Real Madrid, Barcelona Turning Up The Heat In Ongoing Rivalry

By Matt Johnson
Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona
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It took Real Madrid all of a few days before they responded with a salvo of their own. Just hours after arch-rivals FC Barcelona pulled off a shocking move for troubled striker Luis Suarez, Los Blancos turned up the heat in soccer‘s most glamorous and ongoing arms race.

So far, Real Madrid have targeted World Cup standouts Keylor Navas and Toni Kroos for possible relocations from Levante and Bayern Munich, respectively, to the Spanish capital for 2014-15. It is the possible signing of James Rodriguez that has the international press most abuzz, however.

Rodriguez, who took home the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s top scorer for an impressive Colombia, is tenuously under contract with AS Monaco in France. Don’t expect that to deter the reigning European Champions, especially since Rodriguez has hardly been quiet about his desire for a move to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for this season.

So it goes in the neverending chess match between the world’s two most valuable sports franchises. Barcelona make a move, Real counter. Real make a move and Barca respond. It’s been the way of a rivalry that dates from 1902.

In the United States, baseball fans have watched the consistent arms race between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for generations. One team always seems intent on one-upping the other, adding to arguably the most scrutinized rivalry in American sports.

Like the Yankees and Red Sox, Real Madrid and Barcelona operate under the same strategic approach: Watch the other guy and then respond in kind.

To date, Barcelona have gained a skilled midfielder in Ivan Rakitic, a pair of strong goaltenders in Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen and noted-biter Suarez, making the Blaugrana again a favorite in both Spain and Europe. Simply put, Real Madrid had to do something. And the response has been immediate.

First, they began a campaign to lure Kroos, who is coming off a World Cup Championship with Germany. With that deal all but done, Los Blancos then turned to Navas, the record-breaking goaltender who helped carry Costa Rica to their first ever World Cup Quarterfinal appearance. With Rodriguez primed for the move, Real also appear ready to challenge in Spain and Europe.

In other words, the ball is again back in Barcelona’s court. Will they now stand with the squad they currently have or make another move? You can bet Real Madrid will be waiting to find out.

If rivalries are indeed the lifeblood of sports, there are few that embody it more than Real Madrid and Barcelona. Always keen on the opposition, both sides constantly watch the other, waiting for an opening to assert their perceived dominance.

Therein lies a point of the many interests for followers of El Clasico, a rivalry unmatched in the world of club soccer. More than 110 years of contests have added up to the biggest arms race in the world’s biggest sport.

Matt Johnson is a Big Ten Conference basketball writer for  Follow him on Twitter at mattytheole or “like” him on Facebook.

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