#ElClasicoXI – as chosen by our Twitter Followers13 min read
Throughout the week, in the build up to the pre-Christmas El Clasico, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Marca English to produce all types of content about the biggest game in club football.
Go on, tell me how wrong I am! pic.twitter.com/RCI7j7m2ph
— Euan McTear (@emctear) December 21, 2017
— Marc Mayo (@ThatMarcMayo) December 21, 2017
Alves Ramos R. Carlos
CR7 Ronaldo Nazario Cruyff
— Jason Pettigrove (@jasonpettigrove) December 20, 2017
As well as a quiz with giveaways, several previews and opinion pieces, best combined XIs from some of the Marca writers, we’ve asked you – our Twitter followers – to choose your combined XI, by voting for your favourite El Clasico player in each position in a series of polls.
And here is the result – not a bad team at all, is it?
We’ve run through each of the eleven players and given a few reasons why we feel they’re a worthy inclusion in this dream team.
Goalkeeper – Iker Casillas
A man who needs no introduction – ‘San Iker’ – Saint Iker, was a symbol of Real Madrid for 25 years; he is the goalkeeper with most appearances in El Clasico (37) and the player with the 6th most appearances overall in the showpiece fixture. One Clasico appearance that stands out is the 1-0 victory at Camp Nou in the 2007-08 season. Real triumphed 1-0 and Casillas pulled of a string of great saves to preserve his clean sheet. The victory saw Real remain atop the table at Christmas, as they went on to win LaLiga for the first time in four seasons.
Right-back – Dani Alves
— betvictor (@BetVictor) June 24, 2017
Alves’ fiery, passionate and in-your-face approach makes him one of those players that you’d love to have in your team – and at the same time, means he’s someone that opposition fans love to hate. The Brazilian is one of the best attacking full-backs to have graced LaLiga. A couple of memorable El Clasico moments include a simply outrageous nutmeg on Cristiano Ronaldo in Barcelona’s 2-1 victory in the league in October 2013. The previous season, Alves also netted a stunning goal in the Copa Del Rey quarter-finals against Real. It was a sweetly-struck half-volley with the outside of his boot that gave Casillas no chance. The strike put Barca 2-0 up on the night – they progressed 4-3 on aggregate against their great rivals and went on to win the competition that season.
Left-back – Roberto Carlos
Another Brazilian full-back – and there’s no surprise at all to see Roberto Carlos appear in this side. Four La Liga triumphs, three Champions League titles and remarkably consistent performances cemented a place in Los Blancos history for the defender. Roberto Carlos had it all – strength, speed, awareness, crossing ability and an absolute hammer of a left foot. He scored a number of important goals for Real – but perhaps the most memorable in terms of El Clasico was the opener in a league match in Camp Nou in December 2003. The 37th minute strike set Real up for an eventual 2-1 win – the first time they had beaten their bitter rivals away from home in 20 years.
Centre-back – Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has scored four El Clasico goals and also received four El Claisco red cards. These stats sum up his career quite neatly. The Spaniard is a very robust and full-blooded centre-back, who possesses incredible technique, a never-say-die attitude and a knack of scoring important goals. At the same time, however, sometimes watching Ramos play is like watching a clumsy cartoon bull in a china shop. He has fallen foul of bad decision making and indiscipline various times in his career. Despite this though, every team needs strong characters and leaders – and Ramos is exactly that. His late equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Barcelona in LaLiga last season helped Real to escape from Camp Nou with a point which they probably didn’t deserve. He always contributes in key moments like this – hence why he would make most people’s El Clasico XI.
Centre-back – Carles Puyol
Puyol was a linchpin of one of the most successful Barcelona sides in modern history. Barca players are usually hailed for their finesse and tiki-taka approach to the game. Puyol, perhaps ironically, was a bit more rough around the edges. Blaugrana fans have always seen their club as an important way of identifying with their city – and Puyol himself is a proud Catalan and a one-club man. As far as El Clasico contributions go, Puyol found the net with a powerful header in the famous 6-2 victory at the Bernabeu in the 2008-09 season.
