LaLiga rising star Ronald Araujo

Barcelona’s new young centre-back Ronald Araujo did not even start out thinking he would be a defender – but the tall and confident Uruguayan has settled superbly well into the blaugrana back line this season. 

Araujo’s great physical presence, impressive reading of the game, power in the air and speed across the ground have brought back memories of former Barça captain Carles Puyol. In fact, Araujo has said that growing up as a kid in Uruguay, Puyol was one of his heroes. 

Born in the northern Uruguayan city of Rivera, Araujo moved to the country’s capital of Montevideo as a teenager to further his chances of a professional career, first playing for Club Atletico Rentistas, then in 2017 joining top flight club Boston River.  

In summer 2019 he came to the Catalan capital, initially to play for the Barca’s youth team in Spain’s third tier. By then Araujo was already captain of Uruguay’s under-20 side, and his fellow countryman Luis Suarez was on hand to help him settle into life in his new city. 

Until 17 years old he had played as a forward for his youth teams, something he also shares with Puyol, who was a winger growing up. Araujo’s nose for goal was shown as he scored six times in his 42 games for Barcelona B, while also getting introduced to the defensive systems and patterns of play used by all teams within the La Masia structure. 

Unfortunate to be shown a red card just minutes into his LaLiga Santander debut against Sevilla in October 2019, Araujo’s first start in the competition came after last year’s COVID-19 lockdown, when coach Quique Setien started him in a 4-0 victory at RCD Mallorca in mid-July.  

3-02 Granada CF-FC Barcelona correspondiente al partido de ida de los cuartos de final de la Copa de SM El Rey disputado en el Estadio Nuevo los Carmenes. En la imagen

Injuries to senior centre-backs Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti opened up further opportunities as the 2020-21 campaign has progressed, and Araujo has improved rapidly to become a firm fan favourite already. His physical gifts and anticipation mean he is very rarely dribbled past. In interviews with the local press, he has joked that since he faces Barça captain Lionel Messi every day in training, opposition forwards are not such a big test! His past as a striker was recalled when he scored his first LaLiga Santander goal with an acrobatic strike against Valencia last December, which was voted ahead of some special Messi efforts as Barça’s official goal of the month.  

A quiet character and devout Christian, Araujo is a fan of traditional ‘cumbia’ music and plays the keyboards and organ. He has been eager to soak up all the learning experiences he can this season and spends some of his free time watching videos prepared by Koeman and his staff which show areas of his game to improve. A particular objective has been to improve his passing out from the back – such an important element for any blaugrana defender whether they play a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 tactical shape. 

An unfortunate ankle injury picked up in February put a temporary brake on Araujo’s progress, but he has since returned to fitness and strong form and was picked by Koeman to start his first career LaLiga ElClasico in this month’s dramatic visit to Real Madrid. 

It is still early yet to say whether Araujo can emulate his hero Puyol by winning six LaLiga titles, or even his coach Koeman’s tally of four. However, the Uruguayan has already established himself as a key member of Barça’s defence, and undoubtedly as one of the most promising LaLiga rising stars of the moment. 

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Levante and Villarreal: two clubs with youth traditions

When discussing the nurturing of footballing talent, it’s worth taking a look at Valencian football. The region in the east of Spain is one where people live and breathe football and have done for as long as can be remembered, and while Valencia may be the most well-known side from the region, Levante UD and Villarreal CF are two clubs with a long-standing tradition and, crucially, a thriving youth development porgramme.  

As the two prepare to face off in a local LaLiga Santander derby this Sunday at 9pm CET, let’s take a look at just how successful they’ve been in developing the stars of tomorrow.  

Villarreal CF’s indisputable backing of youth 

Villarreal boast one of the best youth academies in Spanish and European football, bringing through the likes of Santi Cazorla and Bruno Soriano. Soriano recently hung up his boots, leaving homegrown centre-back Pau Torres, one of the most in-demand defenders in the world, to pick up the baton for the Villarreal academy graduates.  

