Several of the world’s greatest soccer players have played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, making the Clasico one of the most historic rivalries in the sport. These players include some of the biggest names in the game, having crossed the divide between the two clubs to appear on both sides.
Representing both sides of the Clasico is rare and certainly frowned upon – but that hasn’t stopped a few of the all-time greats from taking the risk and making the jump from one club to the other. It’s a testament to how intense the rivalry is that such an action has become taboo, yet many players have still found success in doing so.
Despite the intense rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, many players have embraced the challenge of crossing the divide and turned out for both teams. It takes a brave spirit to make such a move, but their stories make for some of the most compelling narratives in the world of football. El Clasico is one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, and its intensity stems from the two teams being from the two largest cities in Spain that had completely different political views. The clubs are also some of the wealthiest in the world, which has led to a rivalry so intense that few others can compare. This match has been described as a ‘Clasico’ due to the unique circumstances of this unique rivalry.
Iker Bravo’s move from Barcelona to Real Madrid is a rare example of a player crossing the road between the two Spanish giants. After initially training in Barcelona’s renowned La Masia academy and signing a contract extension with the club, circumstances led to him ending up on loan at Real Madrid via Bayer Leverkusen. It’s certainly a unique story and one that will surely be closely followed.
Crossing the divide between Barcelona and Real Madrid is not for the faint of heart. Over 30 players have had the honor, or the tenacity, to take on this challenge and play for both clubs in their careers. Some players have taken the leap years apart, while others have gone directly from one to the other. The move has often been met with disdain from the fans of the player’s first club.
5 footballers who played for Real Madrid and Barcelona
Appearances/Goals for Barcelona: 249/45
Appearances/Goals for Real Madrid: 239/57
Undoubtedly the most notorious player on this list is Luis Figo. His move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 drew the ire of Barca fans, as they felt betrayed by their former star player. It was a controversial move that firmly entrenched him on the side of Madrid in the ongoing Clasico rivalry.
When Luis Figo made a move from Barcelona to Real Madrid, he was widely regarded as the best player in the world. His signing was a major coup for Real Madrid and helped Florentino Perez win the presidency of the club. Soon after joining Madrid, Figo was awarded the Ballon d’Or, largely for his performances at Barcelona. It was a fitting honor for one of the greatest players ever to represent both sides of the Clasico divide.
Whenever Luis Figo returned to play at Camp Nou, he was met with intense vitriol from Barcelona fans. Despite his stature in the sport, his move to Real Madrid made him public enemy number one in the eyes of many Barca supporters.
After he was pelted with missiles taking corners during a game in 2002, team-mate Michel Salgado said: “By the second or third corner, I turned to Luis and said: ‘Forget it, mate. You’re on your own.”I used to offer Luis the chance to take the short corner, drawing up close to him near the touchline, but not this time. Missiles were raining down from the stands: coins, a knife, a glass whiskey bottle.”
During his time with both teams, Luis Figo made over 200 appearances for each club and won two league titles with Barcelona and two with Real Madrid. He also helped Madrid win in the 2002 Champions League, cementing his place as a player who has succeeded on both sides of the Clasico divide.
Appearances/Goals for Barcelona: 49/47
Appearances/Goals for Real Madrid: 177/104
Unlike Luis Figo, Brazilian Ronaldo is fondly remembered by both Barcelona and Real Madrid fans. This is likely due to his sheer brilliance on the pitch – his quality was undeniable, and he was beloved by supporters of both clubs. Ronaldo only spent one season at Barcelona, but it was one of the most remarkable campaigns any player had ever produced in Spain. He quickly became a fan favorite, and his performance earned him deserved praise.
In the 1996-97 season, Ronaldo hit an incredible 47 goals in 49 games in all competitions. However, a contract dispute at the end of the season saw him leave Barcelona for Inter Milan, setting a new world transfer record that he had just broken by joining Barca from PSV. Ronaldo also won the Ballon d’Or that year – a fitting honor for such an incredible season.
In 2002, Ronaldo returned to Spain when he joined Real Madrid as part of the ‘Galactico’ generation. He went on to win his second Ballon d’Or and the La Liga top scorer, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats at Barcelona and Real Madrid. Despite his brilliance at Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s time at the Santiago Bernabeu only yielded one league title and no Champions League titles. Unfortunately, a series of injuries and weight issues marked the beginning of a long decline for the legendary Brazilian player.
