How Barcelona, Real Madrid help El Clasico evolve into the world's first $8 billion sporting event

El Clasico is never just another match, of course, but Sunday’s El Clasico is the first $8 billion match in the history of sport.

Sunday’s 177th league El Clasico features Real Madrid valued at $4.088 billion and Barcelona valued at $4.064 billion, good enough for the fourth- and third-most valuable sports franchises, respectively — behind only Manchester United and the Dallas Cowboys per Forbes’ 2018 valuations.

No match in any sport has featured two clubs valued at a combined $8 billion, and unlike the recent state of the Cowboys and United, Barcelona and Real Madrid have continued to succeed in the field of play and in the financial arena.

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These two clubs have jostled back and forth, taking turns at winning La Liga in 13 of the past 14 seasons going back to 2004, when Lionel Messi made his debut and Brazilian Ronaldo was getting standing ovations at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Sunday’s match at Camp Nou appears to be the start of a notable next chapter in the rivalry, as it won’t feature Ronaldo or Messi.

The Portuguese superstar is off to the black and white stripes of Italian giants Juventus, which thankfully means the match won’t be marked with the black eye of Ronaldo’s sexual assault allegations stemming from a 2009 night in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the match also won’t feature the white knight of Spanish football, because Messi suffered a fracture in his arm after starting the season looking like the best player in Europe, with only Eden Hazard offering an argument.

(Getty)
(Getty)

With the Ronaldo and Messi era of El Clasico finished — even if Messi’s reign in Spain far from over — Sunday’s match seems to be more about the history and the strength of the clubs than recent years. Cashing in on superstars like Ronaldo and Neymar in recent summers to make way for a new crop of talent, these two franchises continue fighting while on the path to taking over the top spots in global sports.

Both clubs are neck-and-neck across the board.

The all-time head-to-head competitive record sits at 95 wins for Real Madrid, 92 wins for Barcelona and 50 draws across all competitions. In La Liga, the capital city has a 72-70 edge with 34 draws. There isn’t much to separate these two sides, and without Messi and Ronaldo, the young flickers begging to turn into stars at both clubs are looking to make their historic marks in the greatest rivalry in sports.

It’s rare that the planet tunes into one match regardless of the players on the pitch, but El Clasico is that extraordinary game, because even if the meaning of El Clasico literally translates to “The Classic,” the consistent quality on display in the match may as well shorten that title to “The Class.”

Real Madrid and Barcelona are the class of the sport, evidence by these two clubs dominating the premier club competition in the sport for the past decade, claiming seven of the past 10 European titles and Madrid claiming the first three-peat in the Champions League era. However, the super clubs have only met in the Champions League four times and not since the 2011 semifinal, when Pep Guardiola knocked off Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid thanks to Messi scoring twice in the first leg at the Bernabeu.

El Clasico is always a special occasion with a moment of brilliance ready to be imprinted into the minds of a generation globally.

When the two sides met at the Santiago Bernabeu in April of 2017 in a match where Messi memorably scored the stoppage time winner and celebrated by holding his shirt aloft for the crowd, 650 million people tuned in worldwide across 185 countries to witness the event.

The rivalry occurs but two times per season, save for the off chance that both clubs meet in a competitive preseason Spanish Super Cup or the knockout rounds of the Copa del Rey or the Champions League. The last time the two teams met in the Copa del Rey occurred in the 2014 final, which Madrid won on goals by Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale.

Whenever these two teams meet, though, the global attention, interest and buildup make every El Clasico feel like a final.

With broadcast rights expanding globally year-over-year, more people able to watch than ever before and the sport growing exponentially, one cannot help but wonder how many people will tune in to witness the first ever $8 billion match on Sunday.

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