The president Joan Laporta in action during the LaLiga match between FC Barcelona and Getafe CF at the Spotify Camp Nou Stadium on January 23, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain.

Super League dead? Real Madrid & Barcelona’s bitter feud explained

The 2022-23 campaign has been a fascinating one when it comes to the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

There have been some sensational matches between the two clubs. They’ve traded blows in La Liga, while Barcelona convincingly beat Los Blancos in the Spanish Super Cup final – only for Carlo Ancelotti’s men to get their revenge with a brutal counter-attacking masterclass in a historic 4-0 victory at the Camp Nou, booking their place in the Copa del Rey final.

But this year some of the best fireworks have come off the pitch. We explain how one of football’s fiercest rivalries has plumbed new depths over the past few months.

Awkward bedfellows

Barcelona and Real Madrid have joined forces over recent years to try and get their European Super League up and running.

Real Madrid Florentino Perez was the chairman of the original ESL proposals that failed to materialise following widespread fan protests – particularly in the UK – back in 2021. Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli, Manchester United’s Joel Glazer, Liverpool’s John W. Henry and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke were named as the four vice-chairmen.

Barcelona were also one of the original founder clubs with Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid alongside the aforementioned quartet.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta was elected shortly before the plans were announced and has continued to back Perez.

“FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta, the president of Real Madrid Florentino Perez and Bernd Reichart, CEO of A22 Sport, the promoters of the Super League, met on Friday in Madrid to continue to explore new avenues to reform European Football,” announced Barcelona in January.

“The meeting took place as part of the ‘New Economic Forum’ conference in which A22 Sport CEO Bernd Reichart was taking part.”

“We are continuing to work to reform European football, to improve competitiveness, sustainability and governance,” A22 Sports added in a further statement.

“We are talking to many clubs across 10 different countries who share our view of the challenges faced by the sport. Standing still cannot be an option.”

The Negreira scandal

In February, the news that Barcelona had been making payments to former Vice-President of the Referees Committee Jose Maria Enrique Negreira for a period that spanned from 2001 until 2018.

“In view of the seriousness of the accusations made by the Fiscalía de Barcelona against FC Barcelona and two of its presidents, due to well-founded suspicions of corruption and due to the relations with José María Enríquez Negreira, vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees, the president urgently convened the Board of Directors for a meeting on Sunday, March 12, at 12 noon, in order to decide on the actions to be taken by Real Madrid in relation to this matter,” responded Real Madrid in an official statement.

READ: 9 key figures on Barcelona’s referee scandal: ‘Relegation may occur’

El Clasico snub

It’s been a longstanding tradition that the presidents of Barcelona and Madrid will dine together before watching from the stands when the two clubs face off.

According to Spanish outlet AS reported that Perez has attended every El Clasico at Camp Nou for over 20 years, but amid rising tensions between the two institutions, the 76-year-old did not travel to Barcelona to watch when the two sides contested a La Liga match in March.

Perez was not present as Barcelona effectively wrapped up the league title with a 2-1 home win, nor was he there in April when Madrid got their revenge with a 4-0 thrashing in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg.

Shots fired by Laporta

“They (Real) claim to feel aggravated in sporting terms by this. This comes from a club, as we all know, that has been favoured from refereeing back in history and still nowadays. A club that was regarded as ‘the club of the regime’ back in the days,” the Barcelona president said in an incredibly combative press conference on Monday morning.

“Why was that? Because of how close they were to the political, economical and sportive power… it might have to be remembered that during seven decades, the majority of presidents and officials from the refereeing committee were former Real Madrid partners, former Real Madrid footballers or former Real Madrid executives. During 70 years, the people in charge to make decisions in that regard were from Real Madrid.

“Seeing now that this club joins the official complaint and declares themselves disadvantaged from a sporting point of view is an unprecedented show of cynicism. I hope the whole trial puts them in the place they should be.”


Real Madrid’s extraordinary response

On Monday evening, Real Madrid went out all guns blazing with a video posted on social media directly attacking Barcelona.

Responding to Laporta’s accusation that Madrid were “the club of the [military dictator General Franco’s] regime”, the clip asked the question: “which is the team of the regime?”

The video went on to assert that Barcelona awarded Franco three medals and made him an honorary club member in 1965.

It goes on to point out that during Franco’s reign, Barcelona won eight La Liga titles and nine Copas del Generalismo (now known as the Copa del Rey) while Madrid went through a 15-year period in which they did not win a league title.

Also featured is an immortal line from Los Blancos legend Santiago Bernabeu, who their stadium is named after: “When I hear that Real Madrid has been the team of the regime, it makes me want to shit on the father of whoever says it,”

The debate about whether Franco favoured either club has raged between the respective fanbases for decades.

But this is the most explicit admission from figures within the respective clubs.

Don’t expect this spat to go away any time soon.

READ NEXT: ‘We’re the best, f*ck you’: The story of Barca & Real’s four Clasicos in 18 days

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player to score in El Clasico in the 2010s?