All the best rivalries are built on respect.
Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday confirmed the Catalan club’s La Liga triumph.
Tradition dictates that the champions should receive a guard of honour from their opponents in their next league fixture — which just so happens to be El Clasico.
However, Zinedine Zidane and Sergio Ramos have said Los Blancos will not line up to respect their rivals before kick-off at the Nou Camp.
“We will not give Barcelona a guard of honour next weekend,” said Ramos.
“Don’t ask me about it, let them enjoy their title and we will focus on Bayern from now on.”
Zidane confirmed the planned snub in his press conference.
“I don’t understand the guard of honour and it won’t take place,” he said.
“Barcelona broke the tradition.”
And here we arrive at the source of the pettiness.
In December of 2017, the two old rivals met at the Bernabeu in what was the Real’s first La Liga fixture after beating Gremio in the Club World Cup final.
Barca refused to form a guard of honour that day, just as they refused to acknowledge Real’s UEFA Super Cup at the start of the season.
Guillermo Amor, the club’s institutional director, explained that he did not think it was right for a team to honour an opponent’s victory in a competition in which they did not take part.
This caused a stir as there is a tradition of honouring European success in Spain.
Valencia lined up for Real after Los Blancos won the 2014 Club World Cup.
Real Betis did the same for Barcelona a year later.
Questions should be asked of Barcelona for breaking tradition.
They are not innocent victims in this scenario.
But their reasoning regarding participation in the relatively insignificant tournaments is understandable.
The Club World Cup is a two-game tournament for the Champions League winners — one more game than is required to complete the UEFA Super Cup.
Such trophies are add-ons.
This weekend, Real are preparing to ignore a domestic title win.
If they do that, not only will they be disrespecting Barcelona, they will be dishonouring La Liga as a whole.
Barca gave Real a guard of honour in 2008 to show them respect for their league success.
While some may argue over the semantics, there is a distinct difference between a two-game tournament, or a one-off final, and a 38-game, ten-month, 20-team campaign steeped in history.
It doesn’t sit right with me that a team would refuse to respect an opponent who had bested them in direct competition.
Forming a guard of honour is a voluntary act of course — there is no punishment for disregarding the tradition.
But class costs nothing.
The best thing Real could do is applaud Barca onto the pitch, end their hopes of an unbeaten season, then shake hands afterwards.
If they really wanted to get one over their adversaries then a third consecutive Champions League win would be the best method.
Another European crown would cast a cold shadow over Barca’s domestic double.
That’s how you stick it to your rivals while maintaining the moral high ground.
Man United showed great respect for Arsene Wenger before their clash with Arsenal at the weekend.
Sir Alex Ferguson presented his old rival with a commemorative gift in honour of the Frenchman’s services to the Premier League.
Such moments define a club just as much as reinforced trophy cabinets.
Real have a chance to be the bigger men, to prove they are above such petty back-handedness.
If they turn their backs on Barca instead of clapping them, even more respect will leak out of football.
Do the right thing, Real, for the good of the game.