The most controversial was that of Luis Figo who went from a Barca hero to public enemy Number One when he transferred to Real Madrid in 2000.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are the biggest football clubs in Spain and among the best in the world. Both giants are eternal rivals and matches between both are popularly called “El Clasico”.
The rivalry between Barca and Real is so intense that it is considered a taboo for a player to play for both clubs in his career.
But some players have done the impossible by turning out for both sides, either through a direct transfer or from another club side.
In fact, almost 40 players have represented both sides — this includes some of the best players of all time.
In this article, FootballOrbit presents you with the 11 top footballers who have played for Barcelona and Real Madrid.
1. Luis Figo
The most controversial on this list, Figo went from a Barca hero to public enemy Number One when he transferred to Real Madrid in 2000.
Famous for his creativity and ability to get past defenders as a winger, Figo is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
His 106 assists are the second-most in La Liga history, behind Lionel Messi. He won the 2000 Ballon d’Or, 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year.
The Portuguese made the controversial transfer from Barcelona to Real in 2000 for a then world record fee of €62 million.
His signing was the promise which won Florentino Perez the Madrid presidency but it was a bitter pill for Barca fans to swallow due to his status as a star player at Camp Nou.
Figo’s first appearance as a Real Madrid player at Camp Nou created a very tense and deafening atmosphere. He was brutally taunted throughout the game.
There were banners hung around the stadium with words like “Traitor”, “Judas”, “Scum”, and “Mercenary”.
When he came out of the tunnel and ran onto the field, the jeers of almost 98,000 Barcelona fans escalated — forcing a visibly shocked Figo to put his fingers in his ears.
During the match, each time Figo got the ball; the noise rose with insults while missiles (like oranges, bottles, cigarette lighters and mobile phones) were also flying about.
The regular corner taker for Madrid, he didn’t take any corners at the Camp Nou to avoid getting too close to the Barcelona fans.
His second game back at the Camp Nou in November 2002 was even worse……….
Each time he came within range of the Barcelona fans; beer cans, lighters, bottles and golf balls were being thrown.
This time, Figo decided to take corners, so midway through the second half Madrid won a corner…..
With various dangerous objects being thrown on the pitch, it took Figo two minutes to take the corner.
Another corner followed on the other side and as Figo walked across, he slowed to pick up the missiles. As he prepared to take the corner he moved away some of the debris and gave a sarcastic thumbs-up with a smile to the fans.
Every time he was about to take a corner, missiles would land. This went on severally until the referee was forced to suspend the game for almost 20 minutes.
During the break in play, a pig’s head was picked up on camera among the debris near the corner flag — this became an iconic and defining image of the “El Clasico rivalry”.
“By the second or third corner I turned to Luís Figo and said: ‘Forget it, mate. You’re on your own’. I used to offer Luís the chance to take the short corner, drawing up close to him near the touchline, but not this time. Missiles were raining down from the stands: coins, a knife, a glass whiskey bottle. Johnnie Walker, I think. Or J&B. Best to keep away. Short corners? No thanks.Real Madrid teammate Michel Salgado on the vitriol aimed at Figo from Barcelona fans at the Camp Nou.
Luis Figo spent five years each at both Barcelona and Real Madrid and made more than 200 appearances . He won two league titles with both — winning the 2002 UEFA Champions League at Madrid.
He later joined Inter Milan and retired there in 2009.
2. Ronaldo de Lima
Unlike Figo, Ronaldo de Lima is beloved to fans of both Barca and Madrid.
He had started his career at Cruzeiro and moved to PSV in 1994. At 20 years old, he was named the 1996 FIFA World Player of the Year — making him the youngest recipient of the award.
He joined Barcelona in 1996 for a then world record transfer fee.
He only spent one season at Barca, but it was a memorable one as he scored 47 goals in just 49 games in all competitions.
At 21, he won the Ballon d’Or in 1997 and remains the youngest recipient of the award.
In 1997, Inter Milan broke the world record fee to sign Ronaldo — making him the second player after Diego Maradona to break the world transfer record twice.
Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2002 and won the 2002/03 La Liga title as the league’s top scorer.
He became one of the leading lights of the Galactico generation, winning a second Ballon d’Or.
3. Michael Laudrup
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Michael Laudrup was a key part of the ‘Dream Team’ which won four straight La Liga titles for Barcelona in the early 90’s.
A complete playmaker, his vision and guile made him stand out on the pitch.
But after five glorious years with Barca, he fell out with manager Johan Cruyff and moved directly to arch-rivals Real Madrid in 1994 — where he won his fifth La Liga title in a row.
