El Clasico, The LaLiga Fixture With An Unrivaled International Flavour

Just a glance at the countries from around the world to have been represented in the world’s biggest domestic club fixture show just how much of a global game El Clasico has become over the years.

There will be a big international flavour to May 6’s LaLiga Clasico, with players from 14 different countries set to feature in the likely Barcelona and Real Madrid squads for the game at the Camp Nou.

Stars from many of world football’s biggest and most successful countries will of course be present, including previous World Cup winning nations Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France and Uruguay.

But players from other nations all over the world have also represented both Barcelona and Real Madrid throughout El Clasico’s long and storied history, among them these eight which demonstrate the true global reach of the biggest fixture in world football.
1. Cameroon – Samuel Eto’o [Barcelona 2004-09]
Former Real Madrid youth teamer Samuel Eto’o featured in eight LaLiga Clasicos after moving to Barcelona in 2004, scoring four goals and providing three assists against his old side. A three-time league title winner with Barça, the centre-forward also played for Real Mallorca and scored 162 goals during his time in LaLiga, making him Africa’s all-time top-scorer in the competition.

2. Mexico – Hugo Sanchez [Real Madrid 1985-1992]
Hugo Sanchez scored eight goals in 13 LaLiga Clasicos during his seven seasons at Real Madrid. To this day the Mexican international’s five converted penalties remain a record for the fixture. Recently he recalled how the adrenaline rush from scoring in El Clasico was so great that he would jump even higher than normal during his signature somersault celebrations!

3. Philippines – Paulino Alcantara [Barcelona 1912-27]
Paulino Alcantara is to date the only Asian-born player to play for Barcelona’s senior side and scored the team’s first ever hat-trick against Real Madrid during a 6-6 Copa del Rey draw in 1916. A second El Clasico hat-trick ranks among his 369 goals in 357 game for the Catalans. Alcantara, who was born in Manila, also scored a hat-trick for the Philippines national side against Japan in Tokyo in 1917.

4. New Caledonia – Christian Karembeu [Madrid 1997-2000]
The only Pacific Islander to play in El Clasico is New Caledonia-born Christian Karembeu, who featured three times for Real Madrid against Barça in the late 1990s. A 1998 World Cup winner with France and a two-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Karembeu is now a LaLiga Ambassador who has attended El Clasico events in South Africa and Vietnam in recent years.

5. Mali – Seydou Keita [Barcelona 2008-12]
Seydou Keita boasts an enviable record of five wins and one draw from his six LaLiga Clasicos as a Barcelona player. The Mali international is also the African to have played most times in the fixture across all competitions [nine]. A three-time LaLiga winner with Barça, he also represented Sevilla and Valencia during his long and successful career in Spanish football.

6. Chile – Ivan Zamorano [Real Madrid 1992-96]
Ex-Chile international Ivan Zamorano scored in five consecutive El Clasico matches in the 1990s, a record only broken by current Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo during the 2012/13 LaLiga season. ‘Bam Bam’ was fundamental as ‘Los Merengues’ won the 1994/95 LaLiga title, winning the top scorer award with 28 goals, including a hat-trick in a memorable 5-0 Clasico victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

7. Ivory Coast – Yaya Toure [Barcelona 2007-10]
Yaya Toure won four of his six LaLiga Clasicos during his three seasons as a Barcelona player, including an unforgettable 6-2 victory at the Bernabeu in 2009. The Ivory Coast international and current Manchester City midfielder won back-to-back LaLiga titles with the Camp Nou side in 2008/09 and 2009/10.


8. Dominican Republic – Mariano Diaz [Real Madrid 2016-17]
Last season’s LaLiga Clasico at the Camp Nou was the first to feature a player from a Caribbean nation when Dominican Republic international Mariano Diaz came on as a substitute for Real Madrid.

LA CORUNA, SPAIN – APRIL 26: Mariano Diaz of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between RC Deportivo La Coruna and Real Madrid at Riazor Stadium on April 26, 2017 in La Coruna, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

He may have only been on the pitch for four minutes but it was enough for Sergio Ramos to equalise and gain a point which ultimately helped his side win the 2016/17 LaLiga title.

 

Which Stars Support Which Team In La Liga’s ‘Celebrity Clasico’?

The Barcelona and Real Madrid players taking part in May 6’s LaLiga Clasico at the Camp Nou are household names all over the world – and many of the potential audience of half a billion cheering on their team are global stars themselves.