Ronaldo has spoken fondly of his time with both Barcelona and Real Madrid. He previously stated that playing for two of the world’s most successful clubs was an honor and that he respected them both despite the rivalry. He has also credited the experience of playing in El Clasico as helping make him the player he is today.
Appearances/Goals for Barcelona: 217/55
Appearances/Goals for Real Madrid: 76/15
Michael Laudrup, the Danish footballer widely recognized as the best player to come from Scandinavia, was an essential member of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” that won four consecutive La Liga championships in the early 1990s. With his exceptional vision and creative playmaking, Laudrup was widely considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. Frank Beckenbauer, an iconic football manager, praised Laudrup, saying, “Pele was the best of the 1960s, Johan Cruyff conquered the 1970s, Diego Maradona blew away the 1980s, and Michael Laudrup was the star of the 1990s.”
After five outstanding seasons with Barcelona, Laudrup had a disagreement with Cruyff and made an immediate move to Real Madrid in 1994. His first season with the Madrid team was triumphant, as they won their first La Liga title in five years. Laudrup went on to play for Madrid for two more seasons, winning two more La Liga titles in the process. He was a crucial part of the Madrid side that won their first Champions League in 32 years, and his impressive performance earned him a nomination for the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award.
Memorably, Laudrup was on the winning side for two 5-0 Clasico wins, one in his last season with Barcelona and one in his first season with Madrid. These victories highlighted Laudrup’s ability to excel regardless of which team he was playing for. After two successful seasons with Madrid, Laudrup moved to Vissel Kobe in Japan. Later in 2002, a Marca poll declared him the 12th greatest player ever to have played for the Madrid club.
Notoriously, Laudrup won two 5-0 El Clasico victories, one with Barcelona and another with Real Madrid. His remarkable ability to remain successful regardless of which team he was playing for proved to be an inspiration to football fans all over the world.
Appearances/Goals for Barcelona: 300/109
Appearances/Goals for Real Madrid: 213/18
Luis Enrique, a versatile and skillful midfielder, had the remarkable achievement of playing over 200 times for both Barcelona and Real Madrid and accumulating more than 50 international caps for Spain. He was a highly admired player in Spanish football during the late 90s and early 2000s.
Despite winning three trophies during his five-year stint at Madrid, Luis Enrique felt unappreciated there and left for Barcelona on a free transfer in 1996. With his signing, Barcelona was optimistic about having acquired the services of such a great player. Luis Enrique had to work hard to win over the Barcelona fans, but eventually, he became a beloved captain and scored many winning goals in Clasico matches against his former team. His impressive performances in both Barcelona and Madrid made him one of the most iconic footballers in Spanish football.
Following a successful playing career, Luis Enrique was appointed manager of Barcelona and went on to win two more La Liga titles and the prestigious 2015 Champions League trophy. His successful management over the years has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players and coaches of all time. Luis Enrique has spoken fondly about his time in Madrid, crediting them for giving him the opportunity to play in a world-class team. Although his time at Real Madrid was relatively short, he said it was still an unforgettable experience that he cherishes to this day.
Appearances/Goals for Barcelona: 199/130
Appearances/Goals for Real Madrid: 7/0
After being discovered at the Kadji Sports Academy in Cameroon, Samuel Eto’o joined Real Madrid as a young player but was unable to make an impact with the team. During his time in Madrid, he was loaned out multiple times and only made a few appearances for the club in La Liga.
After being unable to make his mark in Madrid, Samuel Eto’o left for Mallorca and scored 54 goals in four and a half seasons. In 2004, he joined Barcelona, seizing the opportunity to demonstrate his talents which Madrid had overlooked. Over the course of two successful seasons at Barcelona, Eto’o scored an impressive total of 130 goals in all competitions.
During his time in Barcelona, Eto’o won three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies, making it a highly successful spell. In 2009, the Cameroonian moved to Inter Milan and won the treble alongside manager Jose Mourinho. Samuel Eto’o’s successful career highlights his exceptional talent and undeniable abilities.