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5 most controversial El Clasico moments in the 21st century

Lionel Messi gets into a spat with Sergio Reguilon
Lionel Messi gets into a spat with Sergio Reguilon
Nnanna Mba

There isn't a lover of football who doesn't know just how intense the rivalry is between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but few realise that it was not always rooted in sports. The conflict between the two Spanish giants has spanned the last 80 years and has had heavy influence both politically and economically.

The 20th century witnessed a notable footballing feud grow between the two sides, and the world watched as a 1943 Copa semi-final became one of the most defining games in the history of El Clasico, as Real Madrid won the game 11-1. Barcelona fans were banned from travelling to the Spanish capital for the game, while stones and coins were thrown at the Blaugrana players throughout the game.

Such matches, along with Catalonia's independence struggle and extremely radical fan bases, formed the foundation of an unending rivalry that has long surpassed the casual dislike between other footballing clubs.

El Clasico has seen all-out brawls breaking out on the pitch between the opposing sides, and refereeing decisions that could make you swear the officials were bought. Each derby comes with an incident with a potential capacity to disrupt the entire game, and while players and coaches are now very likely to be fined for any misdemeanours, it doesn't always stop the players and their fans from getting riled up easily.

With the next El Clasico only hours away, let's take a look at the five most controversial moments of the last two decades.


Honourable mention: Barca fans throw a pig's head at Luis Figo

Luis Figo, who had played for Barcelona, made a ÂŖ37 million move to their nemesis club Real Madrid in the summer of 2000. During a derby at the Nou Camp later that year, the Blaugrana faithful came prepared to bombard the former Barca man with a good number of items that included whiskey bottles, golf balls, cigarette lighters, and infamously - a pig's head.


#5 Zinedine Zidane squares with Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane
Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane and Luis Enrique had their first match-up as managers of the El Clasico sides in 2016.

The duo once had a well-publicised clash in 2003 that saw the current Real Madrid manager receive a yellow card. Zidane had caught former Barca defender Carles Puyol with a flailing arm, and Enrique was the first player to confront the Madrid man. Zidane, perhaps already incensed, did not waste any time with words, but instead, proceeded to push Enrique in the face.

Barca fans were, to put it mildly, provoked when Zidane received only a yellow card for his actions. Enrique has since come out to state that he has no bad memories from that day.


#4 Pepe stamps on Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi and Pepe
Lionel Messi and Pepe

In 2012, during the Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg, it was just another day at the office for Lionel Messi. The Argentine was intent on wreaking havoc on Real Madrid's defence right in the Santiago Bernabeu.

Perhaps letting his frustration get to him, Pepe decided to slow Messi down by deliberately stamping on his hand. Messi had been lying on the ground, and Pepe used that opportunity to take out his frustrations on Messi. Lucky for him, the referee did not see the incident, but the visiting fans, as well as Barca players, were understandably upset.

Later, Pepe would apologise for the incident, which he termed unintentional.

#3 Pep Guardiola uses expletives at a press conference

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho
Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho

While Pep Guardiola managed Barcelona in 2011, Jose Mourinho was in charge of Real Madrid. Notably, Mourinho is perhaps the only manager capable of riling Guardiola into a 45-minute rant during a press conference which contained some profanities.

Lashing out at Mourinho for calling him Pep, and responding to assertions from the former Madrid coach about his criticism of referees, Guardiola ranted:

"As senor Mourinho has called me Pep, I'm going to call him Jose. Tomorrow at 8.45pm we will face each other on the pitch. Off the pitch he's won. He's been winning off the pitch all season. Let them give him a Champions League for it so he can enjoy it and take it home. In the press room he is 'el puto jefe' (the f***ing boss) and the one who knows more than everyone else."

#2 Sergio Ramos wildly kicks Lionel Messi

Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi
Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi

It doesn't come as a surprise to any Barcelona fan that he's on this list. Ramos has been a troublesome part of many El Clasico controversies, but his worst comes in form of a wild tackle against Lionel Messi in 2010.

Barca angrily rallied against Ramos, who received a red card for his efforts, but the consequences of his tackle exceeded the game. International Spanish players on both teams grew a lot of animosity towards each other, with Gerard Pique making his ill-feelings about Ramos very clear. Players like Iker Casillas and Xavi helped to settle the matter, but there is no love lost between the sides.


#1 The Jose Mourinho eye poke

Jose Mourinho pokes Tito Vilanova's eye
Jose Mourinho pokes Tito Vilanova's eye

By even El Clasico standards, Mourinho's antics in 2011 were spectacularly unacceptable. During the curtain raiser of the season in Spain, Marcelo picked up a red card after wildly fouling Cesc Fabregas, which prompted a violent brawl on the field.

While players were punching and pushing each other (along with getting their fair share of red and yellow cards), Mourinho took it to the next level by seeking out Tito Villanova and poking his eye. The then-assistant coach reacted by pushing Mourinho away, unable to do much else.

Edited by Anthony Akatugba Jr.

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