There are lots of close ties between La Liga and the global world of entertainment, while top performers in many other sports are also keen followers of Spanish football.

Among Barcelona’s biggest backers is Colombian singer, songwriter, and dancer Shakira, who will of course be supporting her partner: the Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique.

Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos also has a famous other-half in Pilar Rubio, a well known Spanish TV presenter, model and actress.

Jennifer Lopez is a huge Madridista, and wore a Real jersey during a concert in the Spanish capital in 2012. Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin regularly tweets his excitement about big Los Blancos games.


Barca fan Justin Bieber got a backstage look at Lionel Messi and company training when performing in the city in 2016. Rapper Snoop Dogg has worn the Catalan side’s colours more than once onstage.

Many of Hollywood’s A-List celebrities are also close followers of Spanish football. Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts was starstruck herself on meeting Cristiano Ronaldo at April 2017’s ‘Clasico’ at the Bernabeu.

Roberts’ ‘Pretty Woman’ co-star Richard Gere even travelled with Zinedine Zidane’s team to their Champions League final victory against Atletico Madrid in Milan in 2016. Actors Viggo Mortensen and Russell Crowe are also confessed Madridistas.

Bollywood superstar Ranbir Kapoor is such a big Barca fan that the club made him an honorary member and official ambassador to India in 2011.

Former Terminator and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has also enjoyed a visit to the Camp Nou.
Within Spain’s own acting community, Madrid born Penelope Cruz grew up a Madrid supporter, but her husband Javier Bardem is a longtime Barca fan.

Past and present stars from other sports will also be tuning in on Sunday for sure. Five time NBA champion with the LA Lakers Kobe Bryant is a massive Barca booster; Oklahoma City Thunder star Carmelo Anthony has trained with Madrid.

New England Patriots two-time Superbowl winner Rob Gronkowski loves Ernesto Valverde’s men, while ex-Cincinatti Bengals wide-receiver Chad Ochocinco cheers on Zidane’s side.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal is a regular Bernabeu visitor and honourary Madrid club member, despite his uncle Miguel Angel Nadal winning five LaLiga titles playing for Barca in the 1990s.

Meanwhile double Wimbledon winner Andy Murray was often at the Camp Nou while training in the Catalan capital as a teenager.

Once the LaLiga Clasico kicks off on Sunday these stars will be like all other fans, glued to the action. Only when the final whistle is blown we will find out which celebrities are on the winning side.

Real Tops Football’s Most Powerful Brand

Real Madrid’s superb season that saw victory in both La Liga and the Champions League, sees Los Blancos eclipse rivals Barcelona to become the world’s most powerful football club brand.

The brand power of both clubs was already formidable and unmatched by any other club worldwide. The fierce rivalry of El Clásico, their dominance on the European stage and footballing styles, that are as beautiful as they are effective, served to create brands that are unmatched by German, French, English or Italian rivals.

Barça has always remained just fractionally ahead of Real however, until now. Real’s brand strength score is up from 94.6 in 2016 to 96.1, edging ahead of Barcelona on 95.4, secured after wresting La Liga title from Barça and claiming a record 12th Champions League victory.

However, whilst Real can bask in the glory of its unparalleled reputation, it could be doing a lot more to capitalise on its on-pitch success. Despite being football’s most powerful brand, in terms of brand value, it still trails Manchester United by a considerable margin. United, despite finishing a disappointing 6th in the Premier League, is the most valuable brand in football, worth US$1.733 billion to Real’sUS$1.419 billion.

United’s success is partly the result of an enduring halo effect from the good times under Alex Ferguson. However, the most crucial ingredient has been the club’s commercial nous and ability to convert its success into lucrative deals across dozens of industry sectors and national territories. In contrast, while Real has blockbuster deals such as its reported billion euro agreement with Adidas, it has not leveraged its brand equity to the same extent as United, failing to pursue the same range of partnerships.

Real could perform significantly better in growth markets outside Europe too. In some, such as the Middle East, Real is popular, yet Brand Finance research into the vast and therefore critical Chinese market demonstrates that Real has a lot of work to do; it lags not just United but also Bayern Munich in popularity.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “Real must now pay as careful attention to its off-pitch strategy as it does to its on-pitch performance. Newfound status as the world’s most powerful brand ought to provide the club with powerful ammunition in ongoing discussions with Emirates to renegotiate the shirt sponsorship; Real must not miss the opportunity.”

