Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of the most historically successful clubs in the world and it is every footballer's dream to play for either of them.
There is no rivalry in club football like the one between Real Madrid and Barcelona. They have been constantly at each other's necks throughout history, battling for supremacy. The fact that they'd have some of the very best players in the world playing for them only enhanced the grandness of the fixture.
Crossing the Clasico divide is something that's nearly unthinkable, but a few players have done it. Some players who have gone on to play for one club have come close to joining the other.
Today, we take a look at five Real Madrid players who almost joined Barcelona.
5 Real Madrid players who almost joined Barcelona
#5 Alfredo Di Stefano
Alfredo Di Stefano is one of the all-time Real Madrid greats. Di Stefano became famous during his time with Colombian side Millonarios after fleeing from River Plate following a footballers' strike in his home country.
Barcelona saw an opportunity and launched a bid for Di Stefano which Millonarios rejected. Barcelona did not take that seriously as they were aware that River Plate still held the right to sell Di Stefano. The Catalans subsequently talked to River Plate and agreed a deal with them.
However, the RFEF stepped in and refused to sanction the move as Barcelona had not agreed a deal with Di Stefano's current club Millonarios. Meanwhile, Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabeu negotiated a deal for Di Stefano with Millonarios.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona claimed they had an agreement with Di Stefano as well and then the RFEF had to step in once again. They made a bizarre decision whereby Di Stefano would play for Real Madrid and Barcelona in alternate seasons. As per the ruling, he would play for Real Madrid first.
This did not go down well with then Barcelona president Marti Carreto, who decided to bow out of the deal and let Stefano join Real Madrid.
#4 Luka Modric
Real Madrid's signing of Luka Modric was initially deemed a failure. However, the Croatian has since then gone on to become one of the best players in the world and even won the Ballon d'Or after contributing generously to four UEFA Champions League titles.
But he had come close to joining Barcelona before signing for Tottenham Hotspur in 2008. Bojan Krkic Sr., who worked as a scout for Barcelona, revealed back in 2016 that Barcelona had a great chance to sign a young Luka Modric but they chose not to as the club were thinking 'short-to-medium-term'.
“I saw it clearly, also the case of [Frank] Ribery (…) we had it in our hands. Modric was a player with a winning mentality, but the club weren’t thinking about the future, only in the short-to-medium-term,”
“Our contact in Croatia spoke wonders of Modric before he signed for Tottenham. I was working for Barça then and they sent us various DVDs with Dynamo Zagreb and the Croatian national team.”
“Xavi, Iniesta, Toure and Busquets [in the B team]. They didn’t contemplate the option of signing."
“We made Modric travel [here] to get to know him. We were chatting in the Princesa Sofia with him and his girlfriend. We took a coffee. He left a great impression. He was speaking fluent English and he came across as very intelligent and switched on. Very calm.
“He was one of those players that didn’t like coming out in the press much. And he’s demonstrating it with Real Madrid now. He’s a discrete and humble player. I saw that clearly.”