Lionel Messi comes into ElClasico as the man with all the records

The Argentine icon is now the Catalan club’s all-time leader in appearances and holds pretty much every other record going. 

ElClasico – Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona – the biggest club game in football featuring the best players in the world, is a usually a moment to stop and reflect on record-breakers. And there’s one name that comes up time and time again when you look at FC Barcelona’s club records. Surprise, surprise… it’s Lionel Messi.  

It makes sense that Messi holds so many records. He’s the only player in history to have won the Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player six times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019) for good reason. 

The Ballon d’Or may be a subjective award, but Messi has also won most of the annual objective prizes. That includes the European Golden Boot, the award for the player with the most league goals in each European football season, another six times: 2009/10, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19. Logically, Messi also won the Pichichi prize for LaLiga Santander’s top scorer in each of these years, as well as also winning the Pichichi in 2019/20 when he was the Spanish league’s top scorer without being Europe’s overall top scorer. That season, he scored 25 goals and provided 22 assists in the league, becoming the first player to ever score 20+ goals and provide 20+ assists.  

In 2012, Messi’s goalscoring abilities reached mind-blowing and unprecedented levels. In that calendar year, he scored a record-breaking 96 goals from January to December (84 with Barcelona and 12 with Argentina).  

And he’s the only player to have scored more than 40 goals in 10 consecutive seasons. Objectively speaking, then, he’s off the charts. That might even be an understatement.   

A record-breaker in ElClasico 

As the second ElClasico of the season approaches, Messi will be looking to add to his tally of 26 goals against Real Madrid. That’s the most ever in this special fixture, with 18 having come in LaLiga Santander, two in the Champions League and six in the Spanish Super Cup. That’s from 44 matches against Real Madrid, the most ever for a Barça player.  

It doesn’t stop there. In Barcelona’s recent 6-1 win over Real Sociedad at the end of March, Messi became the Blaugrana’s all-time top appearance maker in competitive matches, playing his 768th match with the club whose youth academy he joined at the age of 13. That put him ahead of the previous record-holder Xavi Hernández, another Barça legend.  

The record for the most goals for Barcelona had been held by César Rodríguez since the 1950s, who finished his time at the club with 232 goals. Messi has since smashed that record tally and, as of the end of March 2021, sits on 663 club goals. That makes him the player with the most goals for a single club, having surpassed Pelé’s Santos total of 643.  

In terms of hardware, Messi has won the most trophies with Barcelona. His 34 titles with the first team recently surpassed Andres Iniesta’s 32.

The LaLiga records 

Not only does Messi hold almost all club records at Barcelona, but he also tops the standings for scores of LaLiga records.  

His 467 LaLiga goals as of March 2021 are the most ever, well ahead of second-placed Cristiano Ronaldo (311). With 379 matches won in Spain’s top tier, Messi has also been part of a three-point haul more than anybody else, more than second-placed Iker Casillas’ 334.  

Other LaLiga records that stand out are Messi’s competition-leading 38 direct freekick goals or the fact that he holds the record for the most consecutive matchdays with at least one goal, netting in an incredible 19 games in a row in 2012/13.  

Barcelona vs Real Madrid may offer up the best match-ups, the most talented players and greatest storylines in football, but Lionel Messi continues to surprise and astound, 16 years after his ElClasico debut.  

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LaLiga Santander is crowned as the world’s strongest league of the decade

Spanish teams enjoyed the most success on the continent between 2011 and 2020 and this has been reflected by IFFHS’s latest ranking. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are named the two best teams of the decade as well 

Between 2011 and 2020, Spanish clubs dominated European club football. Over these 10 years, the Champions League was won by a LaLiga Santander side on six occasions, with Real Madrid claiming four and FC Barcelona two. Meanwhile, the Europa League was also won by a team from Spain six times, as Sevilla FC lifted it on four occasions and Atlético Madrid twice. All this means that eight of the past 10 UEFA Super Cups featured at least one Spanish side, with seven victories for the LaLiga teams.  

