I am an avid Real Madrid fan. I have always wanted to write about Barcelona from my point of view i.e. that of a madridista. The duel between the two has been rather fascinating and especially over the past 4-5 seasons, the clashes have assumed a bigger stature than ever before.
I was really elated when Real won the La Liga, twice in a row from 2006-2008. Barcelona was in a state of decline and Real was chugging along ok. I say just ok, as they failed to make it past the last 16 of the champions league(where they have been chasing ‘la decima’ i.e. the 10th title) even as La Liga was comfortably sewn up. Leo Messi hadn’t yet begun to weave his magic at Barcelona, Pep was not in the picture and the duo of Deco and Ronaldinho were past their best. Real had the likes of Robben, Sneijder, and Raul with them.
The summer of 2008 was to prove critical. Pep came, out went Deco and Ronaldinho. Eto`o was put up front with Messi and Henry and the club’s playing style, the whole atmosphere changed drastically. Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta became the bulwarks of a style of play, which for the next four seasons would astound the rest of the world and would result in a massive amount of 14 titles! During these four years, the club did spend quite a bit (an accusation they unfairly level at Real, that only they spent and Barcelona didn’t). The likes of Ibrahimovic and Villa were bought for a lot of money as the club went about replenishing its squad. Two significant acquisitions were of Gerard Pique from Man Utd and Javier Mascherano from Liverpool, who arrived for a combined sum of about 33m pounds. Dani Alves was purchased from Sevilla for 25m pounds. Last season, they brought Cesc back from Arsenal and signed the exciting Alexis Sanchez from Udinese.
The major shift in play however, was the False No. 9 role which Lionel Messi now occupies and scores goals for fun! It’s like the opposition defenders are just tiny obstacles along his path and don’t pose a significant threat. The club began to sweep all before them, winning the Champions League twice in 2009 and 2011, with both wins being quite emphatic (as Sir Alex Ferguson would begrudgingly agree). I, as a Real fan, continued to watch these events with appreciation for their efforts, but mostly with sadness because every time Real would lose to Barca (it happened quite a lot in this period and quite emphatically too!) I would be subjected to a lot of ridicule by my Barcelona supporting mates. Barca’s continued dominance led to declarations that this would go on for a long time and I would have no effective rebuttal to that. So you can imagine my glee when a certain ‘Special One’ beat Barcelona and went on to win the Champions League in 2010 with Internazionale. Yeah, I had become this sad. I admit it freely.
In the summer of 2009, Perez returned to Real as president. The guy knows how to loosen the purse strings! Benzema, Ronaldo, Kaka were three high profile purchases as Real spent quite a lot(about 250m Euros) and installed Manuel Pellegrini to oversee Real’s rise to power. But you can`t expect instant gratification in football and more ridicule followed as Barcelona won the league yet again, this time coupled with the ‘you only throw cash at your problems’ taunt. Damn. Life was hell for me. In the summer of 2010, Khedira and Ozil and Di Maria were signed and more importantly, Real secured the services of ‘The Special One’ i.e. Jose Mourinho to overcome Barcelona. Frankly, at this point in time, he looked like the only guy who could do what seemed to be an atlas worthy task! In his first year, Jose beat Barcelona to the Copa Del Ray trophy. Yes. Something to cheer about for madridistas.
Last season however, proved to be what Real fans had been dreaming about for ages. The squad gelled together and Jose set them up very well. The club scored a league record 121 goals in the league with Ronaldo (46), Benzema& Higuain (23 & 25 goals respectively) featuring heavily. The side played with amazing consistency throughout the season, and brought cheers to all their fans, fans that had been pining for the club to see the sort of success they had taken to be their birthright! One memorable match during this run was the 2-1 win at the Nou Camp. Real was level with Barcelona at 1-1 with 20 minutes to go. Given that the past few encounters had ended in defeat, this one, I personally feared, would go the same way. But Ozil and Ronaldo combined and 2 minutes later Real were 2-1 up. They would hold on and the win deflated Barcelona’s title hopes.
You can’t imagine what a wave of joy that match gave to me and to all Real fans. We were ecstatic that we had beaten one of the finest teams of all time. We had struggled and struggled to get here and finally we did.
In conclusion, I’d like to just say that I appreciate Barcelona and their philosophy. They blood their La Masia graduates into the first team, thereby bringing untold benefits to both the club as well as to the players and the Spanish National Team. I hope that these two continue to duel at the highest level for eternity.