Premier League clubs continue to lead the world when it comes to commercialising their brands; six of the top ten most valuable football brands are English. Title rivals Chelsea and Tottenham have recorded some of the biggest gains this year after successful seasons that saw Chelsea regain its status as England’s best under dynamic new manager Antonio Conte. Commercially, Chelsea stand to gain significantly through a reported £900 million, 15 year deal with Nike as well as from a near 50% increase to the capacity of Stamford Bridge. Tottenham is also expanding its home; the new White Hart Lane has been innovatively designed and will offer 61,000 spectators the opportunity to see Spurs on home turf. Tottenham’s brand value is up 58% on last year and Chelsea’s 61% to US$1.248 billion.

All Premier League teams continue to benefit from the vast revenues brought in by the latest broadcasting rights deal with Sky and BT. The relatively equitable split is particularly helpful to smaller clubs and helps to explain how a club such as Bournemouth (which joined the Premier League just two years ago and comes from a town of just 180,000 inhabitants) controls a more valuable brand than much longer established European top tier clubs such as Olympique Lyonnais, Inter Milan, and AS Roma. The costs of missing out on Premier League status are clear too. Another season in the Championship for Aston Villa and relegation for Sunderland see both drop out of this year’s list.

Sunderland’s loss has been Newcastle’s gain. The Magpies’ promotion will see revenues return and restore international exposure to the Tyneside club. As a result, brand value is up 92% to US$247 million, making Newcastle this year’s fastest growing brand.

Juventus’ Serie A win and full Champions League run helped improve brand strength by three points, putting the Italian club in the top 5 for brand strength. Brand value has improved significantly too, growing 72% since 2016. However, like Real Madrid, Juventus has not adequately leveraged the strength of its brand for commercial purposes. Foreign tours, marketing investment, strategic partnerships with brands and even non-commercial organisations can all help to improve willingness to purchase, whether that is merchandise, match-day tickets, or subscriptions to broadcasters of Serie A matches. Juve is somewhat constrained in its ability to strike marquee deals by the duration of its existing partnerships with Adidas and Fiat. Nonetheless, Italy’s most valuable football club could do better.

Bayern Munich has stayed level in 5th. The Bundesliga title has increasingly come to seem Bayern’s by right. The club is so dominant locally that glory can really only come from the international stage, so a failure to reach the Champions League semi-finals could mean 2017 is interpreted as a rather mediocre season. Though this year’s on-pitch performance might possibly be seen as underwhelming, Bayern is making great strides off the pitch to enhance the value of its brand. The club is trying to make up for financial differences with European rivals by investing in China. Its new Shanghai office is the first of any European football club to open in mainland China. The club has also launched two football schools in Qingdao and Shenzhen this year, which has increased the brand’s familiarity among young players, as has its intensive investment in social media. Bayern’s hard work is paying off. Brand Finance’s research shows that the club has a very strong presence in China, while the Bundesliga (generally less widely broadcast than La Liga or even Serie A) is China’s most watched foreign competition after the Premier League.

Zenit St Petersburg is Russia’s only entry in the top 50. Its €168 million commercial revenues (led by headline sponsor Gazprom) are the primary driver of brand value, putting it significantly ahead of the two major Moscow clubs CSKA and Spartak. The soon to open Krestovsky Stadium should help Zenit pull further ahead of the pack; its 68,000 capacity is more than 50% larger than any other club arena, allowing Zenit to leverage its brand through enhanced match-day revenue. The stadium will be a key venue for next year’s FIFA World Cup.

At present, the Russian Premier League creates limited interest outside the CIS, however as billions of fans focus their attention on the country, 2018 could be the perfect opportunity for Russia’s clubs to strengthen their brands and build a following in Asia in particular. There are risks too though. Hooliganism was once known as the English Disease but is now more closely associated with Russia, which is also seen as a laggard on issues such as racism and homophobia in sport. Russian clubs must be mindful of the fragility of this once-in-a-generation opportunity, and plan carefully to improve awareness, win fans and secure commercial opportunities.

Real Madrid beaten again

Real Madrid lost back-to-back games for the first time since November 2015 as Celta Vigo edged the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final.

Madrid, whose 40-game unbeaten run was ended by Sevilla on Sunday, fell behind when Iago Aspas drilled in his 16th goal of the season.

