Real Madrid's all-time Clásico XI, as chosen by Tomás Roncero
For 16 years, I watched Casillas make save after save at the Camp Nou. I saw him frustrate none other than Lionel Messi, not to mention the likes of Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o, David Villa, Pedro, Alexis Sánchez, Neymar and Luis Suárez. His presence between the posts infused Madrid with extra confidence in their chances of leaving Catalonia with the points. Given he was Madrid's keeper for so long, it's to be expected that he ended up with a few goals in the against column at Barça; however, that figure pales in comparison to the amount of crucial stops he pulled off.
The youth product takes to the Camp Nou field with the same spirit that Pepe brought to the Real Madrid cause in Barcelona. No fear, up and at 'em, rallying the troops; utterly unaffected by the home fans' fiery reception for their arch rivals. I've seen Carvajal keep Neymar and Jordi Alba quiet, which is a task bordering on mission impossible. What really stands out, though, is the heart with which he always plays there. Nothing fazes him. A real leader.
The sheriff at the back. Hierro's duels at the Camp Nou are hard to forget. He had almighty battles with Luis Figo, who went on to become a Real Madrid team-mate. Personality, always on his mettle, refusing to be cowed by the Camp Nou atmosphere. His confrontations with Ronald Koeman remain firmly etched in Madridistas' memories, as does his wonderful display in the 2-0 win at the stadium in the 2001/02 Champions League semi-finals. What a captain he was for Madrid.
The hero of Lisbon, Ramos repeated the trick at the Camp Nou three seaons later, heading in at the death to silence the home crowd and earn Real Madrid a point that felt like three. The Andalusian thrives on these occasions. True, it is hard to forget his reckless red card for felling Messi in 2010's 5-0 defeat, but there are also so many top-drawer displays to savour. In addition to 2016/17's 1-1 draw, Los Blancos' 2-1 victory in their title-winning campaign in 2011/12 also springs to mind, for example.
A cigarette lighter thrown from the stands left Roberto Carlos bleeding on the Camp Nou turf in the final Clásico played in Barcelona in the 20th century. That was the only way they could stop the Brazilian's powerful bursts up the left wing and thunderous drives that struck fear into every Blaugrana heart. He was once sent off for a robust challenge on Figo... but he got the ball. One of the few Madrid players who brought applause of admiration from the Camp Nou, he was nothing short of spectacular.
My first idol; a man who bled white. Pirri was the first total footballer I can remember, a box-to-box player before the term had even been coined. He was simply tireless - something the Barcelona of the 60s and 70s found out to their cost. Indeed, Pirri's first Clásico, aged just 19, saw Los Blancos thump their eternal rivals 4-1 at the Bernabéu. He was a key figure in a golden period for Madrid, starting out in the great 'yé-yé' team of the 60s and finishing up with the league title won at Real Sociedad's expense, thanks to a memorable end-of-season triumph over Athletic Bilbao (in which he scored his last goal for the club before joining Mexicans Puebla).
Balletic, graceful, a legend of the game respected everywhere he goes. It was in Barcelona that Zidane netted a sublime lob in the 2001/02 Champions League semis, leaving the Camp Nou open-mouthed with his display that night. It's possible that Barça have never had an enemy they have admired more. His magical football spoke for itself. There were other triumphant Clásicos for Zidane, too; I for one remember well 2003's 2-1 win in Catalonia. His high point at Real Madrid came in the Champions League final in Glasgow, but it all started at the Camp Nou...
Real Madrid have had so many legendary forwards that I've been forced to pick Raúl in the midfield three. But that doesn't matter; he'd still be superb. Madrid's eternal captain, their indefatigable number 7, Raúl played in countless Camp Nou Clásicos in which he always brought his pride and commitment to bear on the game, and chipped in with goals that had his fox-in-the box instincts written all over them. From his debut in 1994 to his departure in 2010, he was a nightmare for Barcelona; who could forget his finger-on-lips celebration after his equaliser had silenced the Camp Nou crowd in 1999. His duels with Carles Puyol were always epic yet fair, going down as one of the most beautiful, honest battles in the history of football.
What can I say about Cristiano Ronaldo? The man who arrived at Real Madrid to re-write the Clásico history books; the man who muscled in on the 'Messi era' and made it the 'Cristiano era'. There's no arguing with his four Champions Leagues and four Ballons d'Or at Madrid. In his incredible nine-year spell at the Bernabéu, Barcelona were on the receiving end of sublime strikes of every description, not to mention his famous "Siiiiiiiuuuuuu" celebration. His winner at the Camp Nou in 2011/12, a goal that as good as clinched the championship, was a beauty. It wasn't the only time the Barça fans were stunned into silence by Cristiano's attacking prowess, ambition and competitive thirst. The day he moved to Juventus, many Culés breathed a deep sigh of relief.
Alfredo di Stéfano
As my father says, Di Stéfano was the most complete footballer the game has ever witnessed. I didn't see him with my own eyes, but the history books and the TV cameras have captured many a goal celebrated by the 'Blond Arrow' against Real Madrid's arch rivals. De Stéfano could have joined Barcelona, but Madrid offered the money that the Catalans were unwilling to pay Millonarios, as legendary club president Santiago Bernabéu swooped to strike a deal for a player who would go on to change the course of the club. Di Stéfano was a leader on and off the pitch, pushing his team-mates on to greater things and causing the Barça players' legs to turn to jelly with just his presence on the pitch.
A six-time European Cup winner - nobody has more - Gento tore up the Barcelona defence with his supersonic forward bursts on the left flank. Nobody could deal with his pace as he drove to the byline and laid on inviting cross after inviting cross. The 'Gale of the Cantabrian Sea' is one of the great wingers to have played the game, and came away victorious from the Camp Nou several times (among which a 5-1 LaLiga win was particularly notable). Gento is in my team for his values, his honesty and for being a winner, pure and simple. 12 league titles in 18 years! A legend.
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