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15 Best Football (Soccer) Derbies/Rivalries in the World

I have been a huge football fan since I was seven years old. My favorite team is Manchester United.

The 2005 Milan derby.

The 2005 Milan derby.

What Is a Derby in Football?

A derby refers to a rivalry between two football clubs. This term can be used to refer to a feud as a whole or to a particular match between two clubs.

Football has seen a lot of rivalries develop between clubs during its rich and long history, some of which can be traced back to more than a century. During that time, countless managers and players have come and gone, but the clubs have lived on with their pride and legacy being passed on from generation to generation to keep the rivalries fueled.

No other match is given as much importance as the derby. These are more than just football matches; these are matters where the pride of the club and fans are at stake. It is an all-out war to earn bragging rights. Here is a look at some of the most prestigious and hard-fought derbies in the world of football. Keep in mind that the stats here are updated as of 2020.

What Creates a Good Rivalry?

Here are some factors that go into creating a rivalry that creates anticipated matches.

  • Location: Many of the derbies featured here are between local rivals; some of these feuds are between teams from the same city. This allows fans of both teams to easily congregate in a stadium, which can create a raucous atmosphere.
  • History: A series of important games over time only adds fuel to a feud. Players and fans will remember important tournament matches or cup finals, especially if they suffered a devastating loss.
  • Quality of Play: A rivalry can't really last if the games on the field don't deliver. You'll notice that the clubs on this list are some of the best in their respective leagues.
El Clásico is played between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

El Clásico is played between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

1. El Clásico

  • Location: Spain
  • Clubs: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid
  • First Match: May 13, 1902
  • Match Record: Barcelona leads 115-101-62

El Clásico is one of the most exciting derbies in the world of football. It is contested between the two giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona. The game is seen by millions worldwide as both clubs have a massive global fanbase. This derby is also known to represent opposing political views; Real Madrid is seen as representing Spanish nationalism while Barcelona is seen as representing Catalan nationalism.

Many legendary players have represented these clubs, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, and Luís Figo. These stars have certainly not harmed the reputation of this event. This derby has been considered to be one of the best rivalries in the past decade.

AC Milan and Inter Milan compete in the Milan derby.

AC Milan and Inter Milan compete in the Milan derby.

2. Derby della Madonnina (Milan Derby)

  • Location: Italy
  • Clubs: Inter Milan and A.C. Milan
  • First Match: January 10, 1909
  • Match Record: Inter Milan leads 82-77-67

The Milan derby is regarded as one the biggest in Italy. It is contested between city rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan. Both clubs call San Siro stadium their home, and both clubs want to say they are the best team on that pitch. The origins of this derby can be traced to a social divide between fans. Inter Milan had the reputation of attracting the bourgeoisie while AC Milan attracted the working class.

Both teams have enjoyed a lot of success; they both have 18 Serie A titles. Even though both sides have been bettered by other league rivals during the past few years, this match still holds importance in the hearts of their fans. Both clubs strive to be the best in Milan.

The North West derby features Manchester United vs. Liverpool.

The North West derby features Manchester United vs. Liverpool.

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3. The North West Derby

  • Location: England
  • Clubs: Liverpool F.C. and Manchester United F.C.
  • First Match: April 28, 1894
  • Match Record: Manchester United F.C. leads 80-67-57

Regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in English football, the North West derby is one of the most passionate sporting events in the world. Played between archrivals Manchester United and Liverpool, this game sees two of the most successful clubs in England fight it out. Both clubs have won a total of 137 trophies.

This derby is just a part of the general animosity between Manchester and Liverpool. As the two cities are only 35 miles apart, they have always been in industrial and economic competition with each other.

This game has seen a lot of highlights, with many players having voiced their hatred towards their opponents publicly to fuel the rivalry. From last-minute victories to verbal abuses and brawls, this fixture has seen it all. This rivalry is the perfect representation of what English football is all about. A particular derby in 2019 was a pivotal moment in Liverpool's road to the league title.

Manchester United and Manchester City face off in the Manchester derby.

Manchester United and Manchester City face off in the Manchester derby.

4. The Manchester Derby

  • Location: England
  • Clubs: Manchester City F.C. and Manchester United F.C.
  • First Match: November 12, 1881
  • Match Record: Manchester United F.C. leads 76-54-52

The Manchester derby is played between longtime city rivals Manchester United and Manchester City. These fixtures always attract large crowds. This derby gives Manchester City the chance to outshine their more popular rival. It also gives Manchester United the chance to show off some of the best English players to compete in the sport.

Like many other derbies, this one has seen its fair share of drama. One notable game in 2011 saw a large upset as Manchester City won 6-1. The "noisy neighbours" have always been a thorn in Manchester United's season. In recent times, Manchester City has played some mesmerizing football while also winning more recent Premier League titles.

The Derby d'Italia features Inter Milan and Juventus.

The Derby d'Italia features Inter Milan and Juventus.

5. Derby d'Italia

  • Location: Italy
  • Clubs: Inter Milan and Juventus F.C.
  • First Match: November 14, 1909
  • Match Record: Juventus F.C. leads 112-77-62

The Derby d'Italia is an intense rivalry between two Italian giants, Inter Milan and Juventus. Like many other matches in the Italian Serie A, this derby is always entertaining in both good and bad ways. These matches have seen some controversial events, such as a game in the 1960-61 season where Inter Milan had their win overturned. The rivalry increased in 2006 when a match fixing scandal stripped Juventus of the Serie A title (and relegated them to Serie B). The title was awarded to Inter Milan.

Juventus have managed to win most of the matches in this feud. They have also seen more championship success in their league.

Der Klassiker is played between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Der Klassiker is played between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

6. Der Klassiker

  • Location: Germany
  • Clubs: FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund
  • First Match: October 16, 1965
  • Match Record: FC Bayern Munich leads 62-33-33

Der Klassiker is one of the biggest rivalries in German football. It is played between two of the most successful clubs in Germany, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. This rivalry grew in the 90s when Dortmund rose to prominence as they won back-to-back Bundesliga titles; the 1995-96 season had the established Bayern Munich club as the runner-up.

The 2010s saw this feud rise to new heights with both clubs being consistent contenders for the Bundesliga title. From rowdy crowds to some of the best football on exhibition, one should not pass on the opportunity to witness this epic battle.

Arsenal and Tottenham play in the North London derby.

Arsenal and Tottenham play in the North London derby.

7. The North London Derby

  • Location: England
  • Clubs: Arsenal F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
  • First Match: December 4, 1909
  • Match Record: Arsenal F.C. leads 82-65-53

The North London derby is played between the two most notable clubs from London, Arsenal and Tottenham. As one of the fiercest rivalries in English football, this fixture always provides for an exciting contest played at a quick pace. This game always sees large attendance numbers, most notably when they have played at Wembley Stadium.

Arsenal has the edge in wins and championship success, but the past couple of seasons have proven to be tight affairs.

Real Madrid and Atlético square off in the Madrid derby.

Real Madrid and Atlético square off in the Madrid derby.

8. El Derbi Madrileño (Madrid Derby)

  • Location: Spain
  • Clubs: Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid CF
  • First Match: December 2, 1906
  • Match Record: Real Madrid CF leads 111-56-58

El Derbi Madrileño, which is contested between city rivals Real Madrid and Atlético, is one of the most highly anticipated matches in La Liga. Real have prevailed as the victors more often as they have had more league success. However, Atlético have seen more championship success in the Europa League.