Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to Camp Nou on Sunday night as LaLiga Santander prepares for the first Clásico of the 2021/22 season. We’ve got used to not seeing a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in this fixture, and now it is time to consider the hosts without their talisman for over a decade, Lionel Messi. But how much of a difference did the Argentine make?
Barcelona: better with Messi
I’ll not lie to you: answering that question by simply considering the statistics is almost futile. Let’s look at them nonetheless.
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Messi appeared in a total of 45 Clásicos during his time at the Camp Nou and, as you can see from the graphic below, was part of the winning team on 19 occasions (42%). In exactly a third of the games he played, he had to wash out that bitter taste of rival defeat.
When comparing that to Barça’s historical record against Madrid, every stat is better with the Argentine in the team. Clearly a number of other factors played their part in this comparison — Guardiola’s all-conquering side with Messi and Los Blancos continental dominators of Di Stéfano when Messi wasn’t there two obvious examples — but the fact that the multi-Balon d’Or winner has scored eight goals more than any other player in this fixture suggests he was as influential as they come.
Out of interest, if statistically negligible, in the three games that Messi missed due to injury since first arriving on the Clásico scene, the blaugrana’s record was won one, drawn one, lost one. They scored six and conceded three in those matches.
Messi’s final Clásico equalled record
Since his very first appearance against Los Blancos, on 19 November 2005 — a Ronaldinho-inspired, 3-0 Barça win at the Santiago Bernabéu that is chiefly remembered for the home fans’ applause for the Brazilian — Messi has racked up a few Clásico records, including one on what proved to be his final one.
As mentioned above, he’s already the leading scorer by far in the fixture and at the Alfredo di Stéfano stadium earlier this year he drew level with Sergio Ramos as the highest ever appearance maker, with 45 Clásicos under his belt.
Leo Messi: “I don’t ask for shirts after the game, I usually swap them, but I asked Zidane once. That’s the only shirt I ever wanted.” pic.twitter.com/ghiSJ7CRXl
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) October 20, 2021
Messi’s 26 Clásico goals
Messi’s Clásico goals haul far outstrips that of the game’s next-highest scorers, Madrid legends Alfredo di Stéfano and Cristiano Ronaldo, who both managed 18 in their time at the Bernabéu. Meanwhile, Barça’s second-top Clásico marksman is César Rodríguez, who netted 14 times against Los Blancos.
Messi also shares the record for the most Clásico hat-tricks: together with Jaime Lazcano, Santiago Bernabéu, Paulino Alcántara and Ferenc Puskas, he is one of just five men to have managed two trebles in the fixture.
Messi ends with Clásico drought
Over the course of his career, only three clubs — Sevilla (38), Atlético Madrid (32) and Valencia (28) — have conceded more Messi goals than Real Madrid.
However, the forward’s final seven Clásicos ended with the mercurial Argentine not finding the back of the net, his longest goalless streak in the fixture since he first appeared. The last time he did punish Los Merengues directly came in a 2-2 LaLiga draw in May 2018.
Clásico live with AS USA
You’ll be able to follow live-text coverage of Sunday’s Clásico with us. We’ll be building up to the game from about an hour ahead of its 21:00 pm kick-off in Spain (3 pm ET, noon PT), before taking you through all the action from Camp Nou. It’s not one you’ll want to miss!