Right now, there are eight homegrown players in the Villarreal first team in addition to Torres. They have promising players like Yeremi Pino, Fer Niño, Samuel Chukwueze as well as already-established ones such as Alfonso Pedraza, Manu Trigueros and Moi Gómez. Add in Gerard Moreno, the top Spanish scorer in LaLiga Santander this season and a veteran of the club’s youth team set-up, and you’ve got an undeniable recipe for success. In the past, the likes of Héctor Font, César Arzo and Xisco Nadal were given opportunities there too, which goes to show that a good youth development plan can be the base for one of the most solid projects in LaLiga Santander.  

The sporting complex at Villarreal (opened in 2002, but constantly evolving) is at the heart of all the Yellow Submarine’s activities and is a reference for the world of football. The facilities extend across 80,000 square metres, and boast nine football pitches, sporting equipment for all needs, a residency for around one hundred youth teamers and club offices. What this means is that all areas of the club are together in the same space, supporting each other constantly. There’s even a space for a travel agency at the complex. There’s also a second sporting complex, called the Ciudad Deportivo Pamesa, that is used by CD Roda, a relevant local club that has a collaboration agreement with Villarreal. By backing youth football so thoroughly and decisively, Villarreal have recently enjoyed successes such as winning the juvenil level Copa de Campeones (2015) and the juvenil level Copa del Rey (2019).  

Levante UD envy nobody 

They also know what they’re doing at Levante. The Granotas are yet another Valencian Community club to have backed youth coaching and to have made this a fundamental pillar of their project. They have a success story in the form of José Luis Morales, the current captain and top scorer of the first team. Others are coming through, though, such as goalkeeper Dani Cárdenas, who earned nationwide praise this season for his excellent performance against Atlético de Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano. This season, Georgian youth graduate Giorgi Kochorashvili has also made his debut, doing so in December against Real Betis and even playing all 90 minutes of a senior Copa del Rey match at Portugalete. 

Perhaps, though, the clearest link between the Levante first team and their academy is seen through their coach Paco López. He was promoted to his current role after previously coaching the B team and he has now cemented his status as a club icon with the Granotas’ senior side by making them one of the toughest teams in all of LaLiga Santander.  

There are various Levante academy graduates, meanwhile, who have gone on to star at other clubs in LaLiga Santander such as the now-retired Juanfran García, Sergio Ballesteros and current Villarreal midfielder Vicente Iborra.  

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Iago Aspas “Born To Score”

A native of Moaña, a small town just cross the bay from RC Celta’s home city of Vigo, Aspas is perennially one of LaLiga Santander’s most prolific goal scorers and has this season participated in 22 of his team’s goals.   

Iago Aspas has, as always, been a fixture in the team coached by Eduardo Coudet this season. He has started 26 games, picking up 2,277 minutes, and hasn’t disappointed. He has scored 12 goals and has participated in another ten with assists.  

Of his 12 goals to date, he’s scored braces on two occasions. The first of them, on matchday two against Valencia CF at ABANCA Balaídos, handed his side the three points. The second brace came just this month in a dramatic 4-3 loss to Sevilla FC, his heroics coming up just short in the search for the win. Aspas is actually the player with most all-time braces for the club in LaLiga Santander, with 23.  

Aspas has also provided two assists in a single game twice this season, on Matchday 13 vs Cadiz CF and then again against D. Alaves on Matchday 29. Coincidentally, he also scored in both games. Talk about an all-round contribution! 

Not just a goal scorer, Aspas lays chances on a plate for his teammates. He takes players on, he recovers possession, and is daring. The top scorer and top assist provider for Celta this season, he’s also the team’s top dribbler, with 53 take-ons and the player with the most shots on goal. And, on top of that, he’s almost ever-present. Just three players have played more minutes than him this season.   

