Barcelona and Real Madrid will do battle in the Copa del Rey semi-finals this week, reigniting one of the greatest footballing rivalries of all times.
An El Clásico win and the chance to eliminate their fiercest rivals will undoubtedly be on the minds of both sets of players as they gear for up a game that is among the most watched sporting events around the world.
Real are enduring an uncharacteristically poor season and have already sacked Julen Lopetegui this season in favour of Santiago Solari – while Barça are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga after overcoming their own slow start to the season.
But reality aside, wouldn’t it be nice to be transformed into a parallel universe where the best of the best from the pair’s respective histories face off on the smallest stage of them all….5-a-side? Well fortunately, we here at 90min are able to do just that for you – so settle in and soak it up as we bring you the lineups for this epic clash.
Victor Valdes (Barcelona) – Few could argue that the standout goalkeeper of modern times for the Catalan giants is anyone other than Victor Valdes. The now retired 37-year-old represented Barça a whopping 535 times in all competitions – spending 12 years with the club. One of his standout attributes was his natural ability with the ball at his feet – rather helpful for this kind of situation don’t you think?
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) – From one legendary goalkeeper to another. And they don’t come much better than former Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The Spaniard made an incredible 725 appearances in the colours of Los Blancos – spending 16 years at the highest level and winning everything there is to win. Not much more you can say about a goalkeeper who has broken record after record throughout the course of an esteemed career.
Carles Puyol (Barcelona) – Calm, composed and basically the epitome of cool – who else could be in consideration apart from the legendary Carles Puyol? Well nobody as it goes, hence why he’s the shoo-in pick for Barça. Fiercely competitive when on the pitch, he’s the ideal man to rally the team and get them up for the fight – oh and he was pretty handy defensively too. So handy in fact, that he made 593 appearances for La Blaugrana – not bad eh?
Fernando Hierro (Real Madrid) – Speaking of cool, what better introduction could you give to Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro? The former Real skipper oozed class, and was deployed as either a tough-tackling centre back or an all-conquering defensive midfielder. Capable of stroking the ball around masterfully, he’d make a great edition to this epic duel. Arguments can be made for the irrepressible Sergio Ramos to take the leadership role, but sentiment prevails on this occasion.
Andres Iniesta & Ronaldinho (Barcelona) – With an abundance of riches to choose from, narrowing down the options further up the field is rather tricky (to say the least). For Barça though, you can’t look much further than Andres Iniesta can you? His elegance, composure on the ball and technical brilliance were incomparable in his peak – with a nimble turn of foot setting him apart from midfield partner Xavi. His partner in crime? The sensational Ronaldinho.
The Brazilian superstar would quite possibly be the best five-a-side player in the world right now, even at the age of 40 – given his ridiculous abilities with the ball. With tricks for days, lightning quick feet and a footballing brain like no other, Real would do well to even get a sniff of the ball with him around.
Luka Modric & Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) – Lining up against the illustrious Barça duo is a pretty handy double act in their own right – or at least you’d think they would be given the opportunity to play together. Modric is currently one of the world’s top performers, recently leading his native Croatia to a surprise World Cup final appearance with his endless running and supreme talent on the ball.
His sensational work rate, paired up with the legendary Zinedine Zidane, would tire out even the fittest of Barça players – though Zizou would likely steal his thunder with a masterclass of close control and effortless finding of space. A titanic tussle to retain and regain possession would ensue – time for a rather large bag of popcorn to be purchased and a comfy reclining chair to enjoy the action from.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – He’s quite possibly the greatest player to ever grace the beautiful game – so there’s simply no leaving Lionel Messi out of the equation. Endless superlatives could describe how ideal he would be for this format, but we’ll just stick with one analogy – the G.O.A.T.
Instead of dreaming up more, we’ll quietly drift off into a fantasy world imagining Iniesta, Ronaldinho and Messi together in five-a-side land. Feeling dizzy yet? We are, and come the end of the game, Real’s defence will be too.
Raul (Real Madrid) – The final piece of the Real jigsaw sees the inclusion of another legendary Los Blancos figure – who happens to complement the likes of Zidane and Modric rather well. The Spaniard is one of the greatest players in his country’s history – with his guile and understanding of the game helping Raul go on to make an incredible 741 appearances for Los Blancos during a 16-year career in the Spanish capital.
His deft touch and finishing finesse is well suited to the 5-a-side format – meaning Cristiano Ronaldo, for all his individual brilliance, must watch on from the sidelines whilst he learns that there is no ‘I’ in team.