Given all the UEFA confetti that has fallen on the shoulders of LaLiga players over this past decade, it’s little surprise that Spain’s top division has been crowned as the world’s strongest national league for the 2011 to 2020 decade by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). In nine of these years, LaLiga Santander topped the annual IFFHS awards for the world’s strongest national league. 

The IFFHS have also ranked clubs for their success and consistency over the past decade and FC Barcelona have finished top of their ranking, retaining their title as the best team of the decade after also claiming this honour from the IFFHS for the 2001 to 2010 decade. Just behind FC Barcelona are Real Madrid, while Atlético Madrid are fifth in the ranking of clubs over the past decade, only behind third-ranked Bayern Munich and fourth-ranked PSG. And ahead of sixth-ranked Juventus and seventh-ranked Chelsea. This means that Spain has three teams in the top seven of the ranking for the past decade, while no other nation has more than one representative in that gap.  

Considering the star players that have performed to the highest level in Spain over the past years, it makes sense that the country’s clubs have performed so consistently well. The Ballon d’Or award for each calendar year’s best footballer wasn’t held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in the other nine years of the past decade it always went to a player based in Spain. It went to FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi four times, to Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo four times and to Real Madrid’s Luka Modrić once. On four occasions (2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016), the entire podium was Spain-based.  

LaLiga maintains its position in the Brand Finance 2021 ranking, among the most valuable brands in Spain 

Even off the pitch, LaLiga had a very strong decade. Clubs have significantly improved their finances and reduced debt thanks to the economic control regulations brought in after Javier Tebas assumed the presidency in 2013, while audience has grown in markets across the planet following the launch of LaLiga’s global network.  

A lot of work has gone into improving the visibility of LaLiga’s brand and this has been reflected in LaLiga’s improved standing in the ranking produced by consultancy firm Brand Finance, with LaLiga rated as the eighth strongest and the 36th most valuable brand in all of Spain for 2021, even while the sports industry has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.  

At the beginning of this new decade, LaLiga clubs are in a good position to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever. LaLiga teams acted very responsibly in the first two transfer markets following the emergence of COVID-19, reducing their spending enough to achieve a net gain of €38m at the same time as their competitors in Europe’s other major leagues ran aggregate deficits.  

In the long term, this means that LaLiga clubs can remain in good health. Even in the short term, all seven LaLiga Santander clubs that entered UEFA competition in 2020/21 progressed through their groups as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Sevilla FC reached the Champions League knockouts and as Granada CF, Real Sociedad and Villarreal CF made it to the Europa League knockouts. No other association had seven of their clubs make it through their groups, just like no other association celebrated six Champions League and six Europa League titles between 2011 and 2020.  

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The battle for LaLiga’s title

The 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season looks to be a three-horse race coming into the final stretch. Here’s all you need to know. 

Diego Simeone’s Atletico de Madrid have sat atop the LaLiga Santander standings for much of the season but just six points separate them, FC Barcelona in second, and reigning champions Real Madrid. The title race looks set to go the wire, with all three eager to avoid a slip-up which could derail their chances and hand the advantage to their rivals.  

“Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona will lose another match,” Simeone predicted in early March, but we’ve already seen so many shock results this LaLiga Santander campaign that there are no guarantees.   

Here’s all you need to know about the final stretch of the title race: who’s involved, where they stand, the games they have left… so you can judge for yourself where you think points, and ultimately the LaLiga title, will be won and lost.  

Atlético de Madrid 

Current position: 1st (66 points) 

Next fixture: Sevilla FC (away), Sunday April 4th – 9pm CET 

Remaining fixtures: Real Betis (away), Huesca (home), Athletic Club (away), SD Eibar (home), Elche CF (away), FC Barcelona (away), Real Sociedad (home), CA Osasuna (home), Real Valladolid (away) 

The last time Atleti won LaLiga Santander, it went down to the final day as they took the 2013/14 title with a draw away against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Given how tight this title race promises to be, it could go down to the wire once again. This year, their Matchday 38 fixture is away at Real Valladolid, who could need points in the relegation battle.  

