Barcelona's Greatest XI vs Real Madrid's Greatest XI: Who wins?

Lionel Messi and Cristian Ronaldo

La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are historically and currently two of the greatest football clubs on Earth.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have a long standing rivalry known as El Clasico. The rivalry can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, Real and Barca have for a long time been the two most successful clubs in Spain, and as a result, often compete for titles and honours, domestically and beyond. Then there is the political aspect; the rivalry and dispute between Spanish and Catalan nationalism. 

Given the phenomenal success of both clubs over the last century, the list of legends and greats to have turned out at both the Camp Nou and the Bernabeu is extensive. Some of the players which miss out on these XI's include the likes of Diego Maradona and Hristo Stoichkov at Barcelona, and Luis Figo and Raul at Real Madrid. Those omissions may sound shocking, but given the final XI's, it's easy to see how they could miss out.

Barcelona

Nou Camp BarcelonaNou Camp - The home of FC Barcelona

Antoni Ramallets

There were three strong candidates for the title of greatest ever Barcelona goalkeeper, but ultimately it is Antoni Ramallets who comes out on top. A six-time La Liga champion and five-time recipient of the Zamora Trophy, Ramallets won 35 caps for Spain and made seven unofficial appearances for Catalonia. 

Carles Puyol

The first in our Barca back three, Carles Puyol is arguably Barcelona's greatest ever captain. A commanding defender capable of playing at either right-back or centre-back, Puyol injected some much needed nastiness into a Barcelona team better remembered for its beautiful football. He won 21 trophies at Barcelona, including six La Liga's and three Champions League's.

Ronald Koeman

New manager Ronald Koeman during the press conferenceBarcelona legend turned Everton boss Ronald Koeman

Everton boss Ronald Koeman has been linked with a move back to the Camp Nou, and it's easy to see why in many respects. Much like Pep Guardiola, Koeman was a fan favourite who shared a lot of love with the Barca faithful. A prolific defender, the Dutchman won ten trophies in six years with the Catalan giants.

Joan Segarra

The last of our back three, and it was a hard decision to leave out Dani Alves, is Joan Segarra. With the fifth most starts in Barcelona history, Segarra spent his entire 15 year career with his hometown club, winning exactly 15 trophies. Equally capable at left-back or centre-back, Segarra was a graceful defender and a born leader.

Xavi

Moving on to midfield, and in the interest of balance, there really ought to be a Pep Guardiola or Sergio Busquets in here, but as this is a fantasy XI, they are not. Instead, Xavi will sit as the deepest midfielder. A World Cup winner, Xavi is among the greatest midfielders of his generation, and epitomised the Barca style over the last decade. In 17 years in the Barca first team, Xavi won a remarkable 23 trophies.

Michael Laudrup

Michael Laudrup, former Swansea City ManagerMichael Laudrup during his time at Swansea City

Considered by Franz Beckenbauer to have been the greatest footballer of the 1990's, you could stake a claim for Michael Laudrup being worthy of a place in both of these XI's. The great Dane played more games for Barcelona than any other club, but his best years were spread between Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid. A world class midfielder, Laudrup is currently managing in Qatar.

Andres Iniesta 

It would be criminal to leave out either Xavi or Iniesta, so we haven't. Finishing off a midfield trio which may never surrender possession, Andres Iniesta may even be the pick of the bunch, insomuch as his style of play is so perfect for this Barcelona team. Watching Iniesta is a joyous experience; the way in which he delights at receiving the ball in congested areas of the pitch with numerous men marking him and seemingly never loses the ball. Aged 33, the Spaniard is still going strong at the Camp Nou.

Ronaldinho

The tricks, the flair, the unpredictability and the permanent smile plastered on his face. That is the way Ronaldinho is remembered for his time at Barcelona, and the reason he has to be included in this team. For at least two seasons, Ronaldinho was not only the most entertaining, but also the most effective player on the planet. He won five trophies in five years at the club.

Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their third goalLionel Messi celebrates scoring for Barcelona

It is now time for Lionel Messi to be heralded as the greatest player of all-time, greater even than Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff or Ian Ashbee. The records continue to tumble for the little Argentine, who is still yet to hit 30. He has reset the standards. A season in which he scores 40 goals is considered disappointing, and a season in which he hits 60 unremarkable. He is the greatest player in Barcelona's history.

