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An examination of football's greatest rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid by the top Spanish football expert and historian Sid Lowe

If Barcelona didn't exist, we'd have to invent them' Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid President

'Catalonia is a nation and Barça its army' Bobby Robson, former manager of Barcelona

It's Messi vs. Ronaldo, It's Guardiola vs. Mourinho. It's the nation against the state, freedom fighters vs. Franco's fascists. It's majestic goals and mesmerising skills, red cards and bench brawls. It's the best two teams on the planet going face to face and toe to toe. It's the greatest of our time vs. the greatest of all time. It's more than a game. It's a war. It's Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. It's El Clásico.

...Only, it's not quite that simple. From the wounds left by the Civil War to the teams' current global domination, Spanish football expert and historian Sid Lowe lifts the lid on football's biggest rivalry. With exclusive testimonies and astonishing anecdotes, Lowe invites us to take a closer look at the most important eras of this unique hostility including Madrid's golden age in the fifties where they won five European cups, Johan Cruyff's Barcelona Dream Team, the doomed Galactico experiment and Luis Figo's 'betrayal'.

By exploring the history, politics, culture, economics and language, while never forgetting the drama on the pitch, Lowe demonstrates the symbiotic nature of the relationship between these two football giants. In doing so he reveals the truth behind this explosive rivalry.


One of the year’s best football books … an extremely well-informed and usefully myth-busting portrait



Sunday Independent

Sports Book of the Year

Sunday Times

Football Books of the Year: Sid Lowe isn’t an ordinary football writer and, as a result, this is not an ordinary football book. Lowe paces it all so well ... like an engaging lesson from your favourite teacher

Daily Mirror

A revelation. Anyone interested in Spain's two biggest teams can learn something new from this labour of love ... tackling tricky subjects with skill and weaving them into an engaging story. For that, this book stands out from the rest.


Lowe is a man with deep knowledge. He is a proper researcher. His list of interviewees – from Di Stéfano to Beckham – is a Who's Who of six decades of football. And his re-runs of past epic matches make you seek out grainy YouTube videos.


Utterly brilliant

Henry Winter, @henrywinter

A history of modern Spain told through one of world football's most intense rivalries. It conjures up the complex passions of a country whose national team has become not only the best in the world at present, but, some say, the best ever

Chris Maume, Independent

Like so many of Spain's deep rifts, the enmity stems from the civil war. Barcelona represent the losers, democrats, Catalonia. Real Madrid represent the victors, repressors, Spain. Lowe's detailed study shows that the caricature is simplistic but not entirely incorrect

Nick Pitt, The Sunday Times

A work of profound research and stimulating discoveries… Lowe has done El Clasico a service by defining its history

Hugh MacDonald, Herald

Lowe's impressive list of interviewees includes Alfredi di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Andrés Iniesta. …There are also neat mentions of Barça's (unwitting) role in the murder of Leon Trotsky, as well as Madrid’s links to the Beatles in the 1960s and Pedro Almodovar in the 1980s

Dermot Corrigan, When Saturday Comes

Far more than simply Messi vs Ronaldo, the rivalry between two of the most colossal teams in football, as unfolded in this excellent history, pitches Catalonia against Spain, Franco against the republic, north versus south, and so much more

Latest 7

A truly outstanding account of an intense football rivalry which exists between Barcelona and Real Madrid

Oldham Evening Chronicle

An extremely well-informed and usefully myth-busting portrait of the long rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid

Richard Williams, Guardian Online

Fascinating... This one ought not to be missed


Much more than the story of two men or two teams or even a game. Barcelona v Real Madrid is one of the greatest rivalries in modern football and this is its forensic history

RTE Guide

Turns much of the accepted wisdom about the rivalry on its head

Robert O'Shea, Evening Echo

A well-informed, myth-busting history of modern Spain told through one of the world’s most intense football rivalries


Rich, engrossing book

Michael Walker, Irish Times

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    August 15, 2014

    Yellow Jersey

    448 pages

    RRP $27.99

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  • EBook


    September 26, 2013

    Vintage Digital

    448 pages

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