Nicknamed the "Flea," Lionel Messi has won FIFA's highest honor as the Worlds Best Player three times. And all at the tender age of 24.
Before you sit down and enjoy the latest rendition of El Clasico today at 2 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT, here are some intriguing facts, figures and trivia of the best rivalry in all of soccer:
Can it get any closer?
In La Liga encounters, Real Madrid has won 68 times, Barcelona 64 times. There have been 31 draws. Real has outscored their rivals, 264-255. Overall, Barca rules the roost, however, in La Liga, Super Cup, Spanish Cup, UEFA Champions League and assorted friendlies. The club has accrued 104 wins, while Real has 90. There have been 55 draws. Barca has outscored its foes, 432-404.
The Guardiola factor
Since Pep Guardiola took over the Barcelona coaching reins in 2008, the team is unbeaten in El Clasico confrontations with a sterling 6-0-1 record. He has lost only once when you count all competitions with a 9-1-4. His only defeat? A 1-0 extratime setback in the 2011 Copa del Rey final.
Topping the list
Real's Alfredo Di Stefano is the all-time scorer in the series with 18 goals -- 14 goals in the league, two in the Spanish Cup and two in the European Cup. He is followed by former Real standout Raul (15), Barca's Cesar Rodriguez, Real's Francisco Gento (14) and Real's Ferenc Puskas (14). In case you were wondering, Barca's Lionel Messi is sixth on the list with 13 goals, a total that is sure to grow.
They have scored for Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
Just some of the famous named players who have found the back of the net: Emilio Butragueno (Spain), Roberto Carlos (Brazil), Alfredo Di Stefano (Argentina, Spain), Raul (Spain), Francisco Gento (Spain), Gary Lineker (England), Michael Owen (England), Ferenc Puskas (Hungary), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Raul (Spain), Ronaldo (Brazil), Hugo Sanchez (Mexico), Clarence Seedorf (Netherlands), Davor Suker (Croatia), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands), Ivan Zamarano (Chile), Zinedine Zidane (France). Note: David Beckham (England) played for Real, but never scored vs. Barca.
They have scored for Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
Just some of the famous players who have scored: Jonah Cruyff (Netherlands), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Luis Figo (Portugal), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Sandor Kocsis (Hungary), Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands), Ronald Koeman (Netherlands), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Diego Maradona (Argentina), Johan Neeskens (Netherlands), Romario (Brazil), Rivaldo (Brazil), Ronaldo (Brazil), Hristo Stoitchkov (Bulgaria), Bernd Schuster (Germany), Xavi (Spain).
Having it both ways -- Part I
Twenty-one players have performed for both teams, including some of the best players on the planet. That impressive list includes Bernd Schuster, Gheorghe Hagi, Michael Laudrup, Robert Prosinecki, Luis Enrique, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Samuel Eto'o and Javier Saviola as the most recent two-timer. in case you're wondering, the first jumper was Alfonso Albéniz, who moved from Barca to Real in 1902.
Having it both ways -- Part II
Ronaldo played for and scored for both teams in El Clasicos, finding the back of the net for Barcelona in 2007 and three times for Real Madrid. Just in case you were wondering, the Brazilian World Cup champion (2002) scored 34 times in 37 appearances during the 1996-1997 season. After joining Real in 2002, he struck for 83 goals in 127 appearances through 2007.
Four goals only five times
For all of the world-class scoring stars both clubs have boasted through the years, players such as Di Stefano, Raul, Sanchez, Messi and Ronaldo with all of his recent hat-tricks, have failed to score four goals in a match. Only five players managed to accomplish that feat:
* Josep Samitier (Barcelona), 5-1 win, April 18, 1926
* Ildefonso Sañudo García (Real Madrid), 8-2 win, Feb. 3, 1935
* Martí Ventolrà (Barcelona), 5-0 win, Feb. 21, 1935
* Barinaga (Real Madrid), 11-1 win, June 13, 1943
* Eulogio Martínez (Barcelona), 6-1 win, May 19, 1957
For all the firepower that both clubs have brought to El Clasico, there have been seven scoreless ties. The first one occurred at Real on Feb. 1, 1931, the last one was played at Barcelona on Nov. 24, 2002.
Michael Lewis, who has covered international Soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.