Playing for Celta was Iago’s childhood dream, growing up in the heart of the Ria de Vigo, the bay which surround the city on Spain’s north-western coast. He made his Celta debut in the 2007/08 season, coming off the bench to score twice and instantly endearing himself to the fans. Fast forward over a decade, and he’s an institution at the club.   

He has character, and he fights for what he wants. He has won 122 LaLiga matches and has regained 94 possessions. In addition, he combines well with teammates, making 967 passes with an impressive 75% success rate. 

Aspas is known as the ‘Magician of Moaña.’ He’s the boy who dreamed of wearing the Celta shirt and who made it. With eight matchdays of the season left, don’t rule out more Aspas-inspired fireworks in Vigo! 

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The greatest duel for goals in ElClasico: Karim Benzema and Lionel Messi

With 18 and 23 goals respectively, Benzema and Messi will be vying to see who’ll be crowned top dog in this critical showdown 

It’s time for one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the season, the match to end all matches, the event that the whole world stops to watch. It’s not just a game between two historic rivals, but also between two teams replete with individual talent and great goalscoring prowess. 

If we had to single out two players whose skills and knack of converting chances have stood out in this campaign, these would be Leo Messi and Karim Benzema. 

FC Barcelona striker Lionel Messi isn’t just leading the scoring charts for his club, he’s also top of the table in the league, notching up 23 goals in LaLiga Santander in 2,303 minutes. The Rosario-born legend’s position in the team is undisputed, having featured in 27 games so far and started all but two of them. 

As for Real Madrid, they boast Karim Benzema, who is Los Blancos’ leading marksman and who sits in fourth place in the race for the Pichichi accolade, with 18 strikes to his name. He has played a total of 2,203 minutes and has become an essential part of Zinedine Zidane’s masterplan, starting all 25 games he has featured in this campaign. 

These are two exceptional individuals who leave their mark every time they take to the field, who relentlessly find the back of the net and who are simply undroppable for their clubs. 

Yet what they offer as footballers differs substantially from one another, with the Frenchman and Argentine possessing contrasting skill sets, dribbling techniques and shooting abilities. Let’s analyse these two footballing kings in greater depth. 

Firstly looking at Messi, we can see that, in terms of combining with his teammates and building up play, that the Blaugrana hitman averages 71.6 passes per game with an accuracy of 82%. In addition to scoring 34% of his team’s goals, he has provided eight assists this season, which sees him tied in second place with Celta de Vigo’s Iago Aspas and Atletico de Madrid’s Marcos Llorente in the league rankings. 

If we take into account finishing off moves, the Argentine forward averages 5.7 shots for every 94 minutes of football played, of which 3 are on target. As for his 23 strikes in 2020-21, 17 have come from open play while six have come from set pieces, with Messi achieving a conversion rate of 17%. Although most of these shots are taken from outside of the box, he’s not adverse to striking closer to the goal, with almost 24% of his attempts coming from inside the area. 

While Karim Benzema makes a comparatively small number of passes per game – an average of 38 – the Frenchman’s success rate of these contributions is a high 83%. He has set up six goals so far this campaign, which places him alongside Real Betis’s Sergio Canales and Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal as the sixth-highest assist provider in LaLiga Santander. 

Despite being a highly mobile player who is constantly seeking out space between the opposition’s defence and midfield, 40.9% of his shots have come from within the 18-yard box. While Benzema will sometimes try his luck from further out, he usually saves his efforts for closer to the goal. 18.3% of the 33-year-old’s shots have found the net and of his 18 goals scored this season, 16 have come from open play and only two from set pieces. 

As for defensive duties, Benzema and Messi have remarkably similar statistics when it comes to winning back the ball, with the latter having regained possession for his side 53 times, only once more than the Frenchman. 

Everybody is set to enjoy a wonderful clash of goalscoring experts; two stars who will rampage across the pitch and undoubtedly give the opposition goalkeepers a very hard time in what promises to be an unmissable encounter. These two individuals are at one with the art of goalscoring and having already achieved a place in football’s history books they are still smashing records with no signs of letting up.  

