BARCELONA – Leo Messi will wear the captain’s armband for the first time this Saturday at the Alfredo Di Stéfano stadium. It will not be the first time that I step on the grass of the small merengue stadium since I already did it during a concentration of the Argentine national team … But, who knows, it could be the last as a Barcelona player.
A little more than two and a half months before his contract ends and without knowing for sure what his intention for the future is, Leo will become, equaling Sergio Ramos, the absolute king of the Classic, contesting the number 45 and willing to break a streak of six without scoring a goal as the leader of a Barça that victory would catapult to first place in the League and become the favorite in the title race, the 11th in his career.
Until today there are 44 games that Messi has faced Real Madrid, scoring 26 goals in 19 wins, 11 draws and 14 defeats. It premiered the night Ronaldinho was shown, in November 2005, being a secondary luxury in the 0-3 with which Rijkaard’s Barça crushed the team led by Wanderley Luxembourg. From there, however, his reign in the Classic has been absolute.
It seems impossible to choose a Classic to elevate Messi, so much so that this could be the top-ten of his duels with the great rival.
Messi played his first Clásico on Ronaldinho’s famous night and the second, in October 2006, suffered a defeat (2-0). He was still in the shadow of the Brazilian but his future reign was already guessed when on March 10, 2007, Barça received Capello’s Madrid at the Camp Nou a week after losing the lead in Seville and leading the merengues by five points.
With 19 at his back he scored two goals in 27 minutes to consecutively tie Madrid’s first two advantages that he had achieved through Van Nistelrooy and in added time, when the 2-3 scored by Sergio Ramos seemed definitive, he got a draw that maddened the Camp Nou.
Messi was always good at the Bernabéu and although his personal exhibitions have been many, none will remain to be remembered, on a global level, like the night that Barça achieved the biggest win ever seen in the Madrid sanctuary.
That 2-6 of matchday 34 of the 2008-09 season, on May 2, 2009, will remain for the annals of club history due to the crushing that Guardiola’s team submitted to Juande Ramos’ Madrid, which advanced soon, by means of Higuaín, on the scoreboard but he already went to rest 1-3 below and that after cutting through Sergio Ramos he ended up surrendered to the magnificence of the Barça team. Leo scored a double (1-3 and 2-5) in a day that the League was practically sentenced.
From 5-0 in 1994 to 5-0 in 2010, it was the first face-to-face between Guardiola and Mourinho as Real Madrid coach in what would end up being a classic within the Clásico. That November 29, Barça celebrated the 110th anniversary of its foundation in style with a superb little hand in which Messi, curiously, did not score a goal.
The Argentine, booked at the end of the first half with 2-0 on the scoreboard, was nevertheless an exceptional protagonist. He started by sending a ball to the crossbar before starting the 1-0 play that Xavi scored, assisted Villa in 3-0 and 4-0 and ended the match being attacked in unison by Carvalho and Sergio Ramos, who was sent off.
THE CONTINUATION OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE
On April 27, 2011, a week after losing the Cup final at Mestalla, Real Madrid and Barça met again in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals. The game came especially hot due to an explosive press conference by Guardiola the night before in which he described Mourinho as “the fucking master” in the press room, granting him “his particular Champions” and stating that his team only wanted to win in the countryside…
He did it in a magnificent way (0-2) and with Messi in a stellar plan, scoring the two goals for the Barça team, which in this way put a foot and a half in the final, which he would end up winning at Wembley against Manchester United.
THE FINGER IN VILANOVA’S EYE
August 17, 2011. Barcelona and Real Madrid in search of the title of the Spanish Super Cup, which is defined at the Camp Nou after the 2-2 at the Bernabéu. Iniesta scores and Cristiano Ronaldo draws soon, until on the brink of halftime Leo scores 2-1. With the fans celebrating the title Benzema equals seven minutes from the end and when overtime is supposed, two minutes from 90, Messi scores 3-2 amid the delirium of the Barça fans …
From there, however, the party ends in tangana. Already in added time, a very hard tackle from Marcelo to Cesc in front of the benches leads to a great tangana between all the protagonists and Jose Mourinho attacking the then second coach of Barça, Tito Vilanova, whom he puts a finger in the eye. “I don’t know who Tito is,” said the Portuguese coach slyly. But the title, and the euphoria, remained in Barcelona with Leo as the great leader.
DOUBLE WITH RONALDO
Probably the Classic of October 7, 2012 was the zenith of the duels, by significance, between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. It was not, at all, decisive in the luck of the League and ended with a draw (2-2) at the Camp Nou, but Argentine and Portuguese were the two great protagonists of the day, scoring both goals for their teams in the only Vilanova’s season as Barça’s first coach.
Leo had 18 goals in 26 Clásicos when, on March 23, 2014, Real Madrid received Barça at the Bernabéu as leader and with a four-point advantage over the Barça team led by Gerardo Martino. The victory for Barça was non-negotiable if he wanted to continue aspiring to the title and although the Argentine star managed to equal two shortly before the break, already in the second half, from a penalty, Cristiano scored the 3-2 that left the Catalan team on the edge of the collapse.
There he reappeared, however, in all his fullness Leo to turn the scoreboard around. First he transformed a penalty committed on Neymar and then repeated from eleven meters in a foul suffered by Iniesta to end up giving the triumph, 3-4, to Barcelona in what was his second hat-trick, and until today last, in a Classic .
AL BERNABÉU T-SHIRT
April 23, 2017, matchday 33 of the League. Barça goes to the Bernabéu six points behind Madrid (78-72) and knowing that everything that is not winning will definitively sentence the championship. Shortly after half an hour Leo equals Casemiro’s initial 1-0 and after Rakitic scores 1-2 James Rodríguez, minute 85, achieves an equalizer that is suspected of being final …
Until in added time, ten seconds after the 92 minutes set as the limit by the referee, an imperial ride by Sergi Roberto ends with a center behind Iniesta that is finished off first by Messi to the net to get the 2- 3 definitive … And amid the dejection of the Madrid players, the Argentine star takes off his shirt and, holding it with both hands, displays it as a tribute to the Barça fans located in the upper part of the Merengue stadium. An image for the story that accompanied the celebration, a month and a half earlier, after 6-1 at PSG.
SENTENCE IN DECEMBER
On matchday 17 of the 2017-18 season, an unstoppable Barça (13 wins and 3 draws) visits the wounded Real Madrid, eight points behind, in the white sanctuary. For Zidane’s team, victory is absolutely essential to maintain hopes of hunting down Valverde’s team … But Barça passes him over with an unquestionable 0-3.
After finishing the first half without goals, Luis Suárez scored after Sergi Roberto’s assistance ten minutes before Messi achieved the 0-2 penalty by Carvajal’s hand. In added time Aleix Vidal closed the victory … assisted by Leo Messi.
THE LAST VICTORY … UNTIL TODAY
The last time Messi beat Real Madrid was on March 2, 2019, on matchday 26 of the League in a Clásico played at the Bernabéu, again, in which Real Madrid, again, needed to win at all costs. if he wanted to keep a minimum hope of hunting down the Barça team in the championship.
Leo did not score, although he touched the goal twice in the first half, before Rakitic sentenced a Clásico that left the League practically sentenced. From there, the last three duels between the two teams, with the Argentine star on the pitch, resulted in two Madrid victories and a draw.
This Saturday, with his premiere in Valdebebas, Messi will play the 45th Classic of his career. Who knows if the last Barça dress …