Barça vs Real Madrid: Five absent figures from Clásico's recent past
Sunday's clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid will be missing several players who left their mark on the Clásico, but have now left...
A player who courted more controversy than most in his appearances against Barcelona, Pepe faced the Blaugrana more than any other club in his 10 years at Real Madrid: 23 times (accruing 10 victories, four draws and nine losses). The Portuguese enjoyed something of a rollercoaster Clásico career, alternating stellar performances - including a goalscoring display in a 3-1 win in autumn 2014 - with less glorious showings. The defender's lowest point in the fixture came when he was harshly sent off in the 2011 Champions League semi-finals. A decade later, the Clásico is getting used to life without Pepe...
Neymar joined Paris Saint-Germain last summer in a world-record deal, much to the chagrin of the Barcelona fans, whose disappointment was hardly tempered when news of Real's plans to take him from Paris to the Bernabéu emerged. The upshot is that his name remains firmly on people's lips when the Clásico comes around. In his spell at the Camp Nou, the forward featured in eight matches against Real, giving Los Blancos' defence no shortage of headaches on his way to scoring a total of three goals. He could yet appear again in the fixture - but in which shirt?
Having played for Barcelona in 20 Clásicos, Javier Mascherano left for Hebei China Fortune in the January transfer window. In a clash of such tension, his leadership was crucial to the Catalans, and his duels with Cristiano Ronaldo became a regular feature of the fixture (he almost always operated at centre-back against Los Merengues). However, 'El Jefecito' lost his place to Samuel Umtiti last season, and packed his bags for China. Barça will miss his personality...
James Rodríguez's Clásico career was brief: he appeared in just three, with a negative record of one win and two defeats. He netted one goal against Barcelona, in April 2017, although it proved in vain as Real went down 3-2. In late 2015, his presence in the XI against Barça ended up clinching his place on the bench under Rafa Benítez. Having just returned from injury, the Colombian started despite being in far from tip-top shape, in a decision that seemed to be more about keeping the club's powers-that-be happy (Benítez appeared to chicken out of picking Casemiro, who had been enjoying a steady first-team run under the Spaniard). Real lost 4-0...
After returning from a season on loan at Monaco, Fábio Coentrão drifted into the wilderness at Real Madrid, but in the first period of his Bernabéu career he played an important role, figuring in 10 Clásicos (with a record of four wins, two draws and four defeats). He also came away with the 'assist' from one of the match's most famous goals: it was his pass that found Gareth Bale, before the Welshman ran half the length of the field to score a superb winner in the 2014 Copa del Rey final.
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