Soccer rivalries are one of the most entertaining aspects of the round-leather game. Some rivalries date back to more than a century old.
They have become historic, and the legacies get passed from generation to generation.
These games, popularly known as Derbies, are more than just soccer matches. Stakeholders are ready to do everything possible to ensure victory.
Soccer rivalries come into play due to several factors like location, history, competition/tournaments, players, and prestige, among other things.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the top 10 best rivalries in soccer history.
1. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
Along with Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid, and Barcelona are the only clubs in the Spanish La Liga to have never been relegated.
Matches between both sides are famously known as “El Clasico.” It is considered one of the biggest club football games in the world and is among the most viewed annual sporting events.
In fact, it is one of the most watched soccer matches in the world.
The two clubs are often identified with opposing political positions, with Real Madrid viewed as representing Spanish nationalism, and Barcelona viewed as representing Catalan nationalism.
Both clubs have a huge global fanbase; they are the world’s two most followed sports teams on social media.
Furthermore, both Real and Barca regularly have the best players in the world in their respective squads, adding more spice to games between the two giants.
2. Celtic vs. Rangers
Scottish football clubs Celtic and Rangers, which are both based in Glasgow, compete in the iconic “Old Firm Derby.”
The two clubs are the most successful and popular in Scotland, and the rivalry between them has become deeply embedded in Scottish culture. It has reflected and contributed to political, social, and religious division and sectarianism in Scotland.
Between them, the two clubs have won 108 Scottish League championships (Rangers with 55 and Celtic with 53), 75 Scottish Cups (Celtic with 41 and Rangers with 34), and 48 Scottish League Cups (Rangers with 27 and Celtic with 21).
The Old Firm Derby is also among the fiercest rivalries in world soccer, with some of the worst cases of violence.
Moreso, it is very rare for players to play for both teams.
Celtic and Rangers have played each other 436 times in major competitions: Rangers have won 169 matches, Celtic 165 matches, and 102 ended in a draw.
3. Manchester United vs. Liverpool
The “North West Derby” is still the biggest game in English football every year, and Liverpool and Manchester United are the most successful English clubs by a long way.
Liverpool dominated English football from when they were promoted in 1962 through the 1980s, while United have become dominant since the start of the Premier League in 1992.
Matches between Liverpool and Manchester United are even tougher than their own local derbies, with Everton and Manchester City, respectively.
The rivalry has been fuelled by the proximity of the two major cities that they both represent (Manchester and Liverpool), their historic economic and industrial rivalry, significant periods of domestic footballing dominance and European success, and their popularity at home and abroad — as two of the biggest-earning and widely supported football clubs in the world.
The two clubs are the most successful English teams in domestic, European, and worldwide competitions; between them, they have won 39 league titles, 20 FA Cups, 15 League Cups, one Football League Super Cup, 37 FA Community Shields, 9 European Cups/UEFA Champions Leagues, 4 UEFA Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 5 UEFA Super Cups, one Intercontinental Cup, and 2 FIFA Club World Cups.
Each club can claim historical supremacy over the other: Man United for their 20 league titles to Liverpool’s 19 and Liverpool for being European champions six times to United’s three. Both clubs have won 67 trophies apiece.
Furthermore, Man United leads in the head-to-head record between the two teams, with 82 wins to Liverpool’s 71; the remaining 58 matches have finished as draws.
4. Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray
Games between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are called “The Intercontinental Derby.” The derby is known as “intercontinental” because Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are two of the major Turkish teams from the Asian and European parts of Istanbul, respectively.
This match is also one of the oldest soccer rivalries in history as the first match was held on 17 January 1909 — 114 years ago.
The fixture is widely regarded as the biggest soccer match in Turkey and one of the biggest matches in world football because of the success both clubs have had in Turkish football, the intensity of the matches, and the immense hatred between the two teams.
The fixture has been in existence for more than a century and has developed into one of the greatest, most intense, and often bitter derbies in the world, traditionally attracting very large attendances and nearly equal support for both teams throughout the country.
5. Boca Juniors vs. River Plate
“Superclásico” is the football match in Argentina between Buenos Aires rivals, Boca Juniors and River Plate. The two clubs boast of more than 70% of all Argentine football fans between them.
The Superclásico is known worldwide as one of the fiercest and most important derbies.
