Real Madrid have a rich history of prising the top talent away from these shores.
Chelsea star Eden Hazard is the latest to make the move over to the Spanish capital after lighting up England’s top division over the last seven years.
With the winger sealing a £150million move to Madrid this week, Sportsmail have taken a look back at the 25 players who have made the switch before him – and assessed how they got on over in Spain.
Eden Hazard is the latest Premier League star to be lured to Spain by Real Madrid
The trailblazer. Cunningham became the first Englishman to sign for Real Madrid when he joined from West Brom in 1979. With his elegant dribbling and clinical finishing, Cunningham quickly established a strong connection with the fans, who nicknamed him ‘the black pearl’. He is one of a handful of Real players to have received a standing ovation at the Nou Camp. Despite being blighted with injuries, Cunningham will always be remembered fondly by the Madrid faithful.
Laurie Cunningham was liked by Madrid fans and once got a standing ovation at the Nou Camp
Following in Cunningham’s footsteps some 20 years later, McManaman ventured south to land in Madrid after leaving Liverpool on a free transfer. The tricky winger took to life in Spain like a duck to water, impressing the fans and his team-mates with his ability on the ball and work ethic off it. He enjoyed some real success with Real Madrid, winning two European Cups and two La Liga titles before departing in 2003. McManaman wrote his name into Madrid folklore with a stunning volley in the 3-0 Champions League final win against Valencia.
Steve McManaman enjoyed real success during his four years in the Spanish capital
Real Madrid thought they were getting the real deal when they forked out £23million to bring Nicolas Anelka to the Bernabeu. The Frenchman came with a burgeoning reputation after netting 23 goals in 65 appearances for Arsenal, but quickly found himself heading back out the door after falling out with boss Vicente del Bosque. He scored just two La Liga goals in his only season at the club. Madrid did however have a silver lining to take from the disaster – they managed to recoup what they spent by selling him to boyhood club Paris Saint-Germain.
Nicolas Anelka endured a nightmare debut season at Madrid and was off in the summer
The England international was all packed and ready to go to Barcelona before Real Madrid swooped in at the last minute to sign the midfielder for £25m. Within a few weeks of joining, Beckham won his first trophy with the club as Madrid claimed the Spanish Super Cup. He may have thought it was a sign of things to come, but he would be wrong. Madrid went trophyless for three years after the Super Cup success. Beckham’s major achievement at the club was helping them to win La Liga on the final day of the 2006-07 season. He departed that summer but left a fine impression having scored 20 goals in 158 matches.
David Beckham was given a hero’s send off as he helped Madrid win La Liga in his final season
We are all still trying to work this one out. Jonathan Woodgate was a good defender, but good enough for Real Madrid? Probably not. Not to mention the fact he struggled immensely with his fitness. Still, Real decided to have a punt on him and shelled out £13m to sign him from Newcastle in 2004. He almost immediately was injured and spent the entire first season on the sidelines. Woodgate eventually made his debut the next year and marked the occasion with an own goal and red card. He made just 14 appearances in three seasons before moving to Middlesbrough.
Jonathan Woodgate struggled with injuries and barely featured during his time in Madrid
Real Madrid signing Michael Owen for just £8m was like pulling off a robbery in plain sight. The striker had scored a glut of goals at Liverpool and left his boyhood club with the intention of doing the same in Spain. Regular opportunities were scant though. Despite his good form, Owen was never fancied by either Mariano Garcia Remon or Vanderlei Luxemburgo. He managed 13 goals in 36 appearances at Real, finishing the season with the best minutes-per-goal ratio in the division, but was still shipped out to Newcastle in the summer.
Michael Owen scored a fair few goals for Madrid but never nailed down a starting berth
Not quite sure who was in charge of recruitment at this period of time, but here’s another curveball. If you’ve forgotten, yes, Thomas Gravesen did play for Real Madrid. Even the midfielder thought it was a joke when he was first told of their interest in him. Gravesen’s time in Spain looked to be short lived with rumours circulating he would leave in January but Lopez Caro took over the reigns and reinstated him into the team, deploying a new 4-1-4-1 system. He made 49 appearances in all competitions in his first season but things would soon take a turn for the worst. In August 2006, Gravesen was involved in a training-ground bust-up with Robinho after taking him out during a session. He was sold to Celtic weeks later.
Thomas Gravesen’s move to Real came out of nowhere and he didn’t last very long at the club
JOSE ANTONIO REYES
It was Arsene Wenger who brokered a deal for the late Reyes to go to Madrid with Julio Baptista going in the opposite direction. Reyes would only spend the season on loan but featured regularly and played an integral role throughout the campaign. Despite his stay at Real being brief, Reyes managed to leave a significant mark on the club by coming off the bench to score twice in a win against Mallorca that would seal the La Liga title for them. He remained in the capital by moving to Atletico Madrid for £10m in the summer.
