Football Features

Hit or miss? Every Premier League player poached by Real Madrid

By oliver.young-myles

Published: 10:53, 24 March 2020

Thanks to their status as one of world football’s most prestigious and wealthiest clubs, Real Madrid are generally able to sign their most desired transfer targets more often than not. As Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have found to their cost.

In 2009, Los Blancos parted with a then-world record sum of £80m to land the Red Devils’ golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo before smashing the record four years later to snap up Gareth Bale from Spurs for £85m.

The allure of pulling on the famous all-white strip of Real Madrid proved too difficult to resist for both Ronaldo and Bale and, while they are without a doubt the most high-profile players to swap the Premier League for the La Liga giants, they are by no means the first or only ones to do so.

During the Premier League era, 24 players have departed the English top-flight in order to represent Real Madrid, but have they all enjoyed success after making their career-defining moves?

Steve McManaman

Signed from: Liverpool (1999)

Fee: Free

Real Madrid appearances: 152

Honours won: Champions League x 2, La Liga x 2, UEFA Super Cup

Hit or Miss? Hit

McManaman embarked on a new challenge after spending nine years at Liverpool by joining Real on a free transfer. The shaggy-haired winger was a big hit at the Bernabeu and famously scored a brilliant volley in the Champions League final win over Valencia in 2000.

David Beckham

Signed from: Manchester United (2003)

Fee: £25m

Real Madrid appearances: 155

Honours won: La Liga

Hit or miss? Hit

After a spectacular falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Beckham decided to move to Spain and become one of the poster boys for the ‘Galacticos’, joining Real Madrid despite interest from Barcelona. His first three years were ultimately fruitless, but Beckham ended his time at the club by winning La Liga.

Jonathan Woodgate

Signed from: Newcastle United (2004)

Fee: £14.2m

Real Madrid appearances: 14

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Miss

Due to chronic injury problems, Woodgate had to wait 13 months to make his Real Madrid debut and when he finally took the field he endured a torrid time, scoring an own goal and getting sent off. After just two years, he left for hometown club Middlesbrough.

Michael Owen

Signed from: Liverpool (2004)

Fee: £8m

Real Madrid appearances: 45

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Hit

Signed in a cut-price deal with his contract at Liverpool winding down, Owen impressed despite being unable to dislodge either Ronaldo or Raul from the starting XI. In his season-long spell in Spain, Owen netted 16 goals in 45 appearances.

Thomas Gravesen

Signed from: Everton (2005)

Fee: £2.6m

Real Madrid appearances: 49

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Miss

Arguably the least glamorous signing that Real Madrid have ever made, Gravesen was signed midway through the 2004-05 signing to provide some steel to a midfield packed full of flair and creativity. He never quite cut it at the Bernabeu, though, and was sold to Celtic.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Signed from: Manchester United (2006)

Fee: £10.2m

Real Madrid appearances: 96

Honours won: La Liga x 2

Hit or miss? Hit

Similarly to Beckham, a breakdown in his relationship with Sir Alex led to Van Nistelrooy swapping Manchester for Madrid. Despite approaching the end of his career, the Dutchman impressed, scoring 64 goals in 96 matches in total.

Jose Antonio Reyes

Signed from: Arsenal (2006)

Fee: Loan

Real Madrid appearances: 38

Honours won: La Liga

Hit or miss? Hit

While Reyes was ultimately unable to earn a permanent contract at Real, he will forever be fondly remembered by the club’s supporters after he scored two goals in their La Liga title-clinching win against Mallorca in 2006-07.

Gabriel Heinze

Signed from: Manchester United (2007)

Fee: £8m

Real Madrid appearances: 48

Honours won: La Liga

Hit or miss? Miss

A rugged, all-action style defender, Heinze generally performed pretty well for Real but he was largely a stop-gap in the left-back position, sandwiched between the imperious Brazilian pair of Roberto Carlos and Marcelo.

Arjen Robben

Signed from: Chelsea (2007)

Fee: £25m

Real Madrid appearances: 65

Honours won: La Liga

Hit or miss? Hit

In 2009, Real opted to sell their Dutch trio of Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart in order to make room for the impending arrivals of Ronaldo and Kaka. Despite being forced out, the Chelsea winger impressed in Madrid before becoming one of the world’s best at Bayern Munich.

Jerzy Dudek

Signed from: Liverpool (2007)

Fee: Free

Real Madrid appearances: 15

Honours won: La Liga, Copa del Rey

Hit or miss? Hit

Dudek was signed as Iker Casillas’ understudy and he fulfilled that role dutifully during his four years in Madrid. The Polish shot-stopper was clearly popular in the dressing room as he was treated to a big send-off when he retired in 2011.

Lassana Diarra

Signed from: Portsmouth (2009)

Fee: £18m

Real Madrid appearances: 117

Honours won: La Liga, Copa del Rey

Hit or miss? Miss

Diarra wasn’t necessarily a flop at Real but he didn’t really offer much return on the £18m investment made by the club, as he was restricted to a bit-part role throughout his four years.

