On July 24th, 2000 Luis Figo became the world’s most expensive player when he signed for Real Madrid from FC Barcelona for approximately €62 million. To the great anger of Barça fans Figo made the move at the peak of his powers, shortly winning the Ballon D’Or after joining their arch-rivals.
Figo was prolific for both teams, making over 150 appearances and winning two league titles for each team. Figo eventually left Real Madrid in 2003 having cemented himself as one of the greatest ever foreign players to grace LaLiga.
Perhaps it is down to sheer talent that Ronaldo remains beloved by both set of fans. Il Fenomeno joined FC Barcelona for the 1996-97 campaign from PSV for a world record $19.5 million fee. Despite only staying for one season Ronaldo was imperious, scoring 47 goals in 49 games on route to helping FC Barcelona win the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, Copa del Rey and Spain supercup.
Due to issues in his contract Inter Milan met his release clause and, to much Catalan sadness, departed shortly after. Five years later Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for €46 million to the delight of fellow Galacticos Zidane, Beckham and Roberto Carlos. Despite struggling with injuries Ronaldo achieved much success at Real, winning the Ballon D’Or, LaLiga title, Intercontinental, Spain supercup and registering 83 goals in 127 appearances.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, Michael Laudrup was a key member of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” at FC Barcelona alongside Ronald Koeman. Under Cruyff’s leadership, Laudrup won nine trophies at the club including four successive league titles between 1991-1994 and the European Cup in 1992. In a controversial move Laudrup decided to join Real Madrid in the aftermath of the 1994 World Cup.
His decision was immediately vindicated with the club going on to win the 1995 LaLiga title, making Michael the only player ever to win the Spanish league five times in a row playing for two different clubs. He left to join Vissel Kobe, leaving behind a legacy of being one of the most talented players to play for the two clubs.
The current Spain manager, Luis Enrique, is the fourth player on our list to have crossed the divide. Enrique joined Real Madrid from Sporting Gijon in 1991, spending five years in the capital and notably scoring in their 5-0 win over FC Barcelona in January 1995. Stating that he didn’t feel appreciated, Enrique departed in 1996 for the Catalan giants with his existing contract due to a close.
Although treated with caution at first, Enrique become a legend for his new club, staying eight years, becoming club captain and scoring 73 goals in 207 appearances. He retired in 2004 at the age of 34 and went on to manage FC Barcelona to LaLiga and Champions League glory.
Finally, we look at Bernd Schuster who was a FC Barcelona stalwart, making 170 appearances for the club across eight years of service. Schuster was a precocious talent and quickly became a fan favourite, winning the European Silver Ball in 1980 and Bronze Ball in 1981 and 1985.
His move to Real Madrid in 1988 was highly controversial and came at a time when Real Madrid were starting to regain control of LaLiga. He stayed at Los Blancos for two years, scoring 13 goals in 61 appearances. Schuster latterly managed Real Madrid in 2007 and steered them to the 07/08 LaLiga title.
Other very famous players who have crossed the divide include Samuel Etoo, Javier Saviola, former Valencia CF coach Albert Celades, current Sevilla FC coach Julen Lopetegui, former Indonesia coach Luis Milla, the legendary Ricardo Zamora (who lends his name to the ‘Zamora trophy’ for LaLiga Santander’s best keeper), and most recently Takefusa Kubo, signed by Real Madrid in summer 2019 and now starring on loan at Getafe CF after having spent four years at Barcelona’s La Masia academy from 2011 to 2015.