Amazingly, Laudrup was on the winning side of two 5-0 El Clasico wins — one with Barca in his final season, and the other with Madrid in his first season.
Michael Laudrup only spent two seasons with Real before joining Japanese side, Vissel Kobe.
4. Luis Enrique
A versatile and technically gifted midfielder, Luis Enrique played more than 200 times for both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Enrique spent five years with Madrid before joining their fiercest rivals on a free transfer in 1996.
He claimed that he “rarely felt appreciated by the Real Madrid supporters and didn’t have good memories there”.
Barca supporters didn’t like Enrique initially, but he soon won their hearts and represented the Catalans for 8 years.
He eventually became captain and scored several times in the El Clásico against his former club. He famously made a passionate celebration at the Santiago Bernabéu by grabbing his jersey after a 25-yard strike that beat the Madrid goalkeeper.
Luis Enrique won two La Liga titles among several other trophies with Barca.
He later became manager of the club — winning several trophies, including a famous Treble in 2015.
5. Samuel Eto’o
Eto’o joined Real Madrid as a youngster from the Kadji Sports Academy in Cameroon. But he never made it to the first team, going on several loan spells.
Eventually, he made a permanent transfer to Mallorca, where he excelled; scoring 54 top-flight goals in 4-and-a-half seasons.
He secured a big move to Barcelona in 2004.
At Camp Nou, he became an instant superstar. He ended up scoring 130 for Barca in all competitions.
Eto’o also won 3 La Liga titles and 2 Champions Leagues with the Catalans.
He left for Inter in 2009 and won the Treble in his first season.
6. Bernd Schuster
Bernd Schuster did not just played for Barcelona and Real Madrid; he also represented Madrid’s city rivals, Atletico Madrid.
Nicknamed “der Blonde Engel” (the Blonde Angel), Schuster joined Barca from Cologne in 1980, and enjoyed success at Camp Nou.
The German was an important member of the squad throughout the 1980s as he scored 10 goals or more in 7 of his 8 seasons at Catalunya.
He joined Real Madrid in 1988 and won 2 league titles in two years.
He then moved across the city to Athletico Madrid, where he won 2 Copa del Reys.
After 12 years in Spain, Schuster returned home to Germany in 1993 to join Bayer Leverkusen.
7. Gheorghe Hagi
Gheorghe Hagi was considered one of the best players in the world during the 1980s and ’90s and is regarded as the greatest Romanian footballer of all time.
After starring for Romania at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Hagi joined Real Madrid but after two underwhelming years, he left the club.
He returned to Spain to join Barca in 1994 but still didn’t perform up to expectations. He eventually left in 1996 to enjoy a more glorious spell at Galatasaray.
8. Javier Saviola
After arriving from River Plate in 2001, Argentine striker Javier Saviola starred for three seasons at Barca before eventually falling out of favour.
He was loaned to Monaco and Sevilla then returned to Barça, before joining Madrid when his contract expired in 2007.
He also struggled at Real and couldn’t break into the first-team and left for Benfica in 2009.
9. Josep Samitier
Josep Samitier played for Barcelona between 1919 and 1932 before spending two years at Real Madrid.
He later coached Barca and Atletico Madrid and worked as a scout for Barcelona and Real Madrid.
His tally of 184 goals ranks him 5th on Barca’s all-time top scorers’ list.
As a player, Samitier pioneered the midfield general role and was nicknamed Surrealista (The Surrealist) and Home Magosta (The Grasshopper Man) due to his style of play.
10. Julen Lopetegui
Lopetegui spent three years at Real Madrid and three at Barcelona as a backup goalkeeper.
He was a regular for Madrid’s youth Castilla team but couldn’t establish himself in the first team.
Lopetugui was famously sacked on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after it was announced that he had agreed to join Madrid after the tournament.
He was equally sacked by Real after just four months following a disastrous period which includes a 5-1 El Clasico defeat to Barca.
Lopetugui subsequently joined Sevilla and won the 2020 Europa League.
11. Miquel Soler
Miquel Soler did not just played for Barca and Madrid, but also both teams’ city rivals; Espanyol and Atletico Madrid.
He started his career at Espanyol and left for Barcelona in 1988 — where he enjoyed a successful spell.
He moved to Atletico for a single year before returning to Barca, but he struggled to get back into the team upon his return and left for Sevilla, where he became a key player.
Soler’s form at Sevilla earned him a big move to Real Madrid, but he was unsuccessful at the Santiago Bernabeu. After just a single season, he departed for Real Zaragoza.