It is particularly noted for the passion of the fans, with what the BBC described as “a sea of colorful flowing banners, screams and roars, chanting, dancing and never-ending fireworks.”
Both sets of supporters sing passionate chants aimed at their rivals. Each stadium, Boca’s La Bombonera and River’s El Monumental, are known to bounce with the simultaneous jumping of the fans.
At times, the matches have been known to end in fights between the “barra brava” (violent factions) of both sides or with the police.
On June 23, 1968, in El Monumental, after a 0-0 match between the two teams, 71 fans were killed in a crash at gate 12, with 150 fans left injured.
6. AC Milan vs. Inter Milan
There is an intense rivalry between the two major Milanese clubs, Inter and AC Milan. Fixtures between both are known as the “Derby della Madonnina.”
It is one of the only major crosstown derbies in soccer that are always played in the same stadium, in this case, the San Siro.
AC Milan and Inter also clash in continental fixtures as both are among the giants of European soccer.
This match is one of the most intense rivalries in soccer history as it has produced some exciting matches, fierce clashes, and involved the biggest stars of the game.
7. Brazil vs. Argentina
Brazil and Argentina have produced some of the best players the world has ever seen, and both are always favorites to win every FIFA World Cup tournament.
Games between the two teams, known as “Superclássico das Américas,” are often marked by notable and controversial incidents.
Moreso, the debate on who is the greatest soccer player of all time between Pele, Diego Maradona, and Lionel Messi also adds fire to the rivalry between both nations.
8. Inter Milan vs. Juventus
The “Derby d’Italia” is played between Inter Milan and Juventus. The teams are from the two biggest cities in Northern Italy. Both teams also have fans across Italy and beyond.
The matchup between Juventus and Inter is perhaps the most intense match in Italy between two teams from different cities, historically since the 50s and 60s, and especially after the Calciopoli, which saw Juventus stripped of their league title from 2005/06 and given to Inter.
9. Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are two of the most successful teams in German soccer — having won a combined total of 25 of the past 29 Bundesliga titles between them.
The two teams have fought closely for the Bundesliga title since the early 2010s and met in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final.
The derby matches between Bayern and Dortmund are called “Der Klassiker.”
Despite being a fixture that rarely leads to chaos, matches between Bayern and Dortmund have long produced some of the most eye-catching games, originally in the Bundesliga but now in both the DFB Cup and the Champions League.
In a clash between them in the year 2000, a total of 14 cards were dished out in a 1-1 draw. Roque Santa Cruz and Patrik Andersson were the only Bayern players not to have their names taken down.
Bixente Lizarazu was sent off before half-time for two bookings, and Stefan Effenberg followed after the break for a straight red. Dortmund saw just two yellows, but Evanilson also got dismissed late in the second half.
It may not have the social and political background of the derbies in other countries, but Bayern versus Borussia – itself a historical conflict between their namesake states of Bavaria and Prussia – has been the flagship fixture of German football for a good two decades.
Bayern Munich have also lost more Bundesliga home games against Borussia Dortmund than against any other club (9, same as against Cologne), and Dortmund’s 3 league victories at the Allianz Arena is again second only to Gladbach’s 4.
10. Olympiacos vs. Panathinaikos
The “Derby of the Eternal Enemies” or “Mother of all battles” sees Greece’s most successful clubs and the two capital clubs come up against each other.
Violence is not uncommon around the Greek capital, Athens, in the days leading up to a derby match between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.
The games feature everything from breaking seats, fighting, fireworks, and street rioting — including fights organized by supporters’ groups.
In October 2014, BBC named the Olympiacos vs. Panathinaikos derby as “Europe’s maddest derby.”
The rivalry between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos is considered one of the fiercest soccer rivalries in the world due to a long history of intense matches, passionate fanbases, and deeply rooted cultural and political divides in Greece.
- Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid
- Gamba Osaka vs. Cerezo Osaka
- Benfica vs. FC Porto
- Manchester United vs. Manchester City
- Arsenal vs. Tottenham
- Al-Hilal vs. Al-Nassr
- SS Lazio vs. AS Roma
- Liverpool vs. Everton
- Raja Casablanca vs. Wydad Casablanca
- Al-Ahly vs. Zamalek.