A visit to the Camp Nou is also in the pipeline for Matchday 35. Barcelona and Atleti will meet in a six-pointer that could even be labelled as a seven-pointer since the head-to-head tiebreaker is at stake, which Atleti currently hold after beating the Catalans 1-0 earlier this season at the Wanda Metropolitano. 

FC Barcelona 

Current position: 2nd (62 points) 

Next fixture: Real Valladolid (home), Monday April 5th – 9pm CET 

Remaining fixtures: Real Madrid (away), Getafe CF (home), Villarreal CF (away), Granada CF (home), Valencia CF (away), Atlético de Madrid (home), Levante UD (away), RC Celta (home), SD Eibar (away) 

Barcelona have been in great form domestically in the calendar year of 2021 and approach the final stretch of the season with tremendous momentum. With several top-half-of-the-table sides remaining on their schedule, they’ll need all the momentum they can muster as they look to pick up three points week after week.  

Two games stand out for Ronald Koeman’s side. The first is ElClasico away at Real Madrid in little over a week (Saturday April 10th, 9pm CET), in which they look to avenge their 3-1 defeat at the Camp Nou earlier this season; and then the visit of Atleti to the Camp Nou with four matches remaining. These head-to-head clashes will likely be decisive, for better or for worse! 

Real Madrid 

Current position: 3rd (60 points) 

Next fixture: SD Eibar (home), Saturday April 3rd – 4.15pm CET 

Remaining fixtures: FC Barcelona (home), Cádiz CF (away), Real Betis (home), Getafe CF (away), CA Osasuna (home), Sevilla FC (home), Granada CF (away), Athletic Club (away), Villarreal CF (home)  

Real Madrid are only to aware of the importance of finishing the season strong. Los Blancos claimed the 2019/20 championship by winning their final ten matches in a row following the return from the COVID-19 lockdown, mathematically sealing top spot with a round to spare. They face a difficult final few week of this campaign and Zinedine Zidane will look to bring back that essential winning mentality if he expects his side to stay in the hunt.  

There are some really challenging dates remaining in Real Madrid’s diary, not least ElClasico at home to Barcelona. Then, three of their final four matches of the season are against teams who qualified for European competition last year.  

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LaLiga’s week review

What has been going on in LaLiga this past week? Here’s all you need to know, from yet ANOTHER record for Leo Messi to the long-awaited return of Chimy Avila. 

Record breaking Messi puts on a show  

Barcelona produced a statement victory on Sunday by thrashing Real Sociedad 6-1 at the Reale Arena. Lionel Messi led the way with two goals and an assist too, doing so on the night when he overtook Xavi Hernández to become the Barça player with the most official first-team appearances in club history (768). Talk about marking the occasion in style. The Argentine has now been involved in 23 goals in 2021 (16 goals and 7 assists), more than anyone across Europe’s top five leagues.   

Oblak is the hero for the league leaders 

Atlético de Madrid kept their four-point advantage at the top of the LaLiga Santander table with a hard-fought win 1-0 over Alavés on Sunday, with Luis Suárez scoring the only goal of the game. Jan Oblak was the hero at the end of the game as the Slovenian goalkeeper saved a penalty from Joselu to keep his side in front. 

500 up for Suárez 

That Luis Suárez goal against Alavés was an extra special one as it was his 500th  as a professional footballer. It’s a special achievement that only a few of the very best have ever managed, with the centre-forward’s goals spread out for Atletico (19), Barcelona (198), Liverpool (82), Ajax (111), Groningen (15), Nacional (12) and the Uruguay national team (63).  

Happy 102nd birthday, Valencia CF! 

One of LaLiga’s oldest clubs, Valencia CF celebrated their 102nd birthday last week. Respected across the country and around the world, they received various messages of congratulations on their special day.  

