Oral history of four clasicos in 18 days


Over the following month, Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet thrice. They face one another over two legs in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey, on Thursday and once more, in the return sport, on April 5. In the center of these two matches, they meet at Camp Nou in what may very well be a vital LaLiga sport on March 19.

Clasicos are all the time exhausting, emotionally charged affairs, however much more so when there are two trophies on the road. While Barca did thump Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa last final month, there’s nonetheless a sense Xavi Hernandez’s workforce must show themselves in opposition to a Madrid aspect that gained LaLiga and the Champions League final season. Knocking them out of the cup over two legs en path to the ultimate would do exactly that.

– Copa del Rey Clasico! Barcelona vs. Real Madrid on ESPN+

Meanwhile, Barca’s shock loss to Almeria has given Madrid a lifeline in LaLiga. Carlo Ancelotti’s aspect will likely be fancying their probabilities of closing the hole additional, having moved inside seven factors of the leaders. A Clasico win might minimize the hole to four heading into the ultimate stretch of the marketing campaign, and would actually check Barca’s psychological energy and resilience.

If three video games in a month appears wild in 2023, you do not have to return too far for the final time these everlasting rivals had this many epic clashes in such swift succession. Back in 2011, four conferences in 18 days pushed the rivalry between Madrid and Barca to the very edge. It introduced the worst out of coaches Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, noticed Madrid topped Copa del Rey champions and helped Barca on their path to a LaLiga and Champions League double.

The fallout to every fixture was extra spectacular than the final. Guardiola famously referred to as Mourinho “the f—ing boss of the press room,” whereas the Portuguese supervisor performed up theories about referees and UEFA favouring Barca. There had been seven objectives, 5 purple playing cards and several other damaged friendships between Spain internationals who had gained the World Cup collectively simply 9 months earlier.

The explosive scenes witnessed in 2011 are unlikely to be matched. Coaches and gamers concerned in these video games nearly 12 years in the past have since admitted that either side had been responsible of going too far at instances.

To keep in mind what occurred, ESPN spoke to folks on either side of the Clasico divide throughout these four matches, together with Raul Albiol (Madrid defender), Marcelo (Madrid left-back), Muniz Fernandez (referee), Adriano (Barca full-back), Sandro Rosell (Barca president), Aureli Altimira (Barca health coach) and Jordi Roura (Barca coach). Their reminiscences are offered together with archival quotes to inform the fullest story of that epic spell for these everlasting rivals.

With extra reporting by Moises Llorens and Rodrigo Faez

Game One: April 16, 2011 (LaLiga)

The first assembly between the 2 sides arrived with Barca firmly established as the perfect aspect in Europe. They had gained back-to-back LaLiga titles beneath Guardiola and had been in pursuit of a second Champions League trophy in three seasons.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

The response by Madrid? They appointed Jose Mourinho in an try to finish Barca’s home dominance. However, Barca had gained the primary assembly between the 2 sides 5-0 at Camp Nou in November 2010. Madrid went into this sport on the Santiago Bernabeu eight factors behind Barca on the high of LaLiga.

Fernandez, referee for the primary of their four video games: “A referee for this type of match is accustomed to having a lot of experience. One of the qualities to officiate a match like this is the psychological aspect. If you’re not prepared to face a match of huge tension or rivalry, you’re not even qualified to be in the Primera Division.

“At that point, I used to be fortunate sufficient to referee two Clasicos. The relationship between the coaches and the gamers was not superb. You might really feel the stress on the pitch. We all knew that one membership was on observe to win LaLiga and the opposite, Madrid, with their model of soccer, was making an attempt to cease that. There was super stress on the pitch.”

Rosell, Barca president 2010-2014: “There was so much of stress in the media throughout that interval. The workforce was taking part in very well and we had been all assured we might come via these four video games in opposition to Madrid nicely.


Marcelo, Madrid defender 2007-2022: “There was a league game and I thought we were playing in the Champions League … it was confusing. Honestly, it was really strange. I don’t think it was good for football because everyone waited all year to see a game between Madrid and Barca and it lost the [magic] … just for a moment.”

Mourinho was not going to play Barca at their very own sport. Instead, as he had accomplished together with his Inter Milan aspect when knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League in 2010, he went for pragmatism over aesthetics, making an attempt to nullify Barca by selecting centre-back Pepe as a defensive midfielder.

Roura, Barca analyst beneath Guardiola: “We were not surprised to see Pepe as a midfielder keeping in mind the Madrid coach was Mourinho.”

It did not work. Madrid couldn’t get the three factors they wanted. Albiol was despatched off in the second half and Messi transformed the ensuing penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo saved the sport for Madrid, scoring a penalty to tie the match, which noticed Fernandez award seven yellow playing cards in addition to Albiol’s purple.

At full-time, Mourinho moaned that he was “tired of always playing against Barca a man down. It’s mission impossible.”

