Back in the early 2000′s as Real Madrid assembled their Champions League-winning squads, the term “Zidanes y Pavónes” was coined to describe their recruitment policy. On one side were the world-class stars—the “galácticos” the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo—and on the other were home-grown academy products such as Francisco Pavón to plug the gaps where money couldn’t.
Fast forward to the here and now, the former very much describes Madrid’s current makeup of stars while the latter is indicative of rival Barcelona’s dependence on their surfeit of talent, almost all of whom have come up through Barca’s youth system—right down to manager Pep Guardiola.
Only four players who touched the field for Barca yesterday in the twice-annual “El Clásico” were store-bought. Yet, that meant in the midfield Barca’s inexpensive trio of Spaniards Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets squared up against Germans Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira and Spaniard Xabi Alonso, who, combined, cost Madrid around the region of 50 million pounds. As they say in soccer, matches are won and lost there—to the tune of Madrid falling victim to a 5-0 assault. In the process, the duel between Messi and Ronaldo was rendered irrelevant, with the Portuguese striker turning into his occasional sulking, petulant self once Barca’s lead was unassailable.
The best in Spain is now decided. And with no clubs in England looking the part, the best in Europe is almost just as clear.