Real Madrid have recently beaten Barcelona to the signing of Dani Ceballos.
The move culminates a short but intense transfer battle between Spain’s two biggest clubs, as they attempted to lure the majestic young playmaker to their side. Now, this transfer could tip the balance of power in Spain. But then that’s the case for most transfers that these two titans contest.
Who wins those contests? When Barcelona and Real Madrid have gone head-to-head over a transfer, which of them came out on top? Historically of course, the most notable case of this was when Alfredo Di Stefano headed to the Santiago Bernabeu and set in motion a period of dominance in Europe the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.
But in the modern era? Since 2000? Which transfers have they contested? And which club has come out on top?
Year signed: 2003
Transfer fee: £24.5m
Club apps: 159
Trophies won: 2003 Supercopa de España, 2006/07 La Liga
Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta had spent his entire campaign promising that if he elected, he’d bring Beckham to Catalunya. This stirred Real Madrid’s interest, who weren’t in the mood to be beaten to a signing by their rivals.
They swooped and Beckham’s mind was made up, he firmly rejected Barça and forced Manchester United to negotiate with Madrid. Luckily for Barça, Laporta had a truly incredible Plan B.
Year signed: 2003
Transfer fee: £21m
Club apps: 198
Trophies won: La Liga (2), Supercopa de España (2), 2005/06 UEFA Champions League
After missing out on Beckham, Barcelona moved swiftly to try and pick up Ronaldinho instead.
Real Madrid sought to outdo their rivals twice in one year, but after spending on Beckham they couldn’t match PSG’s price straight away, moreover Barça’s vice president was personal friends with Ronaldinho and managed to convince him to join the Camp Nou.
The Brazilian made his choice, and turned the balance of Spanish football for half a decade.
Year signed: 2007
Transfer fee: £16m
Club apps: 121
Trophies won: La Liga (2), 2008/09 Copa del Rey, 2008/09 UEFA Champions League, 2009 Supercopa de España, 2009 UEFA Super Cup, 2009 FIFA Club World Cup
Real Madrid had been spending summer after summer trying to sign Thierry Henry. Arsenal constantly rebuffed them, but they refused to give up. In 2007 they were trying again, but this time Barcelona stepped up to contend them.
Despite Madrid have just won La Liga, Henry chose Barça. The move seemed a bad one at first, but then in 2008 something changed.
Year signed: 2008
Transfer fee: £23.5m
Club apps: 391
Trophies won: La Liga (6), Copa del Rey (4), UEFA Champions League (3), UEFA Super Cup (3), FIFA Club World Cup (3), Supercopa de España (4)
When Pep Guardiola took over Barcelona in 2008, the first player he insisted on having was Dani Alves from Sevilla. The Brazilian right-back had been courted by all of Europe’s elite, with Real Madrid at the head of the queue for a player who was destined to succeed and surpass Cafu.
But Pep must have given him a Don Draper-level sales pitch, because he chose Blaugrana and from that moment, Spanish and world football would never be the same again.
Year signed: 2010
Transfer fee: £34.2m
Club apps: 119
Trophies won: La Liga (2), Supercopa de España (2), 2010/11 UEFA Champions League, 2011 UEFA Super Cup, 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, 2011/12 Copa del Rey
Barcelona and Real Madrid had fought over David Villa all through the summer of 2009, with Valencia rebuffing all approaches and telling them to come back in a year. So one year and one botched Ibrahimovic transfer later, Barcelona swooped in to secure Villa before the 2010 FIFA World Cup while Los Blancos were still in the starting blocks. The best team in the world just got better.
Year signed: 2010
Transfer fee: £16.6m
Club apps: 159
Trophies won: 2010/11 Copa del Rey, 2011/12 La Liga, 2012 Supercopa de España
Real Madrid love to sign the best player at major international tournaments, but all the best players in South Africa either already played for them, played for them in the past (Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben) or starred for their deadly rivals (Diego Forlan was an Atleti striker and the Spain side was built on Barcelona).
Mesut Özil was the best of the rest, having been one of the breakout performers for Germany. Even though he had professed his admiration for Barcelona and the Blaugrana were tracking him, Los Blancos swung the hammer and, promising him a central part in José Mourinho’s new project, convinced him to reject Barça and head to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Year signed: 2011
Transfer fee: £25.4m
Club apps: 151
Trophies won: 2011 UEFA Super Cup, 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, Supercopa de España (2), 2011/12 Copa del Rey, 2012/13 La Liga
Ever since Cesc Fabregas was pinched by Arsenal in 2003, there were grumblings in Spain. When he turned out to be as good as they expected, there were louder grumblings.
