Friends, Neighbours and Rivals: the story of the Madrid Derby through the years

Although the city of Madrid currently boasts several LaLiga teams, Real versus Atleti is the big one for many natives of the city, known as Madrileños. The derby is now the most played game in Spanish football history, and among world football’s most celebrated fixtures.

After Real Madrid were officially established in 1902, and then Atletico de Madrid the following year, the two sides faced off in various friendlies and unofficial meetings before the first recorded official meeting in the Campeonato Regional Centro, a 1-1 draw on 2 December 1906.

The rivalry continued through different regional and national championships, until 1928/29 when LaLiga began with both clubs as initial founder members. Their first meeting in the new competition came on the 24th February 1929 at Los Blancos’ Chamartín stadium. The home team won 2-1, with an extra edge added as both goals were scored by forward Monchin Triana, who had joined from Atletico de Madrid just the previous year.

The idea of players crossing the city was not new, even then. Santiago Bernabeu, the legendary Blancos president who gave his name to the iconic stadium they play in to this day, guested with Atleti in the 1920s. Real Madrid loaned Atletico de Madrid forward Ramon Grosso in 1963/64 to help fight off relegation, while Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez actually scored for both teams in LaLiga Santander derbies during the 1980s.

Nowadays, there are many players who have ties to both sides. Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois made his LaLiga debut for Atleti back in 2011; Simeone’s side bought Marcos Llorente from their cross-town rivals on summer 2019, while fellow summer signing Mario Hermoso came through the ranks at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That’s not to say it’s always been friendly. While ElClasico against FC Barcelona is arguably LaLiga Santander’s biggest game internationally, for many at Real Madrid the derby remains the most special. “The team we wanted to beat, at all costs, was the neighbours,” Los Blancos legend and all-time great Alfredo Di Stefano recalled. “Losing meant our fans had to suffer jokes from the next day in the office, the bar and the street.”

Over the years LaLiga Santander has provided 169 opportunities for such ribbing. Real have 90 victories, Atletico 39 wins, with 40 draws.

Former Real Madrid winger Paco Gento, the club’s honorary president until his death in January 2022, holds the all-time record for appearances in the fixture with 29, while Atletico’s record appearance maker in the fixture is also the club’s all-time appearance record holder: Adelardo Rodriguez with 27. Of current players Blancos captain Karim Benzema (24) and Atletico de Madrid midfielder Koke (18) top the lists. Di Stefano and 1980s striker Santillana have the most LaLiga Santander goals in the fixture for Real Madrid (13), while 1940s teammates Paco Campos and Adrian Escudero share the record for Atletico with nine each.

Cup competitions have recently taken the rivalry to new heights at home and abroad. Atleti beat Real Madrid in the 2013 Copa del Rey final. Real came out on top in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League deciders, while Diego Simeone’s side beat their neighbours most recently in the 2018 UEFA Super Cup. The most recent match between these two sides, in December 2021, ended 2-0 to Real Madrid.

MG Team

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