This week, we’ll be looking through the history of El Clásico to find some of the players who have played in the match for both sides. Several high-profile players of great ability have represented both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and we’re not talking about guys moving on for a last shot or easy pay packet when they’re past it. We aren’t interested in transfers like Michael Owen to Manchester United or a Christian Vieri to AC Milan (well, not unless I find time to write about Javier Saviola). No, we’re talking about players who donned both the Castilian white and the Catalan blue and red during their prime years and who made a real impact in the heated matches between both sides. Of all the Clásico Heartbreakers of the modern era, this man has scored more Clásico goals than any other…
Real Madrid record: W2 D3 L2
The player referred to in Brazil as “the real Ronaldo” is often remembered for his time at Real Madrid from summer 2002 to January 2007. It’s testament to the new one (Cristiano, of course) that he has already reached O Fenómeno’s haul of 83 La Liga goals in half the time, and in fifty less games than the Brazilian’s 127. Still, it’s not really a record to be sniffed at and the tally would certainly have been higher if not for the World Cup-winning striker’s well-documented fitness troubles.
But Ronaldo was more impressive in his stint at the Camp Nou in the 1996/97 season. In fact, there aren’t many footballers who’ve impressed so much in a single season, as the 20 year-old hit 47 goals in 49 games (many of them memorable) to steer Bobby Robson’s side to victory both the Copa del Rey and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. It was in the former that they knocked out Real Madrid in the semifinals, with Ronaldo opening the scoring their 3-2 first-leg win.
Five years later, Ronaldo had endured an injury-stricken spell at Inter and arrived at the World Cup in South Korea with a lot to prove. Eight goals not only got him a winner’s medal, a Golden Shoe and the recognition he deserved; it also earned him a €46 million move to Real Madrid. Barcelona fans had no problem banishing his superb year in Catalonia to distant memory, as he scored 23 goals for his new employers including one in a 1-1 draw in April’s Clásico, helping Madrid to the league title. He would go on to score another three against his former side and one of his best performances came in this 4-2 win at the Bernabéu, where he sets up Zinedine Zidane for the opener before adding a headed second.
It’s hard to judge Ronaldo’s overall effect teams as being wholly positive. Real Madrid’s Liga win in his debut season was the only national league championship to his name during his whole career. Barcelona won La Liga for the two years after selling him to Internazionale in 1997, while his departure to the red side of Milan in 2007 was followed by two league wins for Real. Nevertheless, out of players who’ve crossed the divide, his haul of six Clásico goals is second only to the nine of pre-war star Josep Samitier.
Is there really a player you can compare to someone nicknamed ‘the phenomenon’? Marrying explosive pace and power with sublime finishing ability, it’s tempting to suggest similarities to his Portuguese namesake despite a difference in position. But out of all the players who could feature in the upcoming Clásico, it’s probably Karim Benzema who performs a similar function to the Brazilian in his young days; a speedy striker with the ability to drop into space, turn and beat defenders. Benzema may lack Ronaldo’s confounding ability to score when having an otherwise awful game but should the Frenchman feature on Saturday, Mourinho will be after more of an all-round performance.