Jose Antonio Reyes will always be remembered for goals against Mallorca to win Real La Liga
RUUD VAN NISTELROOY
The Dutchman was a true goal machine and his time at Real was no different to any of his other spells. It brought goals, goals, goals and more goals. Van Nistelrooy terrorised every defence he came up against and his deadly ability to find the back of the net made him a huge hit with the fans. He ended up as top goalscorer in his first season in La Liga, earning the nickname ‘Van Gol’. The striker had his injury troubles but left with a phenomenal record of 64 goals in 96 appearances.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy was deadly in front of goal for Madrid and scored a shedload of goals
With Iker Casillas around, most goalkeepers joining Real Madrid will expect to be playing second fiddle. Even though Jerzy Dudek possessed an uncanny gift for turning up for the big occasions, Real only ever really saw him as a fringe player. He joined on a free in 2007 from Liverpool after losing his place to Pepe Reina and made just two appearances during a four-year spell at the club before retiring.
Jerzy Dudek was very much second fiddle to goalkeeper Iker Casillas at Real Madrid
He couldn’t get a game at Manchester United but he could slot right into Real Madrid’s first team. Could you imagine that now? United’s throwaways walking into Madrid’s team! Gabriel Heinze was a decent servant for United but his departure was acrimonious and Madrid came in to offer him an exit route after Sir Alex Ferguson refused to let him join Liverpool. He only stayed in Madrid for two seasons but was their regular left-back, appearing 60 times over the course of his time at the club.
Gabriel Heinze was a strange success story at Madrid, featuring regularly for two seasons
Real Madrid’s loss was very much Bayern Munich’s gain in Arjen Robben’s case. After an impressive spell at Chelsea, the Spanish giants came calling in 2007. The Dutch star came with a fierce reputation for being one of trickiest wingers in the business, but for one reason or another, it never quite clicked at Madrid. Robben was in and out of the team and returned 13 goals and a further 14 assists from his two seasons at the Bernabeu. He didn’t want to leave, but Real wanted to make room for Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. Real decided to sell Robben to Bayern Munich despite the player being in his prime and he went on to achieve major success in Germany.
Arjen Robben was one of the trickiest wingers in the world but was never loved at Madrid
‘His agent should be knighted by the Queen,’ Paul Merson said after Faubert moved to Real on a six-month loan deal from West Ham. It certainly was a wildcard move. As predicted by many, the Frenchman barely featured, playing just two games for the club. Faubert will be best remembered by Madrid fans for not turning up for training when he thought he had a day off and taking a nap on the bench during a game against Villarreal.
Julien Faubert’s move to Madrid stumped everyone and he only played two games for them
Diarra failed to breakthrough at Chelsea and Arsenal before making his name at Portsmouth. Real Madrid were convinced the Frenchman could fill the void Claude Makelele left when he moved to Chelsea in 2003 and splashed out £20m to sign him. Their gamble paid off with the midfielder featuring regularly. His ability to motor around the pitch – covering huge distances – and regain possession proved invaluable for the side. He won the La Liga and Copa del Rey during three-and-a-half years there.
Lassana Diarra was solid in the heart of Madrid’s midfield during his time at the club
The defender re-joined his boyhood club three years after leaving for Liverpool. Arbeloa’s second spell at the club would be much more rewarding with the Spaniard cementing a regular place in team for seven years. His time at Madrid was the defining period in his career with the right back tallying up 238 appearances and claiming two Champions League and La Liga winners’ medals.
Alvaro Arbeloa left the club a modern-day cult hero after making over 200 appearances
Perhaps the most cultured midfielder to ever grace the Premier League. Xabi Alonso left Spain with plenty to prove in 2004 and returned as one of the best in the world. Joining from Liverpool in 2009 after a trophy-laden five-year stint in Merseyside, Alonso was embedded straight into the heart of Madrid’s midfield. His range of passing was what set Alonso apart from most and he arguably enjoyed his best moments of an illustrious career in a Real shirt. He made over 200 appearances for the club and won his second Champions League winners’ medal with them in 2014.
Xabi Alonso was superb during his time at Madrid and ran their midfield for years
Real Madrid’s decision to splash a then world-record £80m on Cristiano Ronaldo was rewarded with countless goals, incredible performances and bags of silverware. The Portuguese star was sensational in his last two seasons at Manchester United but it was in Spain that he took his game to the next level. Ronaldo netted an astonishing 450 goals in 438 appearances for the club – 125 more than their second all-time top goalscorer Raul. He spearheaded their assault on the Champions League as Madrid lifted the trophy on three successive occasions between 2015 and 2018. Sure to go down as one of the club’s greatest ever players.