Real Madrid progress to the Champions League quarter-finals 

Zinedine Zidane’s side progressed into the last eight of the Champions League with a 4-1 aggregate win over Atalanta and will now face Liverpool FC in a repeat of the 2018 final – which they won 3-1 in Kiev. If they overcome the English side, Chelsea FC or FC Porto await in the semi-finals. With their title run still in full flow, an exciting month of April awaits Los Blancos

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Luis Suarez: historic 500 goal landmark

Herzogenaurach, Germany, March 22, 2021 — Global sports company PUMA has partnered with Uruguay and Atlético de Madrid star Luis Suárez following the player’s historic 500th goal to donate 500 PUMA footballs to youth football teams based in each of the cities where Luis has played during his career. Each football was gifted with a special note from Luis to inspire the next generation of talent.
“I wanted to give back to the seven teams that have shaped me as football player”, said Luis Suárez. “I wanted to give a boost to the youth teams in need of support and equipment to inspire them to follow their dreams. I wanted to pay tribute to the teams, players and fans who have been a part of my journey; Nacional, Groningen, Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona, Madrid and Uruguay are all very close to my heart, so this was a special tribute to them and their communities.”
In addition to his donation, Luis has included a special message to each club in a letter he has shared with his social media followers after scoring his 500th goal, thanking each team for their support and the impact each team has had on him both on and off the pitch.
“Breaking the record is an individual honor, but I could never have achieved this feat alone. My teammates and the fans have been there with me every step of the way. Sport unites people and brings communities together. I hope the donation and the letter can bring a smile to people’s faces. Football has given me so much and I would like to give something back to the people”, said Luis Suárez.
To celebrate Luis’s incredible achievement PUMA has produced a special-edition 500 goal FUTURE Z football boot. The next-gen FUTURE Z features a striking design inspired by Luis’s proud Uruguayan heritage. The heel of the boot features a 500 goal motif with Luis’s famous ‘El Pistolero’ logo displayed across the medial side. Targets are showcased across the upper to signify Luis hitting the target 500 times and integrated into the footbed of the boot are the colors of each of the teams Luis has represented throughout his career.

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LaLiga Youth Tournament in Kuala Lumpur

LaLiga and Sambill Park launch “LaLiga Youth Tournament 2021”, it’s first ever youth football tournament in Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur, March 19th 2021. LaLiga, the spanish football league, launched its first football tournament in Malaysia with the help of Sambill Park and with the endorsement of the Ministry of Education of Malaysia.

Young football participants will get the opportunity to take part in this tournament which is promoting a healthy and safe environment for their talents to nurture in response to the situation created by the pandemic. after registering, local academies and teams can participate in different age categories Under 8, Under 10, Under 12, Under 14.

The tournament will start in June 2021 and it will be featured by group stages and knockout stages frame. Each player participating in the tournament will receive a certificate of participation recognized by the Ministry of Education of Malaysia.

“Our goal is to promote football all over the world and bring LaLiga closer to the local fans. We’re pleased to carry out our first tournament after the pandemic that affected football all over the world and give a chance to the children to enjoy the beautiful game” commented Giorgio Pompili Rossi, LaLiga’s Delegate in Malaysia.

Moreover, LaLiga is carrying out an exhibition at Sunway Velocity Mall in Kuala Lumpur where the fans have a chance to take a photo of the prestigious LaLiga Trophy.

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Real Madrid striker Benzema joins the topscorer’s race

Karim is a player who was born to leave an indelible mark in the history of football based on goals and a magnificent performance on the green. ‘Monsieur’ Benzema is being one of the best players of the season 2020/21 at Real Madrid and LaLiga Santander 

The French Real Madrid striker was born to score… and to do it even twice. That’s what happened on the last Matchday 27 against Elche CF, when he signed a magnificent brace to lead the comeback of the White Team and put the final 2-1 on the scoreboard. He makes a total of 15 goals in this 2020/21 season. 

Dani Calvo took the lead for Elche CF with a goal in the 61st minute, but in the 73rd minute, Karim drew up on the scoreboard and executed a perfect header to finish off a measured cross by Luka Modric that Edgar Badia could not stop. It would not be until the 91st minute when the Frenchman again, after a perfect return from Rodrygo, found a tremendous cross shot, directly to the right post and unstoppable for the Elche CF goalkeeper. Hats off for the striker! 

