FC Barcelona’s new president was only elected a month ago but previously held the post between 2003 and 2010.
His spell at the helm ushered in one of the most successful eras in Barça history and included some blockbuster ElClasico matches vs Real Madrid.
Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona made any signings in the January transfer market so we’re unlikely to see any new faces when they face each other in ElClasico on Saturday (10th April, 9pm CET). Yet, there will be a new, and at the same time very familiar face in the stands: Joan Laporta, Barça’s recently elected president who previously held the post between 2003 and 2010.
Laporta is therefore no stranger to the spectacle of ElClasico. The Barcelona-born lawyer enjoyed many memorable ElClasico victories during his first spell, including a famous 6-2 win for the Blaugrana at the Santiago Bernabeu in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge back in 2009. Barça’s ElClasico record during Laporta’s first tenure as president was positive: seven wins, two draws and just five defeats in 14 LaLiga encounters.
Other unforgettable ElClasico moments for Laporta’s Barcelona included a last-gasp winner from Xavi Hernandez at the Bernabeu in 2004; Ronaldinho dismantling Los Blancos almost single-handedly in 2005 (a match which also happened to be the ElClasico debut of a certain Lionel Messi); 19-year-old Messi’s hat-trick in the dramatic 3-3 draw at the Camp Nou in 2007, and the 2009/10 home and away double win thanks to goal from Messi, Pedro and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
His return to the ElClasico stage also means that Laporta will cross paths with Florentino Pérez once again, the Real Madrid president since 2009 and who previously held the role between 2000 and 2006. Images of the two presidents sitting side by side during some of the most intense ElClasico matches of the 2000s are fresh in the memory for most fans of these two clubs, even if more than a decade has now passed since Laporta stepped aside in 2010. Laporta and Pérez have always maintained a respectful relationship and a serious rivalry, and went head-to-head in seven ElClasico fixtures: Laporta’s Barcelona won five, while Perez’s Real Madrid came out on top just twice.
Having only taken over the Barcelona presidency in March, Laporta is yet to mould the squad to his liking and he’ll surely look to compete with Pérez and Real Madrid for the biggest names in this summer’s transfer market. Yet he’ll already be as determined as ever to win another ElClasico and to enjoy the bragging rights in club football’s biggest rivalry.
Laporta has always enjoyed injecting a bit of humour into the rivalry too. He went as far as launching his most recent presidential election campaign by installing a huge advertisement just yards from the Santiago Bernabeu in central Madrid. “Ganas de volver a verso,” it read in Spanish… ‘Keen to see you again.’
This Saturday night, Laporta will finally get his wish and come face to face with Real Madrid once again as Barcelona president, albeit in new surroundings at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium. The first of what looks to be many reunions with Barça’s biggest rivals.