Messi and Ronaldo have come to dominate world football between them over the last decade. The pair have won 10 Ballon d’Or awards and eight Champions League titles between them during that time. They have also been the focus of the single biggest domestic club game in the world and completely redefined what it means to be world class in the modern era.
But following Ronaldo’s €100m exit from Real to Juventus during the summer and the fractured arm suffered by Messi during a Barça win over Sevilla that has sidelined him for the next three weeks, Sunday will be the first since 23 December 2007 without at least one of them involved.
While Ronaldo was absent for the 2014 Copa del Rey final though injury and the second leg of the 2017 Supercopa de España through suspension. He of course was still at Manchester United for Clásico games that took place in the 2007/08 and 2008/09 campaigns.
However, Messi hasn’t missed a single meeting with Real since that day in 2007 when he had to skip the clash because of injury. The Barça legend has played in every single one of the last 33 Clásico games since and it is because of his absence now that 11 years of history is at an end.
Victor Valdes, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol all played, but Barça had Gabriel Milito and Rafael Marquez at centre-back, with Eric Abidal at left-back and Yaya Toure, Deco, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o the star names in midfield and attack.
Real, meanwhile, were reigning La Liga champions after winning the title on head-to-head record ahead of their Catalan rivals the previous season. Title-winning coach Fabio Capello had been replaced by Bernd Schuster, while Ramon Calderon ruled as president.
Of the current side, Sergio Ramos featured in 2007, while Marcelo was on the bench. But Real were spearheaded by a front three of Raul, Robinho and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Wesley Sneijder pulled the strings in midfield alongside the strength of Mahamadou Diarra and Julio Baptista.
Fabio Cannavaro was at the back alongside Pepe, while ex-Manchester United misfit Gabriel Heinze made one of his only 44 La Liga appearances for the club in the game.
Real won the December 2007 contest at Camp Nou by a single goal to nil after Baptista scored around 10 minutes before half-time. They would later also win the reverse fixture 4-1 at the Bernabeu in the closing weeks of the season after already retaining their La Liga crown.