The ‘9’ of the White Team thus placed third in the race to become the top scorer in LaLiga Santander -the popular ‘Pichichi’ trophy-, tied on goals with Gerard Moreno and En-Nesyri. And only surpassed by Messi (21 goals) and Luis Suárez (18) in first and second position, respectively. 

Benzema’s statistics in 2020/21 

Goals and assists. In addition to being the undisputed leader in goals of the Merengue team, the striker was not only born to score, but to generate chances, so the rest of his teammates can do so. He is the second best assists provider for Real Madrid, with five assists, only surpassed by Toni Kroos with six. 

The Lyon player is the forward with capital letters and with his quality and exquisite style of play, he has become over the years one of the indispensable players for Zinedine Zidane. Habitual in the lineups of every game, Karim Benzema has played a total of 2,033 minutes and has started in the 23 games he has played this season. His physical potential has allowed him to win 70 duels, 17 of them aerial and he has been able to get 44 recoveries for the Madrid team. 

He actively participates in the action with up to 836 combinative game passes and gets along wonderfully with his teammates. He is the perfect nine, the ideal center forward who sees spaces like no one else, who has his leg armed under sticks to pierce the net of the rival without remorse and who leaves as many superlatives actions to remember as the goal of Matchday 23 against Valencia CF, or the tying goal against the current leader, Atlético de Madrid, on Matchday 26. 

He has delighted everyone with goals from all perspectives and situations: goals which worth three points, header goals and goals over the horn that enhance the figure of one of the Real Madrid captains and the silent leader of that dressing room. There are 11 Matchdays ahead to continue enjoying his communion with the goal, his perfect movements on the board, flying through the pitch celebrating every goal, and the tireless work of a player who has gained being one of the greats LaLiga Santander figures. Starting with the match of this Matchday 28 against the surprising RC Celta… 

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LaLiga’s Matchday Preview

A full 27 matchdays of the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season are in the books, the same number of rounds that were completed before matches were put on hold last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This campaign, though, the action doesn’t stop and there is a fascinating Matchday 28 ahead as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona face complicated away trips, and as a Basque derby takes place in Bilbao.   

On Saturday afternoon, at 4.15pm CET, Real Madrid are in action away at RC Celta and this could be a very tough fixture for the Champions League quarter-finalists. Eduardo Coudet’s Celta side have lost just one of their past eight matches and are causing all of their opponents problems. With Real Madrid trying to catch league leaders Atlético de Madrid, they can’t afford to drop points and will need to be at their best to bring three of them back to the capital this weekend.  

The Saturday night fixture sees Real Valladolid host Sevilla FC, with both teams in need of points as the home side aim to avoid relegation and as the latter target a Champions League place. The last two meetings between these outfits have finished 1-1, but Sevillaneed wins and not draws if they are to finish the season as high up the table as they want to.  

Then, the league leaders are in action on Sunday evening at home to D. Alavés. With Atletico de Madrid sitting top of the table and with Alavés in the relegation zone, this may seem like a simple game for the hosts on paper. However, Diego Simeone’s men can’t take anything for granted as they’ve had some tough games against the Basque side in the recent past, squeezing out narrow 2-1 victories in the past two meetings and drawing their previous encounter 1-1. 

The final game of this matchday, and the last one before the March international break, takes place on Sunday night at 9pm CET as Real Sociedad take on FC Barcelona. This has been a fascinating fixture over the years, with Barça suffering what was called ‘the Anoeta curse’ as they went a decade without winning in San Sebastián, suffering five defeats and three draws across the eight fixtures played there between 2007 and 2017. Since 2017, though, the Catalan side have won three and drawn one of their four matches there, but Real Sociedad are still a formidable team at home and it surely won’t be easy for the Catalans as they look to close to the gap to the top of the table. 

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Pedri: the FC Barcelona’s rising star

Just 18 years old, Pedri is impressing and surpassing all expectations in his first season at FC Barcelona… the Tenerife native has quickly become one of Lionel Messi’s favourite linkups in the Barça team. He will debut with Spain senior team this March.

