Two years later and World Cup glory was secured, a 1-0 extra-time victory over Holland. Andres Iniesta struck that day, one of 10 players in the starting line-up from Spain’s Big Two.
The feat was repeated in 2012, when a 4-0 win over Italy retained the European Championship crown. That day, David Silva was the only starter not from Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Spain’s starting XI at Sweden, featuring (L-R back) David De Gea, Rodri, Raul Albiol, Gerard Moreno, Fabian Ruiz and Inigo Martinez. (L-R front) Dani Ceballos, Juan Bernat, Mikel Oyarzabal, Dani Carvajal and Thiago Alcantara
Spain’s starting XI against Italy in Euro 2012 final, featuring (L-R back) Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique, (L-R front) David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Jordi Alba
At 33, 168-cap Sergio Ramos is nearing the end of his career with the national team
Against Sweden last month, when Euro 2020 qualification was assured with a last-minute equaliser from Valencia’s Rodrigo, not a single Real Madrid or Barcelona player remained on the pitch at full-time.
As Spain’s power waned over the years following their successes, the two Spanish giants have also dipped gradually in influence. The 2014 World Cup squad contained 10 of their players, and for Euro 2016 there were seven.
Yet even for the 2018 World Cup, Julen Lopetegui named a core of 10 players from those two clubs. That becomes 13 if you include fellow powerhouse Atletico Madrid.
Of the team that finished the defeat by Russia on penalties in the second round, three were from Real Madrid, four were from Barcelona, three were of Atletico Madrid’s squad and one – keeper David de Gea – was from Manchester United.
The 2010 World Cup win was also achieved with a backbone of players from Spain’s Big Two
Since crashing out of that tournament, the make-up of the national side changed dramatically – and immediately – as the country enter a brave new era.
In the 4-1 win over Wales in October 2018, just Sergio Ramos and Dani Ceballos represented Real Madrid, while Sergio Busquets was the only Barcelona player in the wider squad. That theme has continued.
When Rodrigo scored late for Spain, no Real Madrid or Barcelona players were on the pitch
When the squad was announced for qualification matches against Malta and Romania this month, just Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Sergio Busquets remained. From Atletico Madrid, there was Alvaro Morata and Saul Niguez.
The three clubs were equally represented in the French national team, with Alphonse Areola, Raphael Varane, Clement Lenglet, Antoine Griezmann and Thomas Lemar all called up.