Leo Messi and El Clásico: a decade in the making

Messi dribbles during his first El Clásico at Camp Nou. / FCB ARCHIVE
The forward’s first game against Real Madrid was on 19 Novembre 2005, on a night that saw his superb performance eclipsed by Ronaldinho

Ten years later, Messi is the all-time leading El Clásico scorer and has never missed a game in Chamartín

The El Clásico that was played ten years ago, on 19 November 2005, which Barça won 3–0, has long been remembered for the standing ovation that the Santiago Bernabéu gave Ronaldinho for his astounding exhibition. But something else happened that day: it was the day Lionel Messi made his El Clásico debut. Fast forward to today: Messi has played in 30 El Clásicos, scored 21 goals in them and put on countless individual shows that will never be forgotten.

At the start of the 2005/06 season, Messi was offered up the first hints of his greatness in the shadows of Camp Nou and under the tutelage of then head coach Frank Rijkaard, who included Messi in the starting eleven that day at the Santiago Bernabéu, putting him alongside star strikers Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho. It was the twelfth game of the season and right after an international break during which Messi had played his second match with Argentina just three days before.

Demonstration of courage

The 18-year-old kid showed the world his audacity that day, running rings around a Madrid defence consisting of Roberto Carlos, Iván Helguera and Sergio Ramos. Messi drove to the goal before assisting Eto’o on Barça’s first goal of the day among other electrifying plays that included a volley from outside the area that found the net but was disallowed for offside.

Messi left the game after 70 minutes, giving the last twenty minutes of play to Andrés Iniesta, whose 31 El Clásicos to date are only one more than Messi. In Messi’s 30 matches against Real Madrid, Barça have 14 wins, seven draws and nine defeats.

Clutch at the Bernabéu

Since his debut a decade ago, Messi has never missed any of Barça’s 15 games at the Bernabéu, which have resulted in seven wins, three draws and five defeats. At the Bernabéu, Messi has scored 12 goals with memorable performances like the one on 2 May 2009 in Barça’s 6–2 rout, his brace in Barça’s 2–0 win in the semi-finals of the 2011 Champions, and his hat-trick in Barça’s 4–3 victory in the 2013/14 season.

The top scorer in the history of El Clásico with 21 goals, Messi is now recovering from the injury he suffered against Las Palmas. If Luis Enrique decides to play him on Saturday, Barça’s current number 10 can add one more episode to his saga against Real Madrid.