Cristiano Ronaldo won four Champions Leagues with Madrid and is their all-time top scorer
He was the defender that Jose Mourinho wanted to take with him everywhere so it was no surprise that when he joined Real Madrid Ricardo Carvalho was not too far behind. The Portuguese international was a rock at the back for Chelsea and although he was approaching the backend of his career when he moved to Spain, Mourinho was confident he could replicate his form in England. Carvalho was a stalwart in the first season but the following year he would play significantly less game time. The defender quickly dropped down the pecking order and made just nine league appearances in his final season before leaving for Monaco without really leaving his mark in Madrid.
Ricardo Carvalho never really hit the heights at Madrid after joining from Chelsea
Another one for the books here. Emmanuel Adebayor was banished from Manchester City’s future plans and who was there to offer him an escape route? Real Madrid. The La Liga giants already had Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain on their roster, but still opted to take the Togo international on loan in January 2011. It proved a useful bit of business – and that was all – with the striker returning eight goals from 22 games.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored eight times for Madrid and was a useful signing – but that was all
This was a slow burner. Modric was brilliant for Tottenham and it was no surprise Madrid came knocking for the Croatian playmaker. But the midfielder struggled to establish himself in the Madrid team initially and took time for him to settle in Spain. Once he found his feet, the rest is history. As the years go by, it seems Modric is getting better and better. Last season was perhaps a tad underwhelming given his stunning summer in Russia – which fired him to the Ballon d’Or – but there is no denying he has been a fantastic acquisition for Madrid. Another linchpin in Zinedine Zidane’s side that won three Champions Leagues in a row.
Luka Modric has been a fantastic servant for the club even if last season was not his best
Another case of buy what you know. Mourinho liked his reunions and decided to hook back up with Michael Essien, who had done wonders for him at Chelsea. He moved to Madrid on loan in 2012, but like Carvalho, looked a shadow of the player he was at Stamford Bridge. The midfielder made 35 appearances for the club in a season that yielded no major trophy.
Michael Essien – like Carvalho – was a shadow of player he was at Chelsea when he joined Real
It all started so auspiciously for him didn’t it? Although he was failing to grasp the language, Bale had no issues with getting up to speed with a new league. The Welshman came for big money and the expectation was heavy. His first two seasons led you to believe he was coping with it fine, but his fitness began to dwindle and the fans began to turn on him. Last season was his worst for some time and he now looks destined to be confined to the outskirts unless he can push through a move away. On paper, you could be forgiven for arguing his case – 102 goals and 62 assists in 231 games – but are those the numbers a then record fee of £85m are supposed to get you? The Madrid lot are an unforgiving bunch and it’s hard to dispute that Bale didn’t look a better player at Tottenham – even if he has produced some special moments in a Real shirt.
Gareth Bale produced moment to remember in Kiev but his Real career is going to end in tears
Javier Hernandez made the shock loan move to Real from Manchester United in 2014. The Mexican had an eye for a goal but was seen as much more of a squad player as opposed to a nailed-on starter. He managed to notch seven La Liga goals in just 858 minutes of action but was swiftly handed back to United come the end of the season. Hernandez did manage to net the winner against rivals Atletico Madrid in the Champions League – something the Madrid fans will always love him for.
Javier Hernandez will always be thought of fondly after his winner against Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid exploited Thibaut Courtois’ contract situation at Chelsea to snap him up for a cut-price fee of £35m. The Belgian shotstopper was arguably the best in the world, so it represented crafty business. However, Courtois’ time in Madrid – a place he has fond memories of having shined during his loan spell at Atletico – has been far from idyllic. The keeper made a number of glaring errors, performed well below par and was in and out of the team last season. It’s too early to tell in his Madrid career, but he will want to make huge improvements next term as Zinedine Zidane looks to rebuild his giants.
TOO EARLY TO TELL!
Thiabut Courtois has not had the best of starts to his Real Madrid career after last season
The youngster was prised away from Manchester City for £22m in January. Diaz has made a bright start to his Madrid career despite only being given a handful of opportunities. His quick footwork and eye for a goal has caught the attention of the fans but he does not feature in Madrid’s immediate plans. The club will possibly loan him out this summer to boost development despite the player voicing that he would rather stay and fight for a place.
TOO EARLY TO TELL!
Brahim Diaz has made a bright start to life at Madrid but could be loaned out for next season