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El Clásico takes over the world including Malaysia!

Banjaran Hotsprings, Ipoh, Malaysia

The most-watched club football match in the world returns to screens this Saturday at 9pm (CET) and features Real Madrid and FC Barcelona locking horns at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium for the first time

LaLiga has lined up an unprecedented digital and broadcasting experience for this global event.

Malaysia, 08 April 2021. ElClásico, the most-watched club football match on the planet, is back. This Saturday, 10 April at 9pm (CET), Real Madrid will host FC Barcelona in a pivotal battle in the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander title race, this time at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium for the first time in history. Just three points separate Atlético de Madrid and their ElClásico rivals at the top end of the table and, with just nine games left to play, this Saturday’s match promises to have a crucial impact on both teams’ chances of making a bid for the top spot.

ElClásico is one of the longest-running and heated rivalries in world football and LaLiga’s activations highlight the passion and intensity of the game. As such, in the days leading up to the match, LaLiga is organising a plethora of international actions to show that ElClásico takes over the world.

Banjaran Hotsprings, Ipoh, Malaysia

LaLiga has quite literally taken the lounges where fans of ElClásico will watch the match and installed them on Mount Bromo, in the east of the island of Java, Indonesia; in a Boma of a Maasai tribe in Kenya; in the historic city of One Thousand and One Nights, Samarkand, in Uzbekistan; and set up a final lounge at the foot of the spectacular lake Eibsee in Germany.

Furthermore, to symbolise LaLiga’s global reach, it has installed 17 ElClásico flags in the most unpredictable places in order to surprise football-lovers in countries such as Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Angola, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Brazil, Bolivia, Turkey, Malaysia, Ecuador, Japan, Thailand, Denmark, the United States and Canada.

Banjaran Hotsprings, Ipoh, Malaysia

The “ElClásico Flag” has been installed also at Banjaran Hotsprings in Ipoh on the 2nd April.

LaLiga’s Global Campaign
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LaLiga Brings Top Spanish Matches to Malaysia

April 7th, 2021 – LaLiga, the Spanish football league, returns to Malaysia to charm and attract Malaysians on the iconic culture, history, and tradition of spanish sports. On April 7, 2021, LaLiga hosted a vibrant media event at Marta’s Kitchen, Hartamas to present its most exciting LaLiga derbies. On top of that, LaLiga wants to prepare the nation to get ready for the most watched game in the world, Barcelona vs Real Madrid. In Malaysia, nothing unites the country’s love and excitement like the passion for sports.

The aim of the event was to raise awareness for each of the Derbies being played in LaLiga this season which are the Valencia Derby, the Basque Country Derby, the Madrid Derby and finally the Seville Derby. LaLiga explained in further details the proud history of the competition and world-class teams which brings talent and heart to every defining encounter.

Speaking at the event, LaLiga’s representative in Malaysia, Giorgio Pompili Rossi said “Bringing LaLiga closer to our fans and the media in Malaysia is our priority. At LaLiga we’re exporting the league and the whole country with the culture and the tradition all over the world. Malaysia has many diversities where both football and cuisine are relevant to the nation. Through this event, we hope we are able to provide our guest with one of a kind experience”.

Guests got a chance to witness performances by Dr Sergio Camacho, the Director of Performing Arts of the University of Nottingham Malaysia, with his ensemble “Chino~Latino”, a Spanish mix Malaysian fusion band that blends traditional Spanish rhythms with Malaysian Chinese instruments. And what better way to add the culture of food and sports together but with Malaysian-based Spanish Chef, Chef Marta who showcased live, one of her special spanish delicacies “Valencian Paella”.

