Crossing the Divide: Players who have switched between Barcelona & Real Madrid

The rivalries between certain football clubs have become engrained in popular culture in both modern society and years gone by and when it comes to the biggest clubs in the world, things are sure to get heated. Such rivalries can be exacerbated when certain players make the move from one club to the other – Sol Campbell to Arsenal and Carlos Tevez to Manchester City spring to mind. Of course, these transfers aren’t exclusive to English clubs and have extended across the continent into some of the most famous clubs in footballing history, Barcelona and Real Madrid. 

The first-ever player to swap Catalonia for Madrid was Alfonso Albeniz who made the move back at the turn of the last century In 1902. Albeniz had an interesting career, winning trophies at hometown club Barcelona before signing for Los Blancos before they had even become Real Madrid. His ties to the then Madrid FC ran deeper than just playing for them, as Albeniz would later become a Director of the football club, as well as the Spanish Ambassador to the League of Nations. Interestingly, the ‘Real’ prefix was afforded to the Spanish giants by King Alfonso XIII at the start of the 1920s.

In total over 30 players have made the move from Barca to Real including some of the biggest names over the last three decades. Portuguese star Luis Figo infamously made the move in 2000 and Ronaldo played for both with a spell at Iner Milan in-between, although the pair of them had different careers at both clubs. Ronaldo joined the Catalan side following a successful spell at PSV and also a world record fee of nearly $20 million. Over the course of the 1996/97 season, he’d average approximately a goal a game with 47 goals in 49 games. However, his spell at Real Madrid would be where he would assert himself as one of the most capable forwards of all time.

The signing of Ronaldo by Los Blancos came during the time of the Galacticos era of superstars signed by the club each summer, with the Brazilian joining the ranks of Roberto Carlos, David Beckham and the aforementioned Luis Figo. Figo would make roughly the same amount of appearances for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. It was the arrival of the Portuguese flying winger for a then world record fee of €62 million that kickstarted Florentino Perez’ Galacticos spending spree that allowed others such as Ronaldo to make the move. Figo’s move was deemed controversial by the Barcelona faithful, despite the fact that Madrid merely met his high buyout clause.

There have been examples in the modern game of players who have been tipped to make the move from one side to the other such as explosive attacking midfielder Isco who has been regularly portrayed as a figure Barcelona could sign to improve their side. They are really struggling to keep pace with Real and Atletico Madrid this season and the La Liga betting backs this up as they are 8/1 to win the league, so more signings are definitely needed to bolster their team.

Making the move between rival clubs is often one of the most divisive things that a player can do and it’s undoubtedly interesting to read into which players have made the move and their reasons for doing it. Combined with this, the reception from the fans regarding certain players proves that the atmosphere between clubs is more toxic than first thought and that players have to think before they do anything in the modern game.

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