Central midfield – Xabi Alonso
What a classy player Alonso was. His game intelligence and range of passing was unrivalled. He spent five years at Real Madrid and was part of the side which won the Champions League and Copa Del Rey double in the 2013-14 season. Although he missed the UCL final, Alonso played all 90 minutes in the Copa Del Rey final as Real met Barca and came out 2-1 winners.
Central midfield – Andres Iniesta
When you hear the phrase ‘midfield maestro’, Iniesta is one of the first players who comes to mind. The Spaniard is a truly majestic player and when ‘tiki-taka’ was the style of football that dominated – both for Barca and the Spain national team – he was one of the main protagonists for these imperious sides. Iniesta is an El Clasico veteran – with an appearance in the latest edition set to be his 36th. He’s been the match-winner against Real Madrid on more than one occasion. Iniesta orchestrated the midfield in November 2009 when Barca handed their eternal rivals a 5-0 trouncing at Camp Nou – a result that is still Jose Mourinho’s heaviest defeat in league football. He was also on the scoresheet with a thumping effort when Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side inflicted a 4-0 defeat on Los Blancos two seasons ago.
Central midfield – Zinedine Zidane
It says a lot about Zidane’s reputation that his place in this XI comes thanks to outscoring Brazilian legends Ronaldinho and Rivaldo in the Twitter poll. Zizou has already won 8 trophies in his short stint as Real boss – and he won over the hearts of the Bernabeu faithful with his graceful style of play in the famous white shirt. Zidane is remembered most fondly for his other-worldly volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park in 2002. It’s easy to forget that the Frenchman also netted the all-important opener in the semi-final El Clasico at Camp Nou as well.
Forward – Johan Cruyff
Cruyff was the main visionary of total football and his philosophy has shaped the way that Barcelona play now. He was one of the first figures in the modern game who believed that winning with your own style was as important as winning full stop. This was evident when you watched the Dutchman play. His ‘Cruyff turn’ feint was something special and a move that children in playgrounds still try to replicate nowadays. In Cruyff’s debut season, Barca won the LaLiga title for the first time in 14 years – including a 5-0 win at the Bernabeu. Cruyff’s performance in this El Clasico prompted journalists to state that Barca looked ‘unbeatable’ with him on the pitch.
Forward – Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
It feels as though a lot of what Ronaldo ‘O Fenômeno’ achieved during his career is under-appreciated because of the number of big-name stars that he played alongside. One of the few players in the modern-day era to have appeared on both sides of the bitter rivalry, Ronaldo excelled in the colours of Real and Barca. He was only 20 when he arrived at Camp Nou, but he scored a remarkable 47 goals in 49 games in all competitions. At Real Madrid, despite his injury problems, he also enjoyed a wonderful strike rate. The way he sped past defenders with the ball at his feet and rounded goalkeepers with nonchalance was unlike anything the modern game has seen. In terms of all-round play and natural ability, it’s unlikely we’ll see an out-and-out centre-forward like Ronaldo in LaLiga for a long time.
Forward – Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi in 2016/17:
— betvictor (@BetVictor) May 27, 2017
The top goalscorer in El Clasico history with 24 goals – at least eight more than any other player. Yet the statistics don’t do Messi justice. Since he’s become a regular in their first team, Barca have had the edge in El Clasico matches – Real Madrid have only won 6 of the 21 league games between the two. The first time the Argentine did play from the start in the grudge match, incidentally, he was just 19 years old and he netted an awesome hat-trick. Since Cristiano Ronaldo came on to the show, the head-to-head on-pitch comparison between these two superstars has intensified and been intriguing to follow. We’ve had Copa del Rey finals, Champions League semi-finals and some high-scoring league encounters. Wouldn’t it be great for the neutral if, before these two beasts of the game started to fade, we saw an El Clasico in a Champions League final? Perhaps the football gods will align to cause this to happen this season…