Five things you might not know about Pedri:

1. His childhood hero was Barcelona legend and LaLiga ICON Andres Iniesta. The youngster has spoken on numerous occasions about the all-time great midfielder was his reference as a budding footballer and the reason why he grew up a Barça fan. His family were already Barcelona fans, however; his grandfather founded the Tenerife-Tegueste Barcelona supporters club. 

2. He is the youngest player to ever score for UD Las Palmas, his first professional club. His goal against R. Sporting in LaLiga SmartBank on September 19th 2019 at the age of 16 years, 9 months and 23 days, wrote his name into the club’s history books.  His debut season was so astonishing that he was playing for UD Las Palmas senior team just one single season before FC Barcelona signed him. 

Ironically, even when he was born in Tenerife, scouts from the island’s giant CD Tenerife initially considered him to be too small and skinny to excel at the top level, so he finally played for UD Las Palmas, the historical rival in the Canary Islands. That same year 2018, when he signed for UD Las Palmas, he also had a trial at Real Madrid, aged just 15. 

3. He’s already left his mark on LaLiga Santander. At the age of just 18 years and 42 days, Pedri is the youngest player to ever score a goal and provide an assist in the same game in the history of Spain’s top flight (vs Athletic Club at San Mames). 

4. To date he’s the only player to provide two backheeled assists this season, both of which went to… you guessed it, Leo Messi. His backheeled assist against Real Valladolid was of historical importance; it was the goal which saw Messi overtake Pele in all-time goals scored.  

5. He actually started playing football thanks to his brother, Fernando. His brother’s coach asked Pedri to join the team at the tender age of just four! The bond between the brothers is strong to this day; they live together in Barcelona, and Pedri wears his shinpads to every game.  

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Valencia’s Derby: Five Key Players

This derby is one of the most underrated in Spanish football, with the two teams having thrown up some classic games over the years. Here’s a look at some of the most legendary players to have starred in this fixture. 

David Villa (Valencia, 2005-2010)  

David Villa became a true legend for Valencia as he banged in the goals up front for Los Che across half a decade. During his time at Mestalla, however, he only ever featured in four city derbies due to Levante’s prolonged spell in the second tier. He wasted no time in making his mark on the city rivalry, however, single-handedly making the 2008 derby his own with a hat-trick in a 5-1 win at the Ciutat de Valencia. 

Pablo Piatti (Valencia, 2011-2016) 

The former Espanyol player enjoyed his derbies while at Valencia, scoring four times against the Granotas across 15 appearances to become the fixture’s top scorer. One of those goals came in a 2-0 league victory in 2013/14, while the other three came in a 2011/12 Copa del Rey quarter-final tie, which Valencia won by a whopping 7-1 scoreline. 

Riga Mustapha (Levante, 2005-2008) 

Levante’s biggest-ever derby victory over their city rivals was the unforgettable 4-2 success in the penultimate round of the 2006/07 season, a result which ensured their survival in the division. Ghanaian-born Dutch midfielder Riga Mustapha was the man of the hour as he netted twice, including the opener after only three minutes.  

Keylor Navas (Levante, 2011-2014) 

While Valencia have historically had more success than Levante, the so-called underdogs approached the derby in the second-to-last matchday of the 2013/14 season with a chance to move ahead of their rivals in the table. They did exactly that thanks to a 2-0 win. The goals may have been scored by Angel Rodriguez and Andreas Ivanschitz, but the real hero was keeper Keylor Navas, who pulled off a goalkeeping masterclass to deny the visitors a way back into the game. Unfortunately for Levante, a loss to Malaga on the final day of the season couple with a Valencia win saw Los Che leapfrog them to finish eighth, with Levante in tenth. 

David Albelda (Valencia, 1998-2013) 

David Albelda is a true Valencia legend, having been their captain and having made over 400 appearances for the club. The midfielder matched up against Levante 10 times during his career and had an excellent record in these derbies by winning five, drawing four and losing just once. He never scored against Levante, but that wasn’t his job. Albelda was the anchor of Che midfield, displaying grit and determination to lead his side to some important derby victories. 

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