yard box. He ran to the Real Madrid fans, spreading out his white shirt for all to see and shouting in celebration.
Luis Enrique was a passionate Real Madrid player, of that there was little doubt.
The Blow Out
However, mid-way through the 1995/96 season, Enrique was omitted from the Real Madrid team, despite having played a big role in their title success of the previous season.
Having been dropped for a match at Albacete, the relationship between Enrique and his manager broke down. At that point he asked his agent to look for other options.
It may not have been Enrique’s intention to move to Barcelona but the Catalan’s were interested and having passed a medial with the club, he signed on a free transfer.
Instantly and perhaps fuelled by the comments Enrique made about not having good memories at Real Madrid and never having liked himself in the white shirt, the hatred switched sides and it was those in the Spanish capital who now despised the player.
Enrique the Enemy of the Santiago Bernabeu
Luis Enrique went on to play over 300 games for Barcelona and captain the team. He won La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey twice and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup during his time as a player with Barcelona.
Every time he visited the Bernabeu in a Barcelona shirt he faced hostility from the terraces. But Enrique thrived off the abuse he was receiving and became more motivated in games at his former club.
In his second season (1997-1998) at Barcelona, Enrique scored against Real Madrid and celebrated in the same away he did in 1995, running away with his shirt stretched out.
The difference being it was a Barcelona shirt he was holding out and it was in-front of the Real Madrid ultras.
Further enticing the Real Madrid fans, Enrique kept his hands by his sides when the rest of his Barcelona team mates were applauding and acknowledging the crowd.
The clash with Zidane
He was also involved in several scraps with Real Madrid players, including their current manager, Zinedine Zidane.
Picture from the past! Lucho and Zidane clash, after the Frenchman fouled Puyol and the captain rushed to defend him. pic.twitter.com/l4MS7uWYOC
— totalBarça (@totalBarca) March 22, 2015
This led to him becoming the main figure of hate for Real Madrid fans, something which stands to this day.
Luis Enrique as Barcelona manager received another ‘warm’ welcome from both the Real Madrid fans and their manager, Zinedine Zidane. When they visited in April 2017 Messi scored a last minute goal to win the el clásico 3-2.
During the scuffle between Enrique and Zidane, which took place at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2002/03, there was another man involved.
A Real Madrid player who was keen to get himself in the faces of Barcelona players as more of them became involved in the incident.
That man was Luis Figo, who signed for Real Madrid from Barcelona in 2000, in what was the most surprising and controversial transfer in football history.
Barcelona’s Golden Boy to Barcelona’s Ultimate Enemy
Luis Figo joined Barcelona from Sporting Lisbon in 1995 and it didn’t take long for the Portuguese winger to settle in and find favour with the home supporters.
Luis Figo with the Super Cup
Having won the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Figo went on to win successive La Liga titles with Barcelona. Heenjoyed playing as part of a feared forward line including Ronaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Rivaldo.
During his time at the Camp Nou, Figo helped the club win seven trophies and the fans adored him. Not only for that they adored but for the way he pushed the club forward on a wider scale, one which saw the Catalan region become admired from further afield.
The Unthinkable in the Year 2000
Then, in the summer of 2000, the unthinkable happened. The darling of the Camp Nou left and joined their bitter rivals, Real Madrid.
Just to think about Figo leaving the club at all was bad enough for Barcelona fans but to see him in the white of Real Madrid was unthinkable.
So, how did this transfer happen? Why was Figo allowed to leave Barcelona in this way and damage the pride of the Catalan people? It hurt, it really hurt.
The Transfer Deal
Basically, Real Madrid made Figo an offer he could not refuse. At the time, Florentino Perez was campaigning to become the president of Real Madrid and he essentially used Figo as a bargaining tool.
Luis Figo’s transfer to Real Madrid in 2000. Florentino Pérez is to the left and Alfredo di Stefano to the right
During his campaign, Perez claimed to have signed a pre-contract agreement with Figo’s agent. He stated he would refund all 70,000 season tick holders, if he was elected and failed to deliver the transfer.
Perhaps Figo and his advisors did not believe Perez would come to power and they were simply using it to increase his pay at Barcelona.
However, having signed a deal which said the player would be forced to pay a multi-million pound fine if he backed out of the transfer, Perez won the election and forced his hand.
Figo had little choice but to adhere to the deal and Real Madrid met his buyout clause of £37.5 million, a world record transfer fee at the time.
The Portuguese said the reason he left was to win more titles and for the prestige but money also was a factor.
Figo Spoke to AS:
Figo instantly went from hero to zero in Barcelona. Another chapter was written in the sporting, cultural and political divide between the clubs, which had reached new levels of division following the transfer.
The Strongest Banter Ever against a player till today
Figo returned to the Camp Nou with his new club in October 2000 and faced a barrage of jeers and animosity never before witnessed inside the stadium.
It was a moment of football history people never forget. The banners were one thing but the chanting was incredible and led Figo to putting his fingers in his ears prior to kick-off.
Every time Figo touched the ball a torrent of abuse would rain down from the stands, in addition to objects such as bottles and mobile phones.
Barcelona won the match 2-0 and who opened the scoring? None other than Luis Enrique. Perez admitted the atmosphere was too much for the Real Madrid players to deal with.
The Barcelona fans had their revenge and if one banner summed up their feelings towards Figo perfectly, it was the one which read “We hate you because we loved you so.”
The Nou Camp Fans Still Remembered
Figo’s next match at the Camp Nou was in November 2002. If the Portuguese thought the Barcelona fans had forgotten or were happy with their revenge from two years ago, he was very much mistaken.
This time, Figo was taking the corners for Real Madrid. The clubs full-back for the match, Michel Salgado, recalled how he would always offer Figo the option of a short corner but in this match, decided to stay well away.
Missiles were sent down from the stands, including the head of a pig. At one stage the match was stopped for 15 minutes, as riot police were called to protect the Real Madrid players.
The match ended 0-0 and both clubs blamed each other for the problems, with Barcelona accusing Figo of provoking the crowd by taking his time over every corner.
Regardless of who was at fault that day, Figo was left under no illusion as to his new-found status in Barcelona and the irreparable damage caused by his transfer between the two clubs.
Luis Figo with Inter Milan at the Nou Camp
Luis Figo won seven trophies during his time at Real Madrid, including two La Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League. He left the Bernabeu to join Inter Milan in 2005 where he retired in 2009. When he returned to Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semi-final as a club representative with Inter Milan, he was subject to further abuse from the home fans.
Real Madrid and Barcelona Fans Don’t Forget
Real Madrid and Barcelona fans do not forget. As transfers between Real Madrid and Barcelona go, both Bernd Schuster and especially Michael Laudrup seemed to get off lightly.
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As for Luis Enrique and Luis Figo, it was a decision which will stay with them for the rest of their lives, as it will the supporters of both teams.
If you are in any doubt as to the depth of the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, you should look at these transfers and what happened after them, to gain an understanding of exactly what El Clasico means to the fans of both teams.