Johan Cruyff

One man Lionel Messi had to overhaul in his quest to become the greatest player of all-time was Johan Cruyff. A fellow Barcelona legend, so much of Barca's success since his arrival in 1973 has to be attributed to him. A colossus both on and off the field, Cruyff has left an indelible mark on the beautiful game. 

Laszlo Kubala

What would an all-time XI be without a great Hungarian of the 1950's? Where Real have Puskas, Barca have Kubala. The lesser known of the duo, perhaps, but equally potent. Kubala spent a decade playing as a second striker in Catalonia, where he scored 131 goals in 186 games, winning 14 trophies.

Real Madrid

General view outside the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu before the matchGeneral view outside the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu before the match

Ricardo Zamora

Over to Los Blancos and Iker Casillas can consider himself bitterly unfortunate to miss out on this XI, but Ricardo Zamora could not be left out of both teams. The greatest Spanish goalkeeper of all-time, Zamora played for Espanyol, Barcelona, Real and Nice, as well as winning 46 caps for Spain.

Chendo

In a more traditional back four than the back three of Barcelona, we start with Chendo at right-back. Perhaps the least technically gifted player in either XI, Chendo was still a superb defender and a terrific servant to Real Madrid. He spent 16 years at the Bernabeu, making 497 appearances.

Fernando Hierro 

Spain's Fernando Hierro misses the goal as England's David Seaman dives to save during the Penalty Shoot Out - Euro 96Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro missing a penalty for Spain vs England

Where Barcelona have Koeman, Real have Hierro, a goal scoring centre-back and cult hero of their own. The Spain legend spent 14 years with Los Blancos, winning 16 trophies, which included three Champions League trophies. You could make a case for Sergio Ramos being included in this XI, but he still shows signs of erratic play and hasn't quite done enough for us just yet.

Jose Santamaria

Quite possibly the easiest inclusion in this XI, Jose Santamaria is one of the greatest centre-backs of all-time, and couldn't be left out of this team. Having joined Real from Nacional in 1957, the Uruguayan spent less than a decade in the Spanish capital, but still managed to win six La Liga titles and four European Cups. 

Roberto Carlos

There will be some debate here, as there always is around Roberto Carlos when it comes to all-time lists of XI's, but the Brazilian is our pick for Real's all-time XI. Capped 125 times by his country, Carlos was a World Cup, La Liga and Champions League winner, who even finished as a runner-up for the 2002 Ballon d'Or, an award which rarely recognises defenders.

Francisco Gento

GentoReal Madrid and Spain great Francisco Gento alongside Steven Gerrard

Now this team may be managed by Mike Bassett as they are lining up 4-4-2, and kicking off our midfield quartet is Francisco Gento. The wingman won a record six European Cups, and appeared in a joint record eight finals. His 18 year spell in Madrid also saw him set the record for the most La Liga titles. One of the most decorated players in the history of the game, Gento had searing pace and chipped in with almost a goal every three games.

Alfredo di Stefano 

Stand-out names are hard to come by in teams containing only world class players, but Alfredo di Stefano is still the star of this team. When it comes to all-round footballers, di Stefano is possibly the greatest of them all. We have put him in at central midfield, but the Argentine magician would flourish wherever you put him. So nearly a Barcelona players, di Stefano instead helped Real become the force they are today, and scored a reasonable 216 goals in 282 games.

Zinedine Zidane

The current Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane was not always the most consistent of performers, but when it came to the big occasions, there were few finer. His best individual displays rank among the greatest a footballing exhibitions in the history of the game. A World Cup, Euro's, Serie A, La Liga, Champions League and Ballon d'Or winner, Zidane was graceful without being showy, and possibly the finest player of his era.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi and Cristian RonaldoTwo legends of the game: Cristian Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 401 goals in 391 games for Real Madrid; that is a record which makes his the club's all-time leading goal scorer, and undroppable in this XI. Ronaldo arrived in Madrid from Manchester United for a world record fee, but he has reached new heights in La Liga, and is without question one of the greatest players to have ever lived.

Ronaldo

From one Ronaldo to another, you could make a decent case for this one being the greatest of the two. Certainly, when it comes to natural ability, the Brazilian Ronaldo was the more gifted of the two. Injuries prevented him from being spoken in the same breath as Pele and Maradona, but only in 2014 was he overtaken as the leading goal scorer in World Cup's. Ronaldo, like Zamora, played for both Barca and Real, but is best known for his time at the Bernabeu, where he scored 104 goals in 177 games. 

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