LaLiga is much more than just Real Madrid, Barcelona and the El Clasico, it’s about passion, culture and heritage. LaLiga continues to build its brand’s presence in Malaysia through events such as this one. Malaysians are becoming more and more familiar with LaLiga, its various big games and most of all its Derbies, which are highly captivating. LaLiga inspires new fans of their beautiful games, educating them of the Spanish league and the best in world football.

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Five things you don’t know about Karim Benzema

Few players in European football can match the longevity and long-term quality that the Frenchman has shown since joining Real Madrid back in 2009, but there’s still a lot you may not know about the LaLiga star. 

1. He’s one of the five all-time top Champions League goal scorers 

Benzema’s name may not be the first that comes to mind when thinking of the all-time top scorers in the Champions League, but the Frenchman has a very impressive 70 goals to his name from 126 appearances in the competition. He scored 12 for his first club, Lyon, before adding 58 for Real Madrid since 2009. Benzema currently sits fifth in the all-time standings, and only behind LaLiga greats Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Raúl Gonzalez, apart from the Polish Robert Lewandowski. 

2He scored the fastest goal in El Clasico history 

Karim took just 22 seconds to score in a LaLiga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in December 2011, making him the fastest-ever goalscorer in the history of the greatest game in club football. Since 2009 he’s scored nine times against his side’s biggest rivals, ranking him fourth on the active goal scorers ranking behind Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.  

3. He could have played for Algeria 

Born in France but of Algerian descent, Karim could played for the Algerian national team. In fact, the Algerian football federation is known to have tried to convince him when he was making a name for himself. He chose France and went on to pick up 81 caps for Les Bleues until his last appearance in 2015.  

4A film was made about his life 

 ‘Le K Benzema’ was released in 2017 and charted his rise through the ranks at Lyon and to global stardom at Real Madrid, featuring interviews with his parents, friends and teammates. The film also opened up on his friendship with French rapper Booba and his close relationship with coach Zinedine Zidane.  

5. He has eight siblings, some of which are also footballers 

Karim comes from a BIG family. In total, he has eight siblings – three brothers and five sisters. The Real Madrid star is the third youngest of the family, while his two younger brothers – Gressy and Sabri – have also made a career for themselves in football, although not quite at the same heights as Karim.  

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Five things you don’t know about Lionel Messi

The Argentine forward is a true superstar of the game and one of the most famous players on the planet, but here are some things you might not already know about him. 

1. He has scored at least seven goals against 17 LaLiga Santander teams 

All LaLiga teams naturally fear Messi when he comes up against them, with the No.10 having netted at least seven times against 17 from 19 of the other sides currently in the top division. His favourite victim is Sevilla, against whom he has a whopping 38 goals in 43 appearances. Over his career, he has faced 40 different clubs in the Spanish top flight, with only two yet to concede against him: Murcia and Xerez. 

2. He first played with fellow Barça captain Gerard Pique in 2000 

Messi and his current Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique have spent most of their footballing lives together. They were both in the same team in Barcelona’s La Masia academy, along with Cesc Fàbregas – part of the so-called “generation of ‘87” and conquered almost every challenge in their path. It was clear from that early age that these players would go on to achieve great things and, although Pique spent time at Manchester United and Real Zaragoza before returning to Barcelona, they have both been in the Blaugrana first-team squad together since 2008.  

3. He pays tributes to his grandmother after every goal 

The sight of Messi pointing towards the sky with both hands after scoring a goal has become an almost weekly occurrence in LaLiga but not many people know its meaning. It is in fact a tribute to Grandmother Celia, who Messi credits with sparking his interest in football and supporting him as he took his first steps in the game. Sadly, she passed away in 1998 and never saw him play at the top level, but his iconic celebration ensures that her spirit lives on.   

