There are very few rivalries in world football bigger than the one between Spanish giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two clubs have been at the pinnacle of Spanish football over the last century, sharing 60 titles between themselves in La Liga's 92-year old history.
Real Madrid have won the highest number of La Liga titles (34), followed closely in second by Barcelona, who have managed 26. The two clubs have been at loggerheads since the inception of La Liga, and their respective fanbases share an intense rivalry as well.
In such a scenario, a Barcelona player joining Real Madrid, or vice-versa, is almost viewed as a mortal sin by the club's supporters. However, players such as Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Luis Enrique and Samuel Eto'o have crossed the divide and donned their rival club's jersey.
Players crossed the divide more frequently in the earlier decades of 1900s, while the 2000s witnessed fewer players jumping ship due to the increased hostility of fans towards such a player being perceived as a traitor.
Both clubs have always aggressively gone after the best talents in the world. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest names in Barcelona's football history were almost on the verge of signing for their El Clasico rivals before making their names at Camp Nou. Today, we take a look at some of them.
5 Barcelona players who almost joined Real Madrid
#5 Cesc Fàbregas
The first name on our list is a product of the famed La Masia academy - Cesc Fàbregas. The Spanish midfield maestro started off his career at the FC Barcelona youth academy, but left at 16 when he signed for Arsenal at the beginning of the 2003-04 season. Fàbregas enjoyed an illustrious career for the Gunners, and at the end of the 2010-11 season, he decided to leave London in search of a new adventure.
Although it was always destined that Fàbregas will return home to Camp Nou, Real Madrid were unwilling to give up without a fight. The 33-year old Spaniard revealed that he was approached by ex-Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón but had to turn down their advances.
In an interview, Fàbregas said, "That you are wanted by Madrid, one of the biggest teams in history, is important." When asked about his reply to Calderon, Fàbregas admitted he did not say "No" but instead said, "not now".
Fàbregas signed for the Catalans, where he enjoyed a three-year spell, winning a host of titles including La Liga, Copa Del Rey, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup.
#4 Ivan Rakitić
Another Barcelona midfielder who almost made the move to their Clasico rivals is Croatia's midfield enforcer - Ivan Rakitić. After a few incredible seasons at Sevilla, Rakitić was one of the hottest properties in world football, with the biggest clubs vying for the Croatian's signature.
One of these clubs were Real Madrid, but the now 33-year old felt his playing style was more suited to Barcelona's gameplay and made the switch from Sevilla to Camp Nou in 2014.
Ivan Rakitić has been one of the more influential players for the Blaugrana in recent times, making 200 appearances for the club before moving back to Sevilla last season. It is hard to assess whether the Croatian would have enjoyed more success at Real Madrid, but the prospect of seeing the Croatian duo of Modric and Rakitic in Real Madrid's midfield is one of the greatest "What Ifs" in world football.