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El Clasico: Barcelona v Real Madrid: Football's Greatest Rivalry Paperback – 1 Aug 2013
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Fitzpatrick's book is invaluable for the context that it gives a match that you might have watched superficially for years (Observer)
Richard Fitzpatrick ... is an objective examiner of the complex political and social reasons this rivalry was born and nurtured, unearthing some surprising facts along the way ... Engrossing (Independent)
Once I picked up El Clásico, I couldn't stop reading. It's unbelievably good . Absolutely fascinating (Mark Lawrenson)
The greatest story in club football is the El Clasico opera. Richard Fitzpatrick delves deep to enhance our understanding of this intense rivalry. Power, politics and most of all the brilliance of the football are all on show in these pages (Paul Hayward, Daily Telegraph)
A fascinating and detailed attempt to get to the heart of one of the most complicated and poisonous rivalries in football (Guardian)
For anyone who wants to understand why Barcelona v Real Madrid means so much more than a straightforward match between an unparalleled array of footballing stars, this book should become essential reading (Guillem Balague, Sky Sports)
Top football writing (Dara Ó Briain)
By taking Barça vs Madrid beyond the boundaries of sport, Fitzpatrick offers an absorbing history of the two cities' political and cultural flashpoints, and how this has matured into one of the most fiery rivalries on earth. Suberbly researched, it's a fascinating read (FourFourTwo)
Fitzpatrick's tales of some the world's best football players will hold you at every page (Irish Examiner)
Carefully positioning himself as an outsider . Fitzpatrick gives voice to a huge range of opinions and personal stories from both sides of the fence. [which] makes El Clàsico such a satisfying read (When Saturday Comes Magazine)
Richard Fitzpatrick's enormously enjoyable take on the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona (Irish Times)
Any fan of the game will start reading for the football, be enticed deeper by the quality of writing and research and enthralled by the depth and scope of El Clásico (The Book Bag)
An investigation of the intrigue, politics and culture behind El Clásico - the hard-fought, long-running contest between two of the world's biggest football clubs - explaining the place sport's greatest rivalry has in Spanish life and the world of football.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
Dispels a few myths on both sides which continue to this day.
Read this at a particularly boring fire Derby between east fife and raith rovers.
I only began to follow La Liga in the last 10 years mainly due to increased TV coverage and in recent years I have been able to go to games in both the Camp Nou and the Bernabéu. I don't really have a great preference for either team but I hugely enjoy the rivalry/drama between the clubs and the high quality of the players. I rarely miss watching a Classico on TV when they are played.
The book El Classico helped me fill in a lot of blanks about why this rivalry is so intense. I now appreciate why there is such dis-harmony/hatred between supporters of the clubs and how it reflects what a divided country modern Spain is. For example local Catalan tax is spent throughout Spain but the taxes of the Basque region are only spent locally!
What I really liked about the book is that offers a very indepth analysis into the personalities involved, especially that of Jose Mourinho. Also there are very interesting interviews with legends like Luis Figo, Hristo Stoichkov, Charly Rexach and current Spanish national team manager Vincente Del Bosque.
If like me you are interested in Spanish football but do not speak Spanish then I do not think you will get these insights anywhere else. Most journalistic coverage of Spanish football that I read is either will Messi score more goals than Ronaldo, which of them earns the higher wages or which team will spend the most money in the transfer window? For those who want to read non tabloid football journalism about Spanish football this is the book to read. The writer uses an easy simple style of writing with plenty humour and he gets the balance right between the history of the rivalry and what it is like for the fans of both clubs today.
Unlike most derbies, this isn't a clash between two teams from the same city or locality. Indeed, with many Catalans considering themselves Catalan rather than Spanish, it's not even considered a clash between two teams from the same country by some fans. Regardless, with the two clubs being the best in the Spanish league by some margin and, frequently in recent years, amongst the best in European club football, it's a clash that overshadows all else.
Fitzpatrick lifts the lid on a rivalry that has as much to do with politics and it does with football. Spanish politics is centred on Madrid and Spain was ruled by a dictator in General Franco for many years, which Barcelona feels gave Madrid an advantage with both the football authorities and match officials. It is largely this resentment that seems to have pushed Barcelona to greater achievements and has made the rivalry closer and more intense in recent times, especially as the spending power of both clubs has increased and enabled them to buy the world's finest footballers.
For those fans who thought football politics was about little more than boardroom wrangling, ''El Clásico'' is an eye opener. In Spain, football runs along completely different lines to in England. Television money isn't equally distributed, the fixtures aren't prepared months in advance and the clubs are run by presidents elected by club members. In addition, due to the sheer size of the country and some strange kickoff times, away fans are rarely present at matches. Apart from the blood and thunder of the 90 minutes, there is little here that the average English football fan will be entirely familiar with.
But what is here is very well done indeed. The differences may have caused me to read some sections with raised eyebrows, but thanks to the quality of both writing and research, I had to keep reading. Fitzpatrick had access to many notable figures from both clubs, from fans to players to club officials and they frequently talk about more than what happens on the pitch. As a 30 something football fan, many of the names were immediately familiar and their views were elevated way above what you experience from the average post match interview on ''Match of the Day''. In a country where football and politics are almost inseparable, the players appear equally adept at both.
I came into ''El Clásico'' expecting something a little more recent and more focussed on football matters, but I discovered that the rivalry runs far deeper and further back in time than I imagined. Spain is a culture shaped by its civil war, heated emotions and casual racism and El Clásico, as an integral part of that culture, is steeped in them all. As a perfect summation of that rivalry, this means ''El Clásico'' is also filled to the brim with these things. The Spanish attitude towards racism is shocking to a nation that has seen a current international and former captain in the High Court recently charged with that, but it's always a fascinating read.
This is a book for the slightly more knowledgeable fan, one who could debate the benefits of 4-4-2 against 4-3-3 rather than just abusing the players from the stands. It's a book for the fan who can recall the beautiful game before it became all about money and image rights. It's an eye opening book and how football can be at the very heart of a culture and can be, to paraphrase the late Bill Shankly, not just a matter of life and death, but more important than that. Any fan of the game will start reading for the football, be enticed deeper by the quality of writing and research and enthralled by the depth and scope of ''El Clásico''.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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