A gesture of sportsmanship, of recognition of the champion, has become the subject of controversy. The first corridor that is known in Spanish football dates back to the 1969-1970 season. In the round of 16, the Cup brought about a match between the brand new League champions, Atlético, and the runners-up, Athletic, and the lions paid tribute to their rival with that gesture that ended up becoming a tradition. Then, the people from Bilbao took their revenge by eliminating the colchoneros… Now, Atlético, the first honoree, is reluctant to make room for their eternal rival. There are precedents on the table. The 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, to which the rojiblancos led as brand-new League champions (although the strict UEFA protocol greatly restricts this type of act in the run-up to European matches) and the two reciprocally denied corridors between Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Clásicos of the 2017-2018 season.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have made three corridors throughout history. In the 1987-88 La Quinta del Buitre was proclaimed champion of the third of its five Leagues four days from the end and in the next title match they had to visit the Camp Nou. Barça made a corridor and won (2-0 with goals from Carrasco and Lineker) the champion. Three years later it was the turn of the whites to escort the azulgranas as they entered the field at the Bernabéu. The Dream Team he had mathematically sealed the 1990-91 League four days in advance and in the last round of the championship they paid a visit to the white fiefdom. Madrid, who had dropped out of the fight for the title very soon, made the corridor and won the Clásico (1-0) with a goal from Aldana.
The last corridor between the two dates from 2008. Schuster’s Madrid was proclaimed champion in Pamplona with three games in advance and on the following day they received Barcelona in the Clásico. The azulgranas, who exhausted the ‘Rijkaard era’, formed the hallway before the match. Joan Laporta, in his first stage as president of Barça, took it with sportsmanship: “We are going to have a game that you are going to like”, he guaranteed in the previous one. This time the author of the tribute was not compensated with victory. Madrid, in addition to receiving the corridor, won the Clásico: 4-1 with goals from Raúl, Robben, Higuaín and Van Nistelrooy from a penalty. Henry made up the result for Barça, who finished third behind Villarreal.
The controversy of the Classics of 2017-18
The calendar placed the first league Classic of 2017-18 on Christmas Eve and just after the Club World Cup. Madrid returned from the United Arab Emirates crowned with its sixth world championship. But Barça refused to pay him the tribute. Days before the match, Guillermo Amor, then director of Institutional Relations at Barça, advanced the intention. “In this club, the corridor is usually done in the competition in which we participate, when we participate in the tournament of the champion team, and now it is not the case,” he justified. Valverde, in the previous one, alluded to the fact that the gesture had lost its original meaning to become a reason for mockery: “I would not do it, nor would I want them to do it to me. Years ago it was done to recognize the players, I had not acquired this media aspect that is contaminating everything. Our recognition already has the Madrid players. It has lost the essence”, explained the Txingurri.
Four and a half months later, the tables have turned. The advantage that Barça had amassed in the League ventured that the azulgranas could be champions when they received Zidane’s men on the penultimate day at the Camp Nou. That’s how it went. The Madrid coach did not skimp on arguments to explain a decision that he assumed as his own: “After the Mundialito I understand that it was not important for them to make the corridor. Some say that they were not in the competition, but that is a lie. You have to win the Champions League to go to the World Cup and we’re all in the Champions League. We’re not going to make a corridor because they didn’t. We respect what Barça has done, winning the League, which is the most complicated thing. I congratulate Barça and this is respect. That happened and it’s a matter of mine, nothing of the club. If they did the corridor… I’m not going to break anything that was there before. But I’m not going to do something that they didn’t do either. Now it’s broken, but we can’t say that the Madrid has broken it, because it is not true.”
Giménez has warned that in the Atlético dressing room there is a current that advocates not doing it. “We congratulate Madrid, but we respect our fans.” Simeone and Ancelotti will take the floor on Friday.