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Top 5 historic moments from the Atletico Madrid-Barcelona rivalry

Liam Flin
Editor's Pick
6.00K   //    Timeless

While El Clasico may boast the title of Spains most infamous derby, one half of said rivalry Catalan giants Barcelona are not averse to a heated affair with Reals cross-city foes Atletico Madrid. Separated by over 600 kilometres of road, it wasnt geography which sparked the friction between the two. Instead, it was success.With more than 30 Spanish League titles between them, both Barcelona andAtletico have pioneered the advances in their nations game, along with bitter rivals Real Madrid. And such domination has formulated a triangle of hatred.Barring an under-par campaign, believe me weve seen it from all of them, the trio tend to top La Liga time and time again. And when any of them meet, it is always a feisty affair. Having accumulated six-points each from their first two matches, this weekend sees the resumption of the ongoing Atletico-Barcelona battle. With both teamsnot having conceded so far this league season, tensions will be very high indeed.Tenacious and tangible these encounters can be, yes, but given what it hasserved up in the past, theres always room for a little magic to flourish. From stellar strikes to humbling, significant moments in the game, heres a look at the five most iconic moments from the Atletico-Barcelona rivalry.

#5 Swan-song Strike for Ron

Ronaldinho bicycle kick goal Barcelona Atletico Madrid
Ronaldinho’s bicycle-kick goal against Atletico Madrid was his last in a Barcelona shirt

Over 200 appearances, almost 100 goals and a career glistening with adept skill and sublime entertainment, Ronaldinho Gaúcho is a Barcelona legend and remains a loved character in the game. If he wasn’t promoting the latest soft drink, he was making a mockery of La Liga defences with his unrivalled trickery and mean eye for goal. And it was a trip to the Vicente Calderon where the Brazillian found the net for the final time in a Barcelona shirt.

It was a snapshot, yet wonder strike of a goal – blink and you miss it. The ball was whipped into the box and Ronaldinho diverted the ball past Abbiati into the net with a well-timed bicycle kick. Even by his standards it was exceptional and one of his best. 

In some respects it was the hallmark of an era’s close; Ronaldinho would soon depart, as would Samuel Eto’o and Deco, while Thierry Henry and Yaya Touré would be on their way a couple of seasons later. A new crop of talent would soon be added in the forms of Gerard Piqué and David Villa and Ronaldinho would soon be just a memory. 

Mastering the midfield role in his time at Barcelona, Ronaldinho said farewell in typical style with some divine acrobatics and few players match the description of ‘iconic’ more perfectly. 

#4 A very Messi hat-trick

Messi hat-trick Barcelona Atletico Madrid
Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick when Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 5-0

Seldom do we view a Lionel Messi hat-trick as such a spectacle, given how often we see it. But there was something particularly ingenious about the part his trio of goals played in Barcelona’s 5-0 mauling of Atletico back in September 2011. David Villa’s opener and a Miranda own goal capped off the scoring, but it was the little Argentine’s dynamic dribbling and death finishing which stole the show. In fact, there was nothing ‘Messi’ about it, although the defending was a touch poor.  

For his first, Messi rounded a defender after collecting the ball from a throw-in and he then placed the ball in the far corner of the net. Messi’s second looked just as easy, as the four-time Ballon d’Or winner weaved his way through a demoralised Atletico back-line before finding the net with a vicious close-range strike. To conclude, Messi drove down the flank, cut inside and nutmegged Thibaut Courtois to further convey his elegance and precision on the ball.  


The result, and namely the manner in which it was inflicted, did really highlight the gulf in class between the two at the time and it came at the core of one of Barca’s best campaigns. Messi is far more than a revelation. In many respects, he is already a legend and it is moments of majesty and wizardry like this hat-trick that continue to mould him into the incredible player he is. 

#3 Long-range Rivaldo

Rivaldo Barcelona goal
Rivaldo scores for Barcelona (File photo)

The crowd are locked in a moment of disbelief, the culprit takes a bow and expectations have been defied – I’m of course talking about the annual (if that) treat of a half-way line goal that serves as an almighty feast for the eyes. Cast your mind back to the penultimate game in Barcelona’s 1997/98 season – the Catalan club had already wrapped up the domestic title, but midfield dynamo Rivaldo had one last treat in store for the Blaugranes. 

Atletico shot-stopper Molina had drifted off his line and possession was with the home side. Rivaldo had the ball at his feet and the rest, as they say, is history. A speedy pivot and the Brazillian lofted an attempt towards the Atletico goal-mouth with his left boot only to wrong foot the Atleti keeper and find the back of the net from distance.

The game lacked intent and purpose given the circumstances, but Rivaldo certainly caught the eye with such a memorable strike and Barcelona went on to win the game 5-2. Not only was it audacious, effective in execution and simply mouth-watering, it once again captured the tale of that season.

Rivaldo had spearheaded Barca’s title triumph with 19 league goals and 28 in total. If you can recall a more indelible strike in Barcelona’s recent history, I’d be impressed. 

#2 A gallant Godin header

Diego Godin goal Barcelona Atletico Madrid
Diego Godin scored the equalising goal against Barcelona that gave Atletico Madrid the La Liga title

Snapping at the heels of routine leading Real and Barcelona pack all season long, and with a Champions League final on the horizon, Atletico’s triumph over the latter on the final day of the 2013/14 season shattered the annual El Clasico exchange of La Liga ownership. Diego Simeone’s boys became the first club in a decade to lift the Spanish title that weren’t Barca or Real and thus a slice of history was made. 

Along with the jubilation it generated for the Atletico faithful, it also had repercussions for a Catalan side which had gone a whole season without silverware for the first time since 2007/08. A draw on the final day was the key and it was none other than club captain devoted Diego Godin who pounced with the header in the 49th minute to equalise and take the La Liga title. 

The goal itself embedded courage, a bold physical presence and pure desperation to win. It encapsulated the industrious DNA of Simeone’s side which had driven them all season long and shook up the Spanish footballing world for the first time in many a year.

Although Atletico were subjected to defeat by derby rivals Real in the Champions League final the following month, their campaign as a whole was a memorable one and deserved to be capped off in such a heroic manner. 

#1 Messi\'s title-winning wonder

Lionel Messi goal Atletico Madrid
Lionel Messi helped Barcelona clinch the title at the Vicente Calderon, exacting revenge for the previous season

Given the rich history the Atletico-Barca tie offers up, it seems ludicrous to see an event which unfolded just over three months ago take top spot, but Lionel Messi can work magic and it was the Argentine’s sublime effort against the Rojiblancos back in May which affirmed the Catalan club’s superb historic treble.

Barcelona merely had to equal Real’s result to secure the 2014/15 league title so, in some circumstances, a point would have sufficed. But Luis Enrique’s boys shrugged off the challenge of Atletico in a testing match-up to go one better and win the game. 

After dealing the ball to Pedro on the edge of the box, the Spaniard played a speedy one-two to set up Lionel inside the area, who took it to the side before slipping it into the far corner of Jan Oblak’s goal. A methodical and fantastically crafted goal it was, but why so significant? 

Firstly, following a season in the shadow of arch nemeses Real Madrid, a title win for Barcelona was vital to ensure they remain a force in Europe as well as Spain. More importantly though is the mental boost it initiated ahead of the Copa Del Rey encounter three days later and the Champions League final in early June. 

Ending the campaign with a draw, albeit a title-securing one, would have undoubtedly set a negative tone in the Barca camp. But by getting one over such noteworthy opposition at a crucial stage in the title-race, they ignited a perfect finish to a season that will live long in the memory of Barcelona fans. 

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Liam Flin
Writer for the Racing Post
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