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HUNDREDS OF PIECES OF PAPER and thousands of words strewn about. My office floor has become a cutting-room floor.

This book has evolved and changed since I began writing it. It has also dramatically shortened from first draft to last.

It is primarily based on archive material, some of which casts significant new light on the rivalry, and a large series of interviews conducted over the past couple of years with players, coaches, directors, and presidents from Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

In the process, it has become a kind of oral history and I’d like to thank those who have generously given their time to tell their stories, relive experiences, and/or respond to questions and clarify doubts, including Alfredo Di Stéfano, Amancio Amaro, Andoni Zubizarreta, Andrés Iniesta, Ángel Cappa, Ángel Mur, Antoni Ramallets, Carlos Villarrubí, Charly Rexach, Dani García Lara, Darcy “Canário” Silveira dos Santos, Emilio Butragueño, Evaristo de Macedo, Fernando Argila, Fernando Hierro, Fernando Sanz, Gerard Piqué, Henrik Larsson, Hristo Stoichkov, Ignacio Zoco, Iván Campo, Joan Gaspart, Joan Laporta, Johan Cruyff, Jordi Cruyff, Jorge Valdano, José Antonio Camacho, José Emilio Amavisca, José Luis San Martín, José “Pirri” Martínez, Josep Fusté, Josep María Minguella, Josep Seguer, Juan Manuel Asensi, Juan Santisteban, Louis Van Gaal, Luis Figo, Luis Milla, Luis Suárez, Marcos Alonso, Michael Laudrup, Míchel, Míchel Salgado, Miguel-Ángel Portugal, Pedja Mijatovic, Pichi Alonso, Radi Antić, Rafa García Cortés, Ramón Calderón, Santi Solari, Silvio Elías, Steve Archibald, Steve McManaman, Txiki Beguiristain, Vicente del Bosque, Víctor Muñoz, Xavi Hernández, and Zinedine Zidane. Sadly, Antoni Ramallets and Josep Seguer passed away soon after this book was first published.

Thanks are also due to the protagonists who spoke to me for this book but preferred not to be named and the many others who have enriched the story. Other interviews conducted over the years with players like Oleguer Presas, Raúl, Paco Pavón, Paco Gento, and David Beckham have also been drawn upon.

As well as material from state archives, private papers, and the clubs, I’ve naturally leaned on the expertise and the work of reporters, writers, broadcasters, and historians and drawn on the accounts of protagonists. Part of me wanted to include footnotes throughout.

That was impractical but a select bibliography has been included. My debt to those authors is evident. This book does not claim to be the definitive history of the two clubs— the definitive history of just one of them would require countless volumes and, despite substantial editing, this is a long book already. Some of the chapters I most enjoyed writing have been cut because they weren’t truly central to the narrative, while others have been shortened significantly.

Diego Maradona, for example, may be the best player of all time, but in this story he appears only fleetingly, while Laurie Cunningham’s spell at Madrid and Quini’s kidnap also failed to make the cut and the pre–civil war origins have been substantially reduced and restructured. Instead, this book is about the episodes that have shaped the rivalry and made Real Madrid and FC Barcelona what they are and about the human stories behind them. This is their story.

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