Few football announcers in the world are as celebrated as beIN SPORTS’ Ray Hudson, whose scintillating commentary over the years has drawn a passionate fan base. The former Newcastle United man is renowned for his impassioned narration of the exploits of legendary El Clásico stars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Raúl, and Juan Román Riquelme, among many others. Hudson graciously took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the upcoming showdown at the Bernabéu. Read our interview below, and make sure to watch the big game, this Sunday, April 23rd at 2:45/1:45c on beIN SPORTS (en Español, Channel 467; in English, Channel 620).
At this point how many El Clásicos have you served as color commentator for?
Well there have been around 24 La Liga games, and I think four or five of the Copa games. Then you get into the Supercopa games! There’s been a lot, so it’s got to be pushing 30 now, all and all. Makes me feel rather old, but you get younger when you do these games. It’s what you commentate for because there’s just nothing bigger on planet earth than this game. Every one of them is a major, major, different event. I think I’ve got a few hundred more nails on me clock before I pull out of the Clásico games.
Among so many games, do you have a favorite match or perhaps a favorite moment that you can tell us about?
There are definitely operatic high notes for each game, but every one of the games that I’ve done has been a symphonic masterpiece of football—nothing less. If you can imagine the symphony playing in the alley with brass knuckles, that’s what these games are like! There are certain moments that certainly stand out. The least favorite, to be honest, were the Mourinho era ones from 2008 to 2012. They were very, very caustic Clásicos, but they were still compelling, incredible, astonishing, outstanding games of world-class football. But it obviously nearly split the Spanish national team in two so that was very, very divisive during those days. But nonetheless it was great football, and it was great to watch, it just had me grinding my teeth sometimes!
There are wonderful moments as well! In 2005, when Ronaldinho got a standing ovation at Santiago Bernabéu—that was an amazing sight. Ronaldinho was just imperious that day. Another ultra-memorable one was in 2009 when Real Madrid got beat 6-2 off the Bernabéu, and that one was a true blue ribbon Clásico. A classic Clásico, that one, absolutely astonishing. I think the one that stands out in my mind, head and shoulders above even them was the 2010 game when Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-0. What I done by FC Barcelona still to this day in my mind is the greatest display of a footballing team that I’ve ever seen. In some ways it ruined the game for me! Because I thought, “you’re never gonna get any better than that.” You can’t conceive of football being played at a higher note.
They were all wonderful games. But the ones that I can never ever forget, were ones in the Mourinho years where we had four Clásicos in three weeks! And I needed a nurse in an oxygen tent during those weeks because it was such magnificent football.
In your opinion, do you feel like the Messi-Ronaldo era is the greatest era in the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry?
Well, it goes back a long, long time, of course, between these two teams. It’s not just an encounter between them, it’s something ultra-special. The Spanish expression is “mucho morbo,” where these two teams just hate and detest each other, and it’s dependent on which side of the table you’re on. It’s good versus evil. But with the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry, we’re so fortunate to live in this era, because we have two suns, two footballing suns in the sky! It’s never happened before. Every era has one superlative, great player, that is the absolute essence of what a footballer is, and now we have two with the same fame that are vying for that.
I think it’s this combination of not just Christiano and Lionel, but it’s that the two of them have amazing teammates, so we’re seeing the two greatest forward lines facing off. It makes us all aghast! The world class defenders and mid-field players around them have decorated our lives throughout this incredible rivalry, and we are very, very fortunate to watch these two gargantuan footballers clashing swords. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Are there any other rivalries in the world of football that you think are as popular or as special as that one?
It’s certainly arguable! The Juventus-Milan game is something to behold wherever it’s played, whether it’s in Milan or Turin. Witnessing a Boca-River rivalry in the modern era has given me me incredible shocks. Amazing! I’ve never seen time fly by so quickly. So there are definitely other great games. The Turkish get big classic goals, during Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe games.
But, for me, there’s nothing to compare with Real Madrid and Barcelona. Every year, there’s another ingredient, there’s another episode, there’s another challenge for both of these teams. Every game, something changes! And it’s a game that just gives you goosebumps the size of coconuts every time you watch it! This one will be exactly the same. They never change. In fact, if anything, the pressure and the intensity increase. Just when you think, “well, it can’t get any more demanding,” it does! And it’ll only continue.
Absolutely, the stakes just keep on getting higher. Who do you think has the better side this season?
I truly believe Real Madrid are the better balanced side this season. I’ve seen Barcelona take incredible, Pavarotti-like operatic high notes when they played against Paris Saint Germain, when they played against Sevilla just a few weeks ago, against Atlético Madrid. But they have really, basically shot themselves in the foot too many times. They’ve been too erratic. When I look at the Real Madrid side, they are strong, their defense is being better balanced, the midfield certainly has had wonderful cover. When the benched players come in off the side, they seem to not miss a beat. I think Zidane has done a masterful job with this side, he’s got them in the driver’s seat, and he’s maintained the pressure.
This season, Real Madrid have hit the gas pedal and have never let off. Barcelona hasn’t been able to take advantage of some wonderful situations where they could have closed the gap. Real Madrid has not made those big mistakes. This Clásico will be the Armageddon for Barcelona. I certainly think Real Madrid will go into this Clásico as the favorite. It’s just a shame that they’re going to be missing some very important players, but perhaps Barcelona will as well be without Nemar. We just have to wait and see.