Departure of Ronaldo, Messi does not diminish El Clasico says former Madrid defender Sanz

Despite the recent form of the two sides, former Real Madrid defender Fernando Sanz refuses to pick the favourite for this weekend’s El Clasico.

Real Madrid currently occupies the second spot in La Liga, with five wins. Barcelona, on the other hand, is in seventh place.   -  AP

As Barcelona gears up for its first El Clasico without Lionel Messi since his departure to Paris Saint-Germain, the recent form of the two Spanish heavyweights pushes Real Madrid, which has picked up pace under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, as the favourite.

However, former Real Madrid defender Fernando Sanz, who is currently working as the Director of the Ambassadors Project at La Liga, refuses to pick favourites as he feels “every El Clasico is different” and recent form often proves to be futile during the fixture.

“Predicting the result of the Clasico is very complicated but for sure will be a very exciting Clasico because, on the pitch, Real Madrid and Barcelona will put some of the best players in the world.”

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Questions about Ronald Koeman’s ability and job security as Barcelona’s head coach is a pertinent topic of discussion despite club president Joan Laporta publicly backing him. Sanz (just say Sanz from now on) also believes sacking Koeman is not the solution for Barcelona.

“The poor situation of Barcelona is certainly showing on the pitch but Koeman, since arriving in Barcelona, has done a good job. He has found some good players from the academy and he has tried to put Barcelona on the top. The poor economic situation of Barcelona is also a reason for their performance but sacking Koeman is not the solution.”

Both camps boast of talented young footballers - Pedri and Ansu Fati, both having signed long-term contracts for Barcelona have been instrumental in churning results for the Catalan-based club, often from difficult positions. For Madrid, players like Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr. have shown indications that they can be long-term solutions for the Los Blancos from the flanks.

Sanz views the El Clasico as a source of rich experience for the young players. While he termed Barca No.10 Fati as Barcelona’s “next flagbearer” after Messi’s departure, the resurgence of Vinicius Jr against Shakhtar Donetsk can be a huge advantage to Madrid according to Sanz.

The Ronaldo-Messi factor

Ever since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, a considerable section of followers have raised points about the brand value of the El Clasico decreasing. Now, with the departure of Messi, that bandwagon of followers has seen an increase. Sanz, who has been part of the prestigious fixture himself, negates the fact that the departure of Ronaldo and Messi will affect the brand name of the fixture or even La Liga in general.

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“When Ronaldo left Real, we still could see the figures increase. Same with Messi. We witnessed 600 million people live for our big match. So it doesn’t affect the brand. The brands of Real and Barca are more powerful than the players. The clubs have more than 100 years of history. We are still growing in terms of sponsors, people who are watching it,” said Sanz.

Sanz says that Barcelona will have difficulty in coping with the loss of Messi like Madrid initially did after Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus, but as far as the Clasico goes, the importance of the fixture stretches beyond any player.

Debutants to look out for

This El Clasico might get to see a lot of fresh faces. Memphis Depay, Luuk De Jong and Gavi will be probable Clasico debutants from Barcelona while Real will have players like David Alaba and Eduardo Camavinga who will play the historic fixture for the first time.

On being asked about which player will have the most impact, Sanz said, “No one knows who will have the biggest impact. Benzema can be for his experience, Vinicius because he is in good form. Maybe Memphis Depay because it is his (first) El Clasico. Maybe Ansu Fati because (he) looks good after getting back from injury but no one knows. The good thing about El Clasico is that all the players that I’ve said are very good players and I’m sure that they will be excited to play in it.”

Tune into Barcelona vs Real Madrid on October 24 at 7:45 pm exclusively on Mtv and Voot Select

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