Crossing El Clasico’s divide

International breaks are those dull periods when sports newspapers have very little to focus on and so are forced to report nothing stories such as players’ earrings. So, this week Sergio Ramos delighted editors in Spain when he said that he would welcome Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets at Real Madrid. A little later Busquets returned the favour and said that Barca would be lucky to have Ramos. Whilst no one is expecting either player to move, what about those that have made the trek across Spain?

Whilst it is not as extreme as moving barrio in Buenos Aires or changing blue for green in Glasgow, it is a switch that will always cause controversy. Altogether 33 players have moved from one club to the other. In total 17 players from Barca have moved directly to Real Madrid, the first believed to be Alfonso Albeniz Jordana who moved in 1902, whilst three have done the opposite, the last one being Luis Enrique in 1996. A total of 13 players have moved to another club first before then joining their bitter rivals.

Whilst most of the players that have made the move are Spanish, the first foreigner to do so was an Englishman. Charlie Wallace may be known more as the first man to miss a penalty in an FA Cup Final but he became the third known player to make the change when he swapped Barca for Real Madrid in 1906. Six more players would make the move before 1936, the most famous being goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora.

The Spanish Civil War changed things. Juan Hilario left Real Madrid in 1936 and in 1939 he signed for Barca after a spell at Valencia. The story of Alfredo Di Stefano is well known and it wasn’t until 1950 that another player, Alfonso Navarro, would then cross the divide. Still a line that was already drawn now had become a trench.

In 1962 Evaristo de Macedo made headlines in Spain. The Brazilian was banging in goals but Barcelona wanted him to take up Spanish citizenship so he could play for Spain. The forward had played 14 times for Brazil, scoring eight goals and held dreams of partnering Pele to World Cup success. He refused his club’s request, was shown the door and then signed for Madrid, where he would make nowhere near the same impact, but where he still picked up three League titles.

Bernd Schuster was one of the most successful players to have made the move. At Barca he won eight trophies and in 1988 he made the controversial switch. At the Camp Nou he was accused of being lazy but his goals spoke for themselves. His wages also grabbed a few headlines too and at his presentation as a Madrid man he announced that he was closing the book on his time at Barca and while he was going to say nothing bad, he still had issues with his former club.

In the 1990s three of the League’s most entertaining players donned both shirts. Hagi, Michael Laudrup and  Robert Prosinecki all had spells at both clubs. The midfielders dazzled their way up and down Spain. Laudrup was part of Cryuff’s ‘Dream Team’ and his switch to Los Blancos also saw the League title leave Catalonia for the first time in five years. Hagi joined Barca when the club was in decline and Prosinecki suffered with injuries whilst with both clubs.

Javier Saviola was the last player to make the switch. After a spell at Barca which saw him go out on loan to Monaco and Sevilla, he joined Real Madrid on a free transfer in 2007. His time at the club saw him play mainly in one position, the bench. He played just 16 Liga games in two years. He scored four times but it wasn’t enough and he was sent off to Portugal.

Now we come to the most controversial moves. So controversial were they that one bank in Spain recently made an advert where both players spoke about the transfer and its consequences. Luis Enrique moved from Real Madrid to Barcelona and was at the club when Luis Figo moved to Real Madrid. Figo’s move was the start of the Galactico era and it even saw a pig’s head thrown on to the pitch at the Camp Nou when he returned dressed in white. Even now, as the Banco Sabadell proved, this transfer still brings up some strong feelings, even as both players say they regret nothing.

No one is expecting anyone to make the move in the near future, but most will agree that with most stories about Barca or Real Madrid players involving tit for tat childish comments, it was nice to see two players behaving in a mature way this week.