Adriano, Barca defender 2010-2016: “We had problems with the referees. Pep told us that we had to control our heads, that we knew what we had to do. He told us to forget about the referee, to play and that’s it. And [Madrid] complained that they always had a player sent off, with the kicks they gave us.”

Fernandez: “Being a special fixture and with the rivalry between the sides, it was not easy when it came to refereeing. When the teams want to collaborate it is much easier, but when they are not behaving correctly, you have to make big decisions, which brings more media noise. Before, during and after were high-voltage matches in the best league in the world and it was not easy for us.”

Result: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona

Game Two: April 20, 2011 (Copa del Rey last)

Next up was the Copa del Rey last, performed at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium.

Roura: “We watched a huge number of Madrid games even though the normal procedure was to [study] the opponent’s last five matches and their last game against us. We wanted to control what could be controlled and not miss anything, even though our opponents always used some kind of tactical variant to try and surprise us.”

Altimira, Barca health coach beneath Guardiola: “For this type of games, you don’t need to pull many strings. The players are waiting for these matches to arrive. The motivation comes on its own. You work on the psychological aspect, of course, but the group was experienced, seasoned in those situations and always wanted to win.

“One factor [coaches] Paco Seirul.lo, Lorenzo Buenaventura and I did suggest to Guardiola was two days’ relaxation earlier than the sport. So if the sport was on Saturday, the workforce wouldn’t practice on Thursday. Then, on Friday, the workforce would do some activation work to be contemporary for the sport.”

A fierce 90 minutes ended goalless but not without incident. Pedro had a goal ruled out for Barca, who were furious about what they felt was an Alvaro Arbeloa stamp on David Villa in the first half. After every big decision, referee Undiano Mallenco was surrounded by players from both teams in unsavoury scenes.

Albiol, Madrid defender 2009-2013: “Despite the combating on the pitch and the benches, you study so much from two nice coaches like Mourinho and Guardiola and from two nice groups with nice gamers and an obsession to be higher than one another. Obviously, the picture given was not the perfect, however everybody remembers these video games, which reveals they had been particular matches.”

Rosell: “The relationship with Real Madrid was superb institutionally. There was so much of respect. Another factor is what occurred on the pitch. There had been some robust moments and there was so much of stress, however everybody defends their very own pursuits.”

The sport went to extra-time, with Ronaldo heading in the winner to finish Madrid’s three-year anticipate a trophy. His teammate Angel Di Maria was despatched off on the finish of a foul-ridden encounter for a second reserving.

Marcelo: “The final in Valencia is the Clasico I remember best of any I played in, when [Ronaldo] scored the header. I do a one-two with Di Maria, Di Maria crosses and Cris scores. I think because that was the first trophy [of the Mourinho era] and, above all, because it was against the best Barca ever.”

Adriano: “They kicked the crap out of us in that final. I know Marcelo very well, and I did not think he wasn’t like that. He was always a very technical player. They felt helpless and that’s how it came out, with kicks.”

The celebrations did not go in addition to the ultimate for Madrid, with Sergio Ramos hilariously dropping the trophy off the bus, however the scene had been set for the looming Champions League semifinal between the 2 sides, with Barca out for revenge.

Result: Real Madrid 1-0 Barcelona

Game Three: April 27, 2011 (Champions League semifinal, first leg)

The first two conferences clearly took their toll on the coaches. Before the Champions League semifinal first leg, Guardiola bemoaned Pedro’s disallowed purpose in the Copa last. Mourinho mocked Guardiola for criticising a refereeing resolution, which in flip compelled Guardiola to unload in the pregame information convention.

“In this [news conference] room, he’s the f—ing boss, the f—ing guy and I won’t compete with him here,” Guardiola stated on the Bernabeu.

Roura: “Guardiola was very demanding. He had a very innovative spirit. He asked for every last detail on the opposition. He wanted everything to be very precise, how they played, what they could do, the changes they could make … he wanted to see everything.

“Every sport throughout that sequence was key to win the psychological battle in preparation for the following fixture. We needed to put up with so much — maybe an excessive amount of — however I keep in mind that when Guardiola did that information convention in Madrid, when he stated that Mourinho was ‘the f—ing boss,’ the workforce obtained him like by no means earlier than again in the eating room on the resort with an enormous ovation.”

Adriano: “Pep was very intelligent with the ‘f—ing boss’ information convention. He studied every little thing. What he did was change the foundations of the sport fully. That information convention was the important thing to the match and the tie.”

A tense game followed, arguably the fiercest of the four. Theatrics, spite and bad blood were on full display as players exaggerated the impact of tackles, mobbed the referee and brawled as they left the pitch at half-time. Midfielder Seydou Keita made a beeline for Arbeloa, whom Barca were particularly unhappy with following his clash with Villa in the Copa final and a challenge on Pedro in this game. Everyone else piled in by the tunnel in front of referee Wolfgang Stark. Barca’s substitute goalkeeper, Jose Pinto, was eventually sent off for a slap on Arbeloa.