BAS39. BUENOS AIRES (ARGENTINA), 29/05/2018.- El jugador de Argentina Lionel Messi (i) disputa un balón con Bria Alceus (d) de Haití hoy, martes 29 de mayo de 2018, durante un partido amistoso en el estadio Alberto J. Armando “La Bombonera” de Buenos Aires (Argentina). EFE/David Fernández

4. He could have played for Spain at international level 

Messi has represented Argentina throughout his international career, but he could have been wearing the red of Spain had he accepted an offer to join the national team of the country where he has spent his entire professional career. After spending his childhood in Barcelona, he was eligible to play for the 2010 world champions, but Messi says the idea never crossed his mind. The rest, as they say, is history as he has gone on to become Argentina’s all-time top scorer.    

V.26. Valencia, 1103/2006.- El jugador argentino del Valencia CF Pablo Aimar (delante) lucha por el control de un balón con el jugador uruguayo del Real Madrid Carlos Diogo, durante el partido correspondiente a la 27a. jornada de Liga que se juega esta noche en el campo de Mestalla, en Valencia. EFE/Manuel Bruque.

5. His footballing idol was Pablo Aimar 

Many up-and-coming players consider Messi as a role model, but it’s easy to forget that he had an idol growing up too, just like any other aspiring footballer. His was fellow Argentina and former Valencia and Real Zaragoza playmaker Pablo Aimar. They faced each other in LaLiga on several occasions, including on one special night in 2004 when Aimar came up to the 17-year-old Messi, an unused sub on the night, after the game to offer him his shirt. He still treasures that jersey to this day.  

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Alfredo Di Stéfano:a five-star stadium for ElClasico

Real Madrid’s temporary home will host this weekend’s ElClasico against FC Barcelona. Here’s how the ground became the unexpected venue for world football’s biggest club rivalry. 

This weekend’s ElClasico clash in LaLiga Santander between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona (Saturday April 10th – 9pm CET) will be played at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, part of Real Madrid’s state-of-the-art Valdebebas training complex.  

The Di Stefano will be the 12th venue to host an ElClasico fixture. The very first was in the Copa de la Coronación, held in 1902 at the Hipódromo de la Castellana in Madrid, a venue more commonly used for horse racing at the time. That was the only competitive ElClasico ever held there, while the other 244 have been split between the Santiago Bernabéu (98), Camp Nou (88), Les Corts (30), Chamartín (17), Mestalla (3), O’Donnell (3), Metropolitano (2), Velódromo Parque de Deportes (1), Vicente Calderón (1) and La Romareda (1).  

A five-star stadium for the 182nd LaLiga Santander ElClasico 

Real Madrid have been playing at the 6,000-seater ground, named after one of their all-time legends, ever since LaLiga football returned following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with redevelopment work taking place Santiago Bernabéu during this time in which fans can’t be present at matches.  

The stadium was opened in Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training complex in 2006 and until 2020 was best known as the home of the club’s reserve side Castilla, who have mostly played in the second and third tier of Spanish football. The Di Stefano has hosted a couple of ‘ElClasico’ fixtures in the past, but between the clubs’ reserve sides.  

The stadium has state-of-the-art facilities, from undersoil heating to a large press area to environmentally friendly solar panels. The ground was already an excellent venue, yet the club improved the Di Stéfano even further as the first team moved in. Changes were made to assist LaLiga and UEFA’s broadcasters, changing some camera positions, while other structural changes were implemented in order to make the stadium as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. This included the installing of substitute areas in the stands behind the dugouts, allowing social distancing, and alterations to the zones around the dressing rooms to minimise risks.  

Real Madrid’s players feel very much at home at the Di Stefano, just a short walk away from the residence where they often sleep the night before early kick-offs. Zinedine Zidane knows the ground especially well, having coached Castilla before taking on the senior job in 2016. And it was club captain and icon Sergio Ramos who scored the first ever goal at the Di Stefano, against Stade de Reims in an inaugural friendly all the way back in 2006.  

Now, 15 years later, the Di Stefano will host ElClasico, the 182nd match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in LaLiga history and the 246th competitive meeting between the two sides all-time.  

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Back for more: Joan Laporta comes face to face with Real Madrid once again

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.  

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