Real Madrid and Barcelona are two foremost institutions in football. They are quite possibly the two biggest clubs in the world and boast of great tradition and success.
Real are the most successful club in the world, having won 13 UEFA Champions League and 33 La Liga titles. Barcelona are not too far behind either as they have won 5 Champions Leagues and 25 La Liga titles.
However these two premier clubs are great rivals. There has been considerable acrimony and bad blood between the two over the years, and their rivalry quite often transcended the realm of football.
Barca has been a symbol of Catalan pride since time immemorial and have challenged the regal dominance of Real Madrid in Spain and Europe. Quite naturally, both clubs have had their share of legendary players over the years.
The likes of Alfredo Di Stefano, Fernando Hierro and Cristiano Ronaldo have become legends of Real Madrid, whereas, players like Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta have contributed immensely towards Barcelona’s success.
Therefore, quite evidently it is very difficult for any footballer to enjoy success with both of these two Spanish giants.
Given their bitter rivalry, it is very difficult for a player to play for both clubs, let alone be successful. However there have been players who have achieved this remarkable feat. We discuss four such players in this article.
#1 Michael Laudrup
Laudrup is one of the greatest midfielders to ever play in Europe. He was a brilliant passer and had superb vision. He joined Barcelona in 1989 from Juventus and enjoyed 5 supremely successful seasons there.
He scored 47 goals in 213 matches for Barcelona and won 4 La Ligas and an European Cup with them. Laudrup became an essential part of Johan Cruyff’s famous “Dream Team” along with the likes of Romario, Hristo Stoichkov and Ronald Koeman.
He set up 1 goal in Barcelona’s famous 5-0 win against Real in 1994 but left the club that very season after falling out with Cruyff.
Laudrup again played his part when Real got their revenge and demolished Barcelona 5-0 in 1995. He played 76 matches for Real and scored 15 goals. He also won 1 La Liga title with them.
Laudrup remains the only player who can claim to be almost equally popular with the Barca and Real supporters. He played and delivered for both clubs and was rightly voted in 1999 as “the greatest foreign player in La Liga in the last 25 years”.
Ronaldo of Brazil is one of the finest strikers to have played the game. He lit up the Dutch League as a precocious teenager with PSV Eindhoven and was called O Fenomeno or The Phenomenon. Ronaldo joined Barcelona from PSV in 1996-97 and spent a season there.
He scored an astounding 47 goals in 49 matches in the solitary season he played for Barca and won the Copa Del Rey and the UEFA Cup winners’ Cup with them.
Ronaldo was a force of nature, beating opposition defenders with his lightning speed and brutal strength, and scoring easily with his powerful shots. His extraordinary performance against Real in the Copa Del Rey final is still cherished by Barca supporters.
After a stint in Italy with Inter Milan, Ronaldo joined Real in 2002 and spent 5 very successful seasons in Madrid. He scored 104 goals in 177 matches for Real and won won 2 La Ligas with them.
Ronaldo was one of the Galacticos along with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham. He scored a memorable hat-trick against Manchester United in the Champions League quarter final in 2003.
#3 Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique is one of the most versatile footballers of all time. He could play as a forward or a second striker and scored a lot of goals. He could play as a defensive midfielder too and this versatility made him very desirable as a footballer.
Enrique played for Real at the beginning of his career and scored 18 goals in 213 matches for them. He won 1 La Liga and 1 Copa Del Rey with Real and took part in their famous 5-0 win over Barca in 1995.
He joined Barcelona in 1996 and scored 109 goals in 300 matches with them. Enrique evolved as an attacking player in Barca and won 2 La Ligas, 2 Copa Del Reys and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
Enrique remained the ultimate utility player as he was equally at ease creating moves and stopping them. Later on, he became the coach of FC Barcelona and won the UEFA Champions League with them.
#4 Luis Figo
Luis Figo’s remarkable achievements in La Liga are almost equally distributed between his stints with the 2 Spanish Giants. He played 5 seasons apiece for Barca and Real, appearing in 240-odd matches for each of them.
He also scored 45 goals for Barca and 57 for Real but that apparent statistical parity cannot camouflage the acrimony and bad blood caused by his move from Barca to Real in 2000.
He was loathed by Barca supporters for that move and became a target of verbal and non-verbal attacks when Real visited Camp Nou in 2000.
However, it cannot be denied that Figo was supremely successful with Barca and won 2 successive La Liga titles and the Cup Winners’ Cup with them.
He formed a deadly partnership with Rivaldo and became one of the finest players in the world during his stint at Barca.
However he was arguably more successful at Madrid as he won 2 La Ligas and 1 Champions League title with Real. He joined players like Zidane, Ronaldo and Raul to make Real the best team in the world in the early 2000s.
Figo remains one of the greatest wingers the game has ever seen and was a consummate dribbler. He continues to symbolize the bitter rivalry between the two Spanish giants.