The current era in the Clasico rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid is pretty much defined by the moment Pep Guardiola became the head coach of Barcelona, changing the career trajectory of Lionel Messi. A season later Cristiano Ronaldo arrived, and Jose Mourinho a year after that. What was a Barca-dominated match up early on has taken a different direction in recent years.
Guardiola is no longer the Barcelona manager, gone on a sabbatical before joining Bayern Munich this summer. Tito Vilanova seemed to do a brilliant job in carrying the torch, but in recent weeks (or maybe more), his absence due to his battle with cancer has seemed to affect the team more than some would like to admit – Jordi Roura might be a system man, but he’s no Vilanova when it comes to the ability to change during matches.
On the other side of the fence, after taking actual and imaginary beating all season, Real Madrid are flying high. No longer caring about what happens in the league, Jose Mourinho has the respect of his players again, and the code to break the Barcelona DNA, which took him, and everyone else, a while to crack. It didn’t go too well early on, but times are a changing.
Year 1: The Perfect Season
After two seasons of Real Madrid titles, the tide turns. Pep Guardiola changes Barcelona despite not making too many personnel changes, and turns Lionel Messi into the best player in the world. Barcelona beat Real Madrid (under Juande Ramos for most of the season) twice: 2-0 in the Nou Camp match and a historic 6-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, winning their first league title since 2006, not to mention the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey. Real Madrid finish second, nine points behind.
2-0, Lionel Messi & Samuel Eto’o
Real Madrid 2 (Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Ramos) Barcelona 6 (Thierry Henry x2, Lionel Messi x2, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique)
Year 2: The Beginning of the Galacticos 2.0
Real Madrid bring in Karim Benzema, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo to turn the tide in the league and Europe, failing in both. Barcelona add Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the mix which doesn’t work perfectly, but is enough to win another league title and win the Clasico two more times, 1-0 and 2-0. Barcelona win the league title 3 points ahead of Real Madrid, although it wasn’t that close. They lose only once in the league all season.
Barcelona 1 (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) Real Madrid 0
Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 2 (Lionel Messi, Pedro)
Year 3 – The Arrival of Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho arrives to turn the tide in the rivalry, and fails on his first year. Barcelona win the league title with a four point edge over Real Madrid, knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League semifinal before winning the trophy and deliver that famous 5-0 blow. Real Madrid do manage to beat Barcelona for the first time since 2008 in the Spanish Cup Final, 1-0.
Barcelona 5 (David Villa x2), Xavi, Pedro, Jeffren) Real Madrid 0
Real Madrid 1 (Cristiano Ronaldo) Barcelona 1 (Lionel Messi)
Champions League, First Leg: Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 2 (Lionel Messi x2)
Champions League, Second Leg: Barcelona 1 (Pedro) Real Madrid 1 (Marcelo)
Spanish Cup Final: Real Madrid 1 (Cristiano Ronaldo) Barcelona 0
Year 4: A Change at the top
After three consecutive league titles, Barcelona concede this one to Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho. Both teams are knocked out in the semi final of the Champions League, and while they Barcelona win the Supercoppa and knock Real out of the Spanish Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo wins a match at the Camp Nou for the first time, signaling things are changing.
Real Madrid 1 (Karim Benzema) Barcelona 3 (Alexis Sanchez, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas)
Barcelona 1 (Alexis Sanchez) Real Madrid 2 (Sami Khedira, Cristiano Ronaldo)
Copa Del Rey, First Leg: Real Madrid 1 (Cristiano Ronaldo) Barcelona 2 (Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal)
Copa del Rey, Second Leg: Barcelona 2 (Pedro, Dani Alves) Real Madrid 2 (Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema)
Year 5 – Barcelona rule the league, but not Real
A new day – Guardiola no longer the manager, but Barcelona romp through the league, and are heading into the second Clasico of the season with a 16 point lead over Real Madrid. Real took the Super Cup title and knocked Barcelona out of the Spanish Cup with a win at the Camp Nou that felt like it was more humiliating than the 1-3 scoreline suggested.