Updated: March 6, 2021 4:43:41 pm
Although the city of Madrid currently boasts three La Liga teams, Real versus Atletico is the big one for many natives of the city, known as madrileños. The derby is now the most played fixture in Spanish football history, and among the world football’s most celebrated fixtures.
After Real Madrid were officially established in 1902, and then Atletico the following year, the two sides faced off in various friendlies and unofficial meetings before the first recorded official meeting in the Campeonato Regional Centro, a 1-1 draw on 2 December 1906.
The rivalry continued through different regional and national championships, until 1928/29 when La Liga began with both the clubs as initial founder members. Their first meeting in the new competition came on the 24th February 1929 at Real’s Chamartín stadium. The home team won 2-1, with an extra edge added as both goals were scored by forward Monchin Triana, who had joined from Atletico just the previous year.
The idea of players crossing the city was not new, even then. Santiago Bernabeu, the legendary Blancos president who gave his name to the iconic stadium they play in to this day, guested with Atletico in the 1920s. Real loaned Atletico forward Ramon Grosso in 1963/64 to help fight off relegation, while Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez actually scored for both teams in La Liga derbies during the 1980s.
Nowadays, there are many players who have ties to both sides. Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois made his La Liga debut for Atleti back in 2011; Simeone’s side bought Marcos Llorente from their cross-town rivals last season, while fellow summer signing Mario Hermoso came through the ranks at the Bernabeu, as did midfield lynchpin Saul Ñiguez.
That’s not to say it’s always been friendly. While ‘El Clasico’ with Barcelona is arguably La Liga’s biggest fixture internationally, for many at Real, the derby remains the most special. “The team we wanted to beat, at all costs, was the neighbours,” Blancos legend and all-time great Alfredo Di Stefano recalled. “Losing meant our fans had to suffer jokes from the next day in the office, the bar and the street.”
Over the years, La Liga has provided 167 opportunities for such ribbing. Real have 89 victories, Atletico 39 wins, with 39 draws.
Former Real Madrid winger and the club’s current honorary president Paco Gento holds the all-time record for appearances in the fixture with 29, while Atletico’s record appearance maker in the fixture is also the club’s all-time appearance record holder: Adelardo Rodriguez with 27.
Of current players, Blancos captain Sergio Ramos (28) and Atletico midfielder Koke (16) top the lists. Di Stefano and 1980s striker Santillana have the most La Liga goals in the fixture for Real (13), while 1940s teammates Paco Campos and Adrian Escudero share the record for Atletico with nine each.
The cup competitions have recently taken the rivalry to new heights at home and abroad. Atletico beat Real in the 2013 Copa del Rey final. Real came out on top in the 2014 and 2016 UEFA Champions League deciders, while Diego Simeone’s side beat their neighbours most recently in the 2018 UEFA Super Cup.
The Madrid Derby will be available to watch this Sunday at 8.45 pm on Facebook Watch.
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