Eusebio played against Elche 24 years ago / PHOTO: FCB ARCHIVE

The two games between FC Barcelona and Elche played last season, a 4-0 win for Barça at the Camp Nou and the 0-0 draw that ensured First Division survival for Elche in the penultimate weekend, were the first meetings between the sides in a quarter of a century. But there was a time when the side from Alicante were a regular feature in the elite of Spanish football, and they beat the Catalans no fewer than eight times. But all of those wins were on home turf, and in twenty visits to the Camp Nou, Elche may have racked up an impressive seven draws, but they have never managed to win.

Golden years

It was on the second day of the 1959/60 championship that the two sides met for the first time, with Elche winning 2-1 at what was their home ground until 1976, the Campo de Altabix. That was the beginning of a golden era for the franjiverdes (‘green stripes’), when they played First Division football for twelve seasons in a row, achieving seven top ten finishes and their best ever placing, fifth, in 1963/64. They managed to draw at the Camp Nou in exactly half of those seasons, six times, including a dramatic match on February 18, 1961, when they were on the point of beating a team featuring the likes of Ramallets, Verges, Kubala, Evaristo, Beitia, Luis Suárez and Eulogio Martínez. But Barça grabbed a late equaliser and it all ended 3-3. Ten years later, Elche were relegated.

But they didn’t stay down for long. In 1973, they were back in the top league, and stayed there for another five seasons. Despite a couple of 0-0 draws in 1975 and 1977, victory at the Camp Nou still eluded them. And in 1978, the season they were relegated once again, they lost 5-1, their heftiest defeat ever in the Barça stadium.

Elche’s glory days were over. Apart from two brief returns in 1984/85 and 1988/89, when they failed to score a goal against FCB in any of their four meetings, they’d spend over thirty years in the lower divisions until 2013, when they finally made it back to the top tier, curiously enough on the back of a win against Barça B.

A long relationship

The many historic links between Barça and Elche include someone who is a legend at both clubs. That man is César Rodríguez, who until 2012 and the feats of a certain Lionel Messi was Barça’s highest ever goalscorer. He left the club in 1955, and after brief stints in Granada, León and Perpignan, he played his final three years as a professional at Third Division Elche. It was largely due to his services that following back-to-back promotions, the club made it into the First Division for the very first time, with César now promoted to the role of player-manager.

That’s not the only historic link between the two clubs. Both Marcial and Asensi were products of the Elche youth system that went on to make big names for themselves at FCB. And the late Tito Vilanova also played at Elche for two seasons between 1998 and 2000.