When he developed into one of the world’s finest central midfielders the big two Spanish sides began a long, long, long saga to try and bring him back (including Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol stuffing him in a Barça shirt in 2010).
Arsenal rebuffed everyone, even though at times Cesc appeared open to it. In the end both sides came in for him, but he had already chosen Barcelona and went on strike to force his dream move.
Year signed: 2013
Transfer fee: £74.97m
Club apps: 186
Trophies won: 2013 Supercopa de España, La Liga (2), Copa del Rey (3), 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, 2015 FIFA Club World Cup
This is the big one. The player who, since 17, had been anointed as the saviour of Brazilian football. Who had been carrying the Brazilian national side for years and returned Santos from the abyss to the top of the game in South America, leading them to win the Copa Libertadores in 2011.
That year Santos lost the FIFA Club World Cup final 4-0 to Guardiola’s Barcelona. But that did nothing to stop Neymar’s meteoric rise. Real Madrid and Barcelona were both desperate to land him, with Los Blancos throwing avalanches of money at him and Santos in the hopes he can be lured to the Bernabeu.
But Barcelona had a secret weapon: Leo Messi. Neymar was an enormous fan of the Argentine, and became bewitched by Barça after that Club World Cup drubbing. Despite offering less money than Madrid, the Blaugrana managed to convince Santos and the player’s agent (his father Neymar Sr.) to allow them to negotiate with Neymar.
While the nature of the contracts signed have since turned out to be quite the (il)legal minefield, what is undeniable is that Neymar picked Barça and has gone from strength to strength in blaugrana. He now finds himself the second best player in the world and heir to Leo Messi’s throne.
Year signed: 2014
Transfer fee: £75m
Club apps: 147
Trophies won: La Liga (2), Copa del Rey (3), 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, 2015 FIFA Club World Cup, 2015 UEFA Super Cup, 2016 Supercopa de España
When Luis Suárez tore the Premier League several new ones in 2013/14, Barcelona and Real Madrid stood up and took notice. Los Blancos wanted to repeat the trick they managed with Gareth Bale a year before, and the Blaugrana wanted a powerhouse no. 9 to compliment Leo Messi (and a big signing to help their fans forget Real Madrid just won La Decima).
Neither club was put off by the ban he received after biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which was odd. Marca had the Uruguayan all over their covers photoshopped into a Madrid kit, but in the end Suárez’s long-standing desire to play for Barcelona swung things and he headed to the Camp Nou, helped birth M-S-N and was a big part in delivering a Treble.
Year signed: 2015
Transfer fee: £23m
Club apps: 56
Trophies won: 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, 2016 UEFA Super Cup, 2016/17 La Liga, UEFA Champions League (2)
Barcelona were desperate to capitalise on their Treble success by securing the heir to Dani Alves. They had earmarked the sensational Danilo from Porto and were making slow progress towards signing him. Wounded by Barça’s Treble, Madrid weren’t having any of that nonsense and swung in like Spider-Man with a big offer to take Danilo to the Spanish capital. It hasn’t quite worked out as the signing stirred something deep in Dani Carvajal’s soul, but Danilo remains a superb talent.
Year signed: 2017 (will join in 2018)
Transfer fee: £39.6m
Club apps: 0
Trophies won: n/a
This 16 year-old hadn’t even played a single minute of senior football in the summer of 2017, but had just helped lead Brazilian to their third junior trophy in three years. He was by all accounts the next big thing, and Barcelona were looking likely to sign him with a €30m bid close to sealing the deal.
Florentino Perez was so wounded by missing out on Neymar he refused to countenance missing out on a player who could possibly be the next Neymar and threw €45m and a big contract at him.
Vinicius signed with no hesitation, although he can’t join up with his new team-mates until 2018.
Year signed: 2017
Transfer fee: £14.45m
Club apps: 0
Trophies won: n/a
Dani Ceballos is the next Andrés Iniesta and his form all through 2016/17 was a beacon to Barcelona screaming out “COME SIGN ME!” – his performance against Barcelona was almost superhuman, and yet still nothing happened until season’s end.
Barça finally sprung to life and tried to bring this dazzling playmaker to the Camp Nou where he would surely revolutionise their midfield.
Instead Madrid swung in and offered him the chance to play alongside his friends and team-mates in Spain’s junior sides (Jesus Vallejo, Marcos Llorente and Marco Asensio) as part of the core of the next great Los Blancos side (alongside other young talent like Theo Hernández) and unsurprisingly he opted for the latter.
Rejecting Barcelona and donning the white of Real Madrid where he will unquestionably go on to become one of the finest midfielders in the world.