Julien Faubert

Signed from: West Ham (2009)

Fee: Loan

Real Madrid appearances: 2

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Miss

Most probably Real Madrid’s worst signing this century, even though he didn’t cost the club a transfer fee. Faubert could barely get a game at West Ham prior to his move and his most noteworthy contribution at Real Madrid was to fall asleep on the subs bench.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Signed from: Manchester United (2009)

Fee: £80m

Real Madrid appearances: 438

Honours won: Champions League x 4, La Liga x 2, Copa del Rey x 2, Club World Cup x 2, Uefa Super Cup x2

Hit or miss? Hit

Real obliterated the world transfer record to secure the services of Ronaldo but he proved to be well worth every single penny. The Portuguese superstar netted 450 goals in 438 games for the club and is their all-time leading marksman. After establishing himself as one of the best players of all time, he swapped Madrid for Turin and Juventus.

Xabi Alonso

Signed from: Liverpool (2009)

Fee: £30m

Real Madrid appearances: 236

Honours won: Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey x 2, Bundesliga x 3 , German Cup, German Super Cup

Hit or miss? Hit

A year after helping Spain win Euro 2008, Alonso completed a return to his homeland following five successful seasons with Liverpool. He immediately became a key player at the base of midfield and was key to Real lifting La Liga in 2012 and the Champions League in 2014.

Alvaro Arbeloa

Signed from: Liverpool (2009)

Fee: £3m

Real Madrid appearances: 238

Honours won: Champions League x 2, La Liga, Copa del Rey x 2, Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup

Hit or miss? Hit

Arbeloa rose through the ranks at Castilla but like so many young players found it impossible to break into Real’s first team. After establishing himself elsewhere, Arbeloa returned in 2009 and helped the club win numerous trophies during a seven-year stay.

Ricardo Carvalho

Signed from: Chelsea (2010)

Fee: £6.7m

Real Madrid appearances: 77

Honours won: La Liga, Copa del Rey

Hit or miss? Hit

Jose Mourinho’s most trusted lieutenant, Carvalho linked up with his compatriot for the third time in Madrid following spells at Porto and Chelsea. He was a regular in his first season before injuries and the rise of Raphael Varane, which relegated him down the pecking order before he eventually left for Monaco in 2013.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Signed from: Manchester City (2011)

Fee: Loan

Real Madrid appearances: 22

Honours won: Copa del Rey

Hit or miss? Hit

His stay in Madrid spanned only six months but Adebayor made some important contributions in that time, scoring crucial goals in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey, before returning to parent club Manchester City.

Luka Modric

Signed from: Tottenham (2012)

Fee: £30m

Real Madrid appearances: 333

Honours won: Champions League x 4, Copa del Rey, Club World Cup x 4, Uefa Super Cup x 3, La Liga

Hit or miss? Hit

Initially, Modric struggled with the weight of expectation in the notoriously demanding Bernabeu, famously being named ‘La Liga’s Worst Signing’ in his debut campaign. However, since then the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner has become one of Real’s most important players, setting the tempo delightfully in midfield.

Michael Essien

Signed from: Chelsea (2012)

Fee: Loan

Real Madrid appearances: 34

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Miss

Like Carvalho, Essien was one of Mourinho’s ‘undroppables’ at Chelsea, but by the time he arrived in Madrid the Ghanaian midfielder’s powers were beginning to wane as a result of injury problems.

Gareth Bale

Signed from: Tottenham (2013)

Fee: £85m

Real Madrid appearances: 249

Honours won: Champions League x 4, Copa del Rey, Club World Cup x 3, Uefa Super Cup x 2, La Liga,

Hit or miss? Hit

Real broke their own record by making Bale the most expensive footballer of all-time in 2013 and the Welshman set about repaying his fee by scoring pivotal goals in the Champions League and Copa del Rey finals. He was unfairly criticised in his second season but bounced back emphatically.

Two seasons ago, however, he was once again questioned over whether he should be moved on, but his outrageous overhead kick against Liverpool in the Champions League final confirmed his quality.

Javier Hernandez

Signed from: Manchester United (2014)

Fee: Loan

Real Madrid appearances: 33

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Hit

The ‘Little Pea’ struggled for game time at Real Madrid but still contributed some important goals, nevertheless, most notably scoring the winner against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final.

Thibaut Courtois

Signed from: Chelsea (2018)

Fee: £35m

Real Madrid appearances: 67

Honours won: Club World Cup

Hit or miss? Hit

Courtois endured a tentative start to his Los Blancos career, showing only flurries of brilliance between the sticks, but having signed for only £35m – half of the fee Chelsea parted with for his successor – the World Cup Golden Glove winner certainly looked a tidy piece of business. And that potential has now been realised, with the Belgian recently rediscovering his Stamford Bridge form and really beginning to showcase his world-class dexterity at the Bernabeu.

Brahim Diaz

Signed from: Man City (2019)

Fee: £15m

Real Madrid appearances: 18

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Miss

Los Blancos paid £15m to prise the young Spaniard away from City, which is certainly not a substantial fee by today’s standards, but for a player who has rarely featured in his career, it did seem a hefty sum at the time. That said, the same questions would have been raised about Jadon Sancho and looked how that turned out. Diaz is a promising starlet who has bags of potential, and so should he fulfil the hype, that £15m will look paltry.

At the moment, however, he has struggled to gain significant playing time and looks a spare part in Zinedine Zidane’s star-studded squad.

Eden Hazard

Signed from: Chelsea (2019)

Fee: £88.5m

Real Madrid appearances: 15

Honours won: None

Hit or miss? Hit

It hasn’t quite worked out just yet for the Belgian, owing to persistent injury problems, but once the mercurial marvel gets up and running he will become a devastating weapon for Zidane in the final third.