Barcelona have been criticised for some recent signings, but they’ve made plenty of killer moves in the transfer window in the past. The same goes for Real Madrid, who have a tendency to unveil new players to enormous crowds while parading them around the stadium like preened, glistening trophies.
But with two big clubs playing in the same country, in the same league and 300 miles away, many players have flitted between both clubs before eventually settling – and signing – for one.
But who were those players who had both of the Spanish titans vying for their signature? And how much did they sell for and which club pipped each other to the post?
1. Alfredo di Stéfano
Signed: Real Madrid
A legendary striker, Di Stefano put pen to paper with Real Madrid ahead of Barcelona back in 1953, even though his club Millonarios agreed a fee with the Catalans first. He was fundamental in Real Madrid’s dominance in the early years of the European Cup, a trophy they retained for a still-unmatched five consecutive seasons. Di Stéfano remains Real Madrid’s third highest goalscorer with 308 goals; only Cristiano Ronaldo (451) and Raul (323) have scored more.
2. Johann Cruyff
Another genuinely world-class striker who, when leaving Ajax, had the choice between Barcelona and Real Madrid. But the Dutch legend, now sadly no longer with us, said he chose the former because he felt Barcelona was “more than a club”.
His fee of 6 million Dutch guilders set a new world record but was worth every penny to Barcelona. The year he joined, 1973, was the first season in 13 years they won La Liga, helped along by beating Real Madrid in a 5-0 trouncing.
3. David Beckham
Signed: Real Madrid
Originally a Barcelona target in the 2003 season, Manchester United had reached a deal and agreed a fee but Beckham joined Real Madrid instead. Barcelona president Joan Laporta was particularly upset at this news, having banked on securing Beckham’s signature for the club. He scored three minutes into his La Liga debut, and tallied a further four goals in his first 15 games for the club. Four seasons later, he left for LA Galaxy.
Barcelona had intended to bring David Beckham to the club, but because of his signing for Real Madrid in 2003, they became more aggressive in their pursuit of Ronaldinho from PSG, another Real Madrid target.
His five seasons at the club completely changed the fortunes of the Blaugrana and saw him rack up two La Liga titles and the Champions League, as well as 94 goals and 69 assists from 207 appearances. He left the club for AC Milan five seasons later, but later said he regretted his decision as he wished to spend more time playing alongside Lionel Messi.
6. Dani Alves
The Brazilian left Barcelona for Juventus on a free transfer in 2016/17 after having been a pivotal figure in their defence, midfield and attack since 2008. Real Madrid will have been upset to miss out on his best years, having unsuccessfully pursued his signature before.
Alves helped Barcelona to six La Liga titles, three Champions League victories and four Copa del Rey wins and can now be found roaming down PSG’s right.
7. David Villa
Signing from Valencia and following in the footsteps of his heroes (Luis Enrique and Quini), Villa was snapped up quickly by Barcelona ahead of 2010/11 season, a year after a long summer of Barcelona and Real Madrid trying to convince him to join.
There were even reports the Spaniard had agreed a £38 million deal to join Los Blancos before he turned up in Catalonia. His time at the club was plagued by injuries, particularly in the 2012/13 season, and Villa failed to build on a stellar debut campaign. He left for Atlético Madrid, where he helped them win a historic Liga title before he too moved to the MLS, where he currently plays for New York City F.C.
A transfer deal that began back in 2011 at the Club World Cup when Neymar’s Santos faced Barcelona. Neymar’s move was not without controversy, as the club claimed to have only paid around £50m for the player; leaked documents later revealed the actual transfer fee was some £20m higher.
Real Madrid were desperate to sign the young man and offered both he and Santos more money than their rivals, but Neymar’s mind was made up and he joined Barça in 2013. He helped them win a treble and a double while racking up an eye-watering 105 goals for the club in four seasons, 68 of which were scored in La Liga.
The Brazilian has since left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £200million fee and if rumours are to be believed, he could end up at Real Madrid after all.
9. Luis Suarez
Quoted as saying “there was a possibility of joining Madrid” when he signed for Barcelona in 2014 but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play alongside Messi. Suarez’s move to Barcelona made him one of the most expensive players in the world, but as far as the Catalan club are concerned the Uruguayan was a bargain. His best campaign to date has been the 2015/16 season, scoring 59 goals in 53 appearances across all competitions, which is astronomical even for Barcelona.