There is often a fierce rivalry between the two strongest teams in a national league, and this is particularly the case in La Liga, where the game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is known as El Clásico. From the start the clubs were seen as representatives of two rival regions in Spain, Catalonia and Castile, as well as of the two cities themselves. The rivalry projects what many regard as the political and cultural tensions felt between Catalans and the Castilians.
During the dictatorships of Primo de Rivera and (especially) of Francisco Franco, all regional identities were openly suppressed (e.g. the peripheral languages were officially banned). So FC Barcelona became more than a club (més que un club) for Catalonia as a defender of freedom and one of its greatest ambassadors. On the contrary, for most of the Catalans and many other Spaniards, Real Madrid was representing the sovereign oppressive centralism.
However, during the Spanish Civil War itself, members of both clubs, like Josep Sunyol and Rafael Sánchez Guerra, suffered at the hands of Franco supporters.
During the 1950s the rivalry was exacerbated significantly when the clubs disputed the signing of Alfredo Di Stefano, who finally played for Real Madrid, thanks to the help of Franco, who transfered him to Real Madrid by "royal decree" after playing three games with Barcelona's shirt, who was the key in the subsequent success achieved by the club. The 1960s saw the rivalry reach the European stage when they met twice at the semi-final stage of the European Cup.
As nowadays FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two biggest and most successful clubs in Spain, the rivalry is renewed on an almost annual basis with both teams often challenging each other for the league championship. The latest Clasico was played in the Camp Nou and ended with a 3-3 draw, with Lionel Messi scoring his first hat-trick in his Clasico debut at the Camp Nou.