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Nobody has won the Copa del Rey more times than FC Barcelona (30), while Athletic Club are second in the list with 23. So it should come as no surprise that the teams have met several times in the final over the years. In fact, this Saturday’s meeting will be the ninth time* they have faced each other.
Barça have won six of the eight finals they have met in before. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember those games:
*NOTE: Some records also include the 1902 Coronation Cup Final. However, there is much debate regarding both (a) the status of the competition as an official championship and (b) whether the victory can be attributed to Athletic Club, as the team (called Bizcaya) was actually a combination of Basque players from different teams.
2 May 1920 at El Molinón (Gijon)
FC BARCELONA 2 (Martínez, Alcántara)
ATHLETIC CLUB 0
In the days before there was a national league, the cup was effectively the Spanish championship, played by the winners of each of the regional competitions. The Basques were the hot favourites in 1920, especially as Gijon was just a short train ride from Bilbao, so they had the support of almost all the 10,000 fans.
The game was played in soaking wet conditions, and was marked by the most bizarre of refereeing errors. Athletic took the lead from a penalty, but the match official had spotted encroachment into the area. The rule then, as it is now, was for the kick to be retaken, but the match official gave a free kick to Barça! After the game, he resigned from refereeing for life.
But that did nothing to help Athletic, and two late goals from Vicenç Martínez and Paulino Alcántara won Barça their fourth title.
19 June 1932 at Chamartín (Madrid)
FC BARCELONA 0
ATHLETIC CLUB 1 (Bata)
Barça and Athletic were by some margin the two giants of Spanish football in the early years, but surprisingly this was only the second time they had met in the final, making it an especially huge occasion.
By all accounts, Barça were by far the better of the two sides and even missed a penalty, but the Basques ended up scoring the only goal. As manager Jack Greenwell lamented afterwards: “we’ve played badly all season and have won games, but today we played really well and we lost.”
Curiously, this was the last time that the two finalists had a post-game dinner together, a tradition that has now been lost.
21 June 1942 at Chamartín (Madrid)
FC BARCELONA 4 (Escolà 2, Martín 2)
ATHLETIC CLUB 3 (Iriondo, Elices, Zarra)
The world was at war, but in post-Civil War Spain, football had returned. Barça may have reached the cup final, but it had been an awful season and a week afterwards, they were playing Murcia in a playoff to avoid relegation to the second division.
The game was a cracker. When Barça went 3-1 up, they looked to have it settled, but two late goals from the bilbainos sent the game into extra time.
By now, the stifling heat had got to the players. It was a battle to see which side still had the most strength in reserve, and when Mariano Martín finally scored the winning goal, he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But a week later, he’d be back to score the goal that kept Barça in the first division.
21 June 1953 at Chamartín (Madrid)
FC BARCELONA 2 (Kubala, Manchón)
ATHLETIC CLUB 1 (Venancio)
This was the era of the great ‘Barça of the Five Cups’, and most especially of the legendary László Kubala. In fact, this final was viewed as a direct duel between the Hungarian and Athletic’s Telmo Zarra, now in the twilight of his career but still Spain’s national sporting hero.
About ten times more fans arrived from Bilbao than from Barcelona, and most of the neutrals sided with Athletic too, but it wasKubala who won the day, tapping in an Eduardo Manchón assist to open the scoring, and returning the favour for his team-mate to make it two.
5 May 1984 at Santiago Bernabéu (Madrid)
FC BARCELONA 0
ATHLETIC CLUB 1 (Endika)
In recent memory were two horrendous tackles by Andoni Goikoetxea, ‘the Butcher of Bilbao’, that had seriously injured Barça’s two biggest stars, Diego Maradona and Bernd Schuster. The heated exchanges from the rival camps in the build-up to this final made it clear that it was never going to be a pretty encounter.
The Basques scored the only goal to complete a league and cup double (the last time they have ever won either trophy), but the game itself was as ugly as expected. It was more of a verbal and physical battle and the brawl between the two teams after the final whistle was one of the most violent ever witnessed on a professional football field.
In the aftermath, three players from each team were issued three-month bans from all football activity, although none those suspensions were ever served.
13 May 2009 at Mestalla (Valencia)
FC BARCELONA 4 (Touré, Messi, Bojan, Xavi)
ATHLETIC CLUB 1 (Toquero)
By 2009, FC Barcelona had surpassed Athletic’s record to become the new ‘king of cups’ and this would be their 25th conquest of the trophy. What’s more it was the first of a historic treble under Pep Guardiola, when Barça would go on to win all six of the major titles in a calendar year.
Athletic scored first. Touré Yaya levelled with a thunderbolt and it was still anyone’s game at the interval. But the second half saw Barça at their brilliant best and three goals in the space of the ten minutes meant an incontestable victory for one of the finest Barça teams of all time.
25 May 2012 at Vicente Calderón (Madrid)
FC BARCELONA 3 (Pedro 2, Messi)
ATHLETIC CLUB 0
The clubs met again in the final just three years later, and once again it was a one-sided affair. Pedro put Barça ahead after just three minutes and there was still a full hour to go when Leo Messi scored Barça's second and Pedro made it 3-0 moments later.
There was no way back for Athletic, and after missing out on the other two other major trophies, Pep Guardiola was able to celebrate a winning end to his glorious three years in charge.
30 May 2015 at Camp Nou (Barcelona)
FC BARCELONA 3 (Messi 2, Neymar)
ATHLETIC CLUB 1 (Williams)
The third final between the clubs in just six years, and this time at the Camp Nou in a game that also doubled as farewell, this time to the great Xavi Hernández. Forming part of the club’s second treble of Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League, now under Luis Enrique, this was also the first of four consecutive Copa del Rey titles for FC Barcelona.
Like the previous two meetings, it was a game Barça never really looked like losing. Messi beat several opponents to score a fabulous opening goal (it would be voted runner-up in the FIFA Puskás Award), and Neymar added a second on 36 minutes. Dani Alves supplied the ball for Messi to make it three, and Iñaki Williams’ late consolation goal mattered for nothing.
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