What Is El Clásico?

what is el clasico

El Clásico is the name for any match between two of the most historically successful teams in Spanish soccer: Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two have a bitter rivalry, one that goes far beyond the game, including intense player rivalries and political tensions. Read on to learn more about El Clásico, including where it is played, what competitions it is played in, and the history of the rivalry.

Basic Info:

  • Teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid
  • Location: Spain
  • Stadiums: Camp Nou (Barcelona) and Santiago Bernabéu (Real Madrid)
  • First Meeting: May 13, 1902
  • Competitions: La Liga, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España, FIFA Club World Cup


The first El Clásico was played between Barcelona and Real Madrid on May 13, 1902, in a Copa de la Coronación semifinal matchup. This tournament was a precursor to the Copa del Rey, which held its first competition in 1903. While this was their first and only matchup in the competition, the rivalry immediately started bleeding into other leagues and cups.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have had an intense rivalry both on and off the pitch throughout their storied histories. Barcelona and Madrid are two of the largest cities in Spain, and both belong to distinctly unique regions. Barcelona is located in Catalonia, a region that recognizes itself as a separate nation from Spain. On the other hand, Madrid is the Spanish capital. This clash of nationalism has made for historic hatred between the two teams and their supporters.

While this rivalry started over 120 years ago, the animosity between Barcelona and Real Madrid remains today. The teams have faced off over 250 times since the first edition in 1902. Barcelona and Real Madrid regularly face off in high-profile situations, including late rounds in the Copa del Rey and late in a La Liga title race.

Player Rivalries

Rivalries between players are common in El Clásico, including one of the most influential soccer rivalries of all time between Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona). Both Messi and Ronaldo are considered two of the best players to ever grace the pitch. During their time at their respective clubs, Messi won five Ballon d’Or titles, while Ronaldo won four.

László Kubala of Barcelona and Alfredo Di Stéfano of Real Madrid also had a contested rivalry in the 1950s. During their time at their respective clubs, El Clásico was played 26 times. Real Madrid won 13 of those matches, Barcelona won 10, and three matches ended in a draw.

There have also been several high-value transfers between the teams throughout history, which have angered both fan bases, including Alfredo Di Stéfano in 1953 and Luís Figo in 2000. After Figo left Barcelona for Real Madrid, he was welcomed back to Camp Nou by Barcelona supporters throwing bottles, fake bills, and even a knife.


El Clásico is currently played in several domestic and international competitions. The game has also been played in competitions throughout the rivalry’s history that are now defunct. Here is a list of all the competitions El Clásico has been played in, both domestic and abroad:


  • La Liga
  • Copa del Rey
  • Supercopa de España
  • Copa Eva Duarte (defunct)
  • Copa de la Liga (defunct)

European and International

  • UEFA Champions League
  • UEFA Europa League
  • UEFA Super Cup
  • FIFA Club World Cup
  • UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (defunct)
  • Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (defunct)
  • Latin Cup (defunct)
  • Ibero-American Cup (defunct)
  • Intercontinental Cup (defunct)


What teams play in El Clásico?

El Clásico is played between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The name “El Clásico” is the name for any game between the two teams. El Clásico is played in several domestic and international competitions, including La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League.

Is El Clásico a derby?

El Clásico is not considered a derby since it is not a local rivalry. Barcelona and RCD Espanyol de Barcelona are local rivals, and play in the Derbi Barceloní. Likewise, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are local rivals, and play in the Derbi Madrileño.

Who has won El Clásico the most?

As of March 2, 2023, Real Madrid has won 101 El Clásicos, while Barcelona has won 99. El Clásicos have ended in a draw 52 times. This makes El Clásico one of the most closely contested rivalries in all of sports.