The home side levelled at the Bernabeu when Marcelo buried a thunderous left-foot volley from the edge of the area but but Jonny regained Celta’s lead seconds later after a quick counter attack.

It means the visitors, who are eighth in La Liga, take a slender lead back to Galicia for next Wednesday’s return leg.

Ronaldo named best player, Liverpool fans honored

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world’s best player at the inaugural Best Fifa Football Awards in Zurich.

Leicester’s Claudio Ranieri was named best men’s coach while ex-Germany boss Silvia Neid won the female coach award. 

ran

Public voting on FIFA.com also decided the most beautiful goal of the season, with Mohd Faiz Subri taking the FIFA Puskas Award 2016 trophy back home to Malaysia. 

puskas

Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool supporters were chosen by other football fans from around the world and received the inaugural FIFA Fan Award for their unified singing of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in memory of those involved in the Hillsborough disaster. 

c1v0j10xeaiuojx

 

The team of the year
The votes from over 45,000 players around the world decided the FIFA FIFpro World11, the football players’ own selection of the dream team of 2016. Here is the line-up:

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Defenders: Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo
Midfielders: Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo

Paying tribute
Atlético Nacional were chosen by a panel of football experts as the deserving recipients of the FIFA Fair Play Award 2016. The Colombian club displayed humanity and compassion in face of the tragic plane crash that befell Chapecoense – the Brazilian club they were to face in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, and to whom, they insisted that the cup be given.

Key statistics:
The individual winners of The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016 were determined through a combined voting process, in which 50% of the decision was based on the votes of captains and head coaches from national teams all around the globe. The other 50% was split between an online public ballot of football fans and votes by a select group of media representatives from all around the world.

best

The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo: 34.54% of total votes
Lionel Messi: 26.42% of total votes
Antoine Greizmann: 7.53% of total votes

The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2016: Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd: 20.68% of total votes
Marta: 16.60% of total votes
Melanie Behringer: 12.34% of total votes

The Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2016: Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri: 22.6% of total votes
Zinédine Zidane: 16.56% of total votes
Fernando Santos: 16.24% of total votes

The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2016: Silvia Neid

Silvia Neid: 29.99% of total votes
Jill Ellis: 16.68% of total votes
Pia Sundhage: 16.47% of total votes

The voting procedure for each of the awards was supervised and monitored by the independent observer PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Switzerland.

And the details from the awards decided by public voting:

The FIFA Puskás Award 2016: Mohd Faiz Subri

Mohd Faiz Subri: 59.46% of total votes
Marlone: 22.86% of total votes
Daniuska Rodriguez: 10.01% of total votes
Others: 7.68% of total votes

FIFA Fan Award 2016Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool supporters

Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool supporters: 45.92% of total votes
Iceland supporters: 31.37% of total votes
ADO Den Haag supporters: 22.71% of total votes

Bale named Welsh Player of Year

Gareth Bale is the Welsh player of the year for the fourth successive time.
Bale picked his award at the 2016 Football Association of Wales awards on Tuesday night. His Sixth in Seven years.

Stoke midfielder Joe Allen won two awards – players’ and fans’ player of the year – while Exeter’s Ethan Ampadu, 16, was named young player of the year.

Natasha Harding was named women’s player of the year, and Sophie Ingle won the women’s players’ and fans’ player of the year awards.

Bronwen Thomas was named women’s young player of the year, while Phil Baker of The New Saints won Welsh Premier League clubman of the year award.

The media choice award went to Wales and Reading defender Chris Gunter, and there was also a ‘special award’ from the Football Association of Wales for manager Chris Coleman, who has been nominated for Fifa’s men’s coach of the year.

Bale became the first player since 2004 to score in all three group games of a European Championship in the summer and is now only three short of equalling Ian Rush’s record 28-goal tally for his country.

Allen also played a prominent role in Wales’ historic campaign in France and was rewarded with a place in Uefa’s official team of the tournament.

Four additional award were presented to mark Wales’ performance at Euro 2016.

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey was named Wales’ player of the tournament while Hal Robson-Kanu won the Welsh goal of the tournament award for his goal in the quarter-final against Belgium.

Defender Ben Davies goal saving block to deny Slovakia’s Marek Hamsík in the opening minutes of the opening game was named the moment of the tournament.

Supporters band The Barry Horns were recognised for their outstanding contribution to fan engagement.