Early in the second half, Pepe was dismissed for a high challenge on Barca defender Dani Alves. Replays showed his foot was high, but he did not touch the Brazilian, infuriating Madrid, who posted a video on YouTube after the game titled: “TV photographs present Pepe by no means touched Alves.” Mourinho was sent off, too, for taking his protests over Pepe’s red too far.

From there, Messi took over, scoring twice in a 2-0 Barca win. The second was a brilliant individual effort.

Altmira: “Having Messi was an enormous benefit. We had recognized him since he was younger. Playing as a false 9 at instances was nothing new for him. [Assistant coach] Tito Vilanova put him there in an U16 sport. It was already a powerful Barca workforce, however for those who then add the Messi issue, it made us even higher. Lionel was all the time exceptionally gifted and he mounted issues for us many instances.”

Adriano: “What Messi did in the primary leg was spectacular, it was the important thing. We knew what he was going to do. When he was on fireplace, he was unstoppable for the opposition — which was very enjoyable for us. He gave us immense confidence. Knowing what the sport was going to be like and the ambiance, the worry was that they’d kick him and take him out of the sport.”

Now it was Mourinho’s turn to rant, with his focus falling on Pepe’s red card rather than Messi’s heroics.

“If I say to the referee or to UEFA what I really feel, my profession ends at this time,” he said after the game. “Why? Why [Tom Henning] Ovrebo, why [Massimo] Busacca, why [Frank] De Bleeckere, why Stark [for Barca games]? Why? Why? I do not know if it is Barca’s sponsorship with UNICEF. They need to be in the ultimate and that is it. Why ship off Pepe?

“[Guardiola] won one Champions League which I would be embarrassed to have won, with the scandal of Stamford Bridge. And this one he will win the with the scandal of the Bernabeu. I hope one day to have the chance to win the Champions League with Madrid, but without any scandal behind it.”

Marcelo: “Mourinho was an expert at getting in your head. Not was. Is. He changed me defensively. He helped me become more aggressive, to fight. He also managed to change other players. He put things in my head. In that regard, how he talked to the players, how he could change you, he was the best.”

Adriano: “[Madrid] always broke games up because of the helplessness they felt. We played with a very high intensity and they only stopped us by kicking us. It was the only way Mourinho, as a good strategist, found to stop us. We knew we were going to find that. I remember fights between the Spain and Brazil teammates.”

Albiol: “With Spain, the players from Madrid and Barca grew apart, but there were never any fights or disrespect shown. Everyone got on with their own jobs, without exceptions, knowing that once on the pitch we were defending the country. We gave everything for our teammates, whether they played for Barca or any other team.

“The truth [Spain] saved on profitable [they won Euro 2012 the following summer] reveals that the gamers had been fully skilled and that [the fallout from these games] did not have an effect on the nationwide workforce.”

Result: Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

Game Four: May 3, 2011 (Champions League semifinal, second leg)

Barca had one foot in the Champions League final going into the second leg, but the wear and tear between the two teams was evident. In addition to all the complaints about refereeing between matches, Madrid alleged that Sergio Busquets had racially abused Marcelo — something which was never proven.

“Some gamers that use racist insults will play, whereas others cannot,” said Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka, filling in for Mourinho, who watched the game from the hotel after being sent off in the first leg. A suitable spot for him could not be found at Camp Nou.

However, a more placid affair than expected followed.

Altmira: “By that stage of the season, we had hardly any time to coach. The work was already accomplished and it was about taking over board the totally different techniques that may very well be utilized in the video games. That is what we labored on after we had been all on the coaching pitch. It was a superteam that knew the way to get the perfect out of themselves and that confirmed.”

Pedro opened the scoring after a Gonzalo Higuain goal had been ruled out, with Marcelo equalising for Madrid. Barca advanced on aggregate, going on to beat Manchester United in the final.

Rosell: “It was actually satisfying to knock them out of the Champions League and to go on and win the trophy at Wembley, simply because it was to win the league by four factors, hammering them 5-0 at Camp Nou. We are left with that nagging feeling of dropping the Copa last. That last in Valencia with Pedro’s purpose dominated out … It was a disgrace as a result of we might have gained the treble.”

Adriano: “We performed all these video games by the e book, profitable one, drawing two and dropping the Copa last. If we had been to rely the time performed in the four video games, we might most likely solely accumulate the time of one sport, 90 minutes! But you all the time ended up seeing the Madrid’s helpless faces. It was a magical yr in which we performed spectacular soccer. Everyone knew and was speaking about Barca.”

Result: Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid (Barcelona win 3-1 on mixture)


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