As Barcelona and Real Madrid prepare for the 265th instalment of “football’s greatest rivalry” on Saturday we turn the clock back eight years to a ‘Clásico’ image from the Camp Nou that seems to resonate with fans. It features a couple of familiar faces and came after late goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi earned a 2-0 win that just about put the final nail in the coffin that was Madrid’s title defence. Barcelona went on to win the Liga at a canter.
1 Sergio Busquets
An unassuming midfielder whose blood runs red and blue. The son of former Barcelona keeper Carles Busquets, Sergio has been on Barça’s books since 2005, playing for the B team before following Josep Guardiola to the first XI – 2008/09 was his first season. An €80m buy-out clause was added to his contract within months of his debut and a return of six Liga titles and three UEFA Champions League winners’ medals make that look almost shrewd. For Spain he has won the EURO and FIFA World Cup, and, still only 28, has 94 caps.
2 Seydou Keita
Keita was 28 when he arrived at the Camp Nou from Sevilla. The Mali midfielder, whose career began in France with Marseille, Lorient and Lens, was in and out of the starting XI over the next four seasons but the rotation policy appeared to serve him well: reliability was his forte. He won 14 titles in his time at Barcelona before a lucrative 18-month spell in China. Stints at Valencia (where his uncle Salif had played with distinction in the 1970s) and Roma followed and in the summer he joined Qatari outfit El Jaish.
3 Aleksandr Hleb
The leading Belarusian footballer of his generation (he won the nation’s annual gong for best player six times in seven years at one point), Hleb was an effective ball carrier. He made his name at Stuttgart – joining with younger brother Vyacheslav − before linking up with Arsenal in 2005, playing against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League the following year. Two seasons later he was at the Blaugrana, but never settled and a series of loan deals followed. Now 35, he is still playing for club (back at first team BATE) and country.
4 Lionel Messi
Alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi is the finest player of his generation, and right up there with the game’s immortals. Since making his Barcelona debut in 2004 he has rewritten the record books in Spain and the UEFA Champions League and, aged 29, there is more to come. The Argentinian does not shy away on the biggest stage, either: his tally of 21 goals in the Clásico is three more than any other player.
5 Yaya Touré
Tall, athletic and robust, Yaya Touré raised his international profile considerably during Barcelona’s treble-winning 2008/09 season. The midfielder covered as a central defender in the UEFA Champions League final victory over Manchester United in Rome – elder brother Kolo may have been able to give him tips on that. Since 2010 the Ivory Coast international, who had spells in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece and France before arriving in Spain, has been at Manchester City, winning two titles. He is back playing under Guardiola.
6 Éric Abidal
A versatile, tactically aware defender, Abidal started out at Monaco and Lille but it was a move to home-town club Lyon that launched his career. He won the Ligue 1 title in each of his season, also helping France to the 2006 World Cup final, before joining Barcelona in 2007. He quickly settled, a cornerstone of Guardiola’s team’s success before being diagnosed with a liver tumour in March 2011. He had surgery and, incredibly, started the UEFA Champions League victory over Manchester United two months later. Abidal had spells back at Monaco and Olympiacos before retiring in 2014.
Other snap shots
- Barcelona silence Madrid at the Bernabéu
- Maradona’s Napoli reign supreme, 1989
- When Benfica beat Mourinho’s Porto
- When Celtic got the better of Barcelona
- Barcelona sink Arsenal’s ‘Invicibles’
- When Valencia got the better of Barça
- When Paris beat Barcelona’s dream team
- Trezeguet sets up Juve for Madrid win
- When Monaco stunned mighty Madrid
- Ronaldo’s Old Trafford standing ovation
- Liverpool’s Istanbul heroes