We already know the best goals in El Clasico history. If we are speaking of the clash as a whole and not just in the league, the best individual efforts are Gareth Bale turning Marc Bartra’s body into dust and condemning his soul to the underworld in 2014, Ronaldinho making a young Sergio Ramos do the splits before scoring in 2005, and Lionel Messi dribbling through a sea of defenders before beating Iker Casillas in 2011.
The best team goals are every single goal that Barcelona scored in the 6-2 in 2009 and also the 5-0 win in 2010. Roberto Carlos in 2000 with his ridiculous rocket free kick, and Dani Alves with his first time shot from outside the box in 2012 are two of the best strikes in general.
The best chip was Messi’s in 2008. The one that made Fabio Cannavaro run into the post and injure himself.
The point is, there’s a litany of spectacular goals, but surprisingly, not that many outstanding assists. Since the game is usually played by some of the best players in the world, the great goals seem to come down to great individual efforts more than anything. There’s a lot of simple finishes as well, but the setups for most of the goals are usually either very standard or the result of great interplay. You don’t really need an amazing pass for David Villa or Zidane to effortlessly curl the ball around the keeper with a defender closing down.
Still, there are some really great assists. And I’ve chosen the best five. The criteria for “the best” boils down to, these are the ones that I like and think are really cool.
5. David Beckham’s long ball for Michael Owen goal in Real Madrid’s 4-2 win in 2005.
This is a great assist on its own but it also comes down to the novelty of it. Two Englishmen combining to score in Spain’s greatest game. The extra layer of gold paint on the Bentley dissecting the Barcelona defense with a long ball so that the great-English-hope-that-died-out-because-of-injuries could score. The quality of Owen’s goal doesn’t match that of the assist, but I’m going to suggest that it’s because Owen is one of the most boring humans alive and that goal was just his dull personality showing itself.
4. Messi’s assist for Thierry Henry’s first goal in Barcelona’s 6-2 win in 2009.
It’s not even a lob, it’s just a little dink. But it’s a very cruel assist. First, that Henry pulled Sergio Ramos inside and lulled him into a false sense of security. Then Messi’s sadistic ball that was close enough that Ramos felt that he could get it if he just stretched every sinew in his body, yet all he could do was embarrass himself and look on as the ball sailed right over him. The two Barcelona players bullied him. After what Ronaldinho had done to Ramos a few years prior, it’s hard not to think that Barcelona’s strategy in El Clasico is “try to make Ramos look as bad as possible.”
3. Xavi’s assist for Messi’s goal in Barcelona’s 6-2 win in 2009.
The deception! Xavi used his signature move to take out three defenders, who for some reason, thought that the midfielder was such a threat that they abandoned and allowed Messi to run through unopposed. But that’s a bit unfair to them, Xavi’s little spin is mesmerizing. There was little that they could do. The second that he received the pass, they were all under his spell. Just as you can’t put too much blame on someone who does nonsensical things under the influence of a powerful drug, we can’t really be too hard on the defenders for converging on Xavi and being treated so horribly by him.
2. Karim Benzema’s backheel/sidefoot flick for Ronaldo’s goal in Real Madrid’s 1-2 loss in 2015
Gerard Pique’s backheel might have been good but he looked like he was trying really hard to do it. And nothing cool should look that effortful. Benzema is the definition of cool. Not just from his Instagram but he looks so graceful and relaxed when he plays. He’s not Zidane or Mesut Ozil levels of serenity, but he’s damn close. This flick was a great example of that. Luka Modric and Ronaldo did their parts of the goal with so much strain and intensity and Benzema just casually draws away a defender and lays it on a plate for the finish. It’s sumptuous.
1. Ronaldinho’s scoop in Barcelona’s 2-1 win in 2004
This is just so good. So effortless. Ray Hudson might be tempted to even call it magical. Magisterial. It’s unfair to the defense who were tactically where they were supposed to be, only so they could watch open-mouthed as the ball sails over them their heads. It’s Ronaldinho at his best, doing the comical with such ease that he deceives the watcher into thinking that the skill itself isn’t that hard. But it is, he is just that amazing.