As the world gets ready for arguably the most exciting fixture in Europe tonight, fans are acutely aware of the one change this particular game has. Tonight marks the first time former Real Madrid man Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona ace Lionel Messi will not be featured in El Clasico since December 2007.
While Ronaldo has moved on from Spain to continue his exploits at Italian club Juventus, Messi’s injury in Barcelona’s win over Sevilla last week forces him to opt out of the game.
Despite the Clasico headlines being dominated by the two five-time Ballon d’Or winners for a decade, this month’s clash will prove to be interesting for reasons beyond the two aces. Prior to the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly, El Clasico was still very much the intense match we know now, full of passionate action and drama.
In preparation for tonight's El Clasico, therefore, we have compiled four bizarre moments in the history of the fixture:
#1 Luis Figo's return to Barcelona and the pig's head (2002)
This incident was one to remember in the books of El Clasico for the sheer depravity of it all.
Two years after his controversial move to bitter rivals Real Madrid in 2000, former Barcelona man Luis Figo was set to make his return to his former home Camp Nou, where he was previously vice-captain. His move to the longstanding rivals did not go down well with Barcelona fans who unleashed their anger during this El Clasico.
The November 2002 image of Figo taking a corner kick amid the abuse and the infamous goat's head on the pitch remains etched in the mind of every football fan.
When the Portuguese ace attempted to take a corner kick, he encountered a neo-fascist group called the ‘Boxois Nois’. The members of the group then tried to hit Figo by throwing a head of a suckling pig and a bottle of whisky at him, among other things.
This particular Clasico clash came to be known in history as ‘Derbi de la Vergüenza’ or Derby of Shame.