How PL stars fared in 1st Madrid Year after Transfer

Ronaldo, Beckham…

For a move that was a long time in the making, Eden Hazard’s first season at Real Madrid has been little short of a disaster.

The Belgian sealed a transfer from Chelsea worth up to £150million in the summer yet has been dogged by poor form and injuries to feature in only 15 games – scoring just once.

It’s been a campaign to forget for a player who has gone from being one of the world’s best talents to almost a forgotten entity in just under a year.

He will be hoping for a vast improvement in the remainder of his five-year-deal at the Bernabeu, but how does he compare with fellow Premier League stars who opted to join the Spanish giants in their first seasons?

Steve McManaman

(Liverpool, free, 1999)

‘If McManaman thinks he is coming to one of the world’s top clubs then he has made a big mistake.’

Real Madrid legend Raul didn’t exactly set the bar high for Steve McManaman prior to his arrival at the Bernabeu. His words were understandable though. Madrid were in turmoil in the summer of 1999 following unrest between players and a changing of managers.

McManaman was just the second English player to play for the club after Laurie Cuningham but had a slow start which saw him left out of the first team for much of October and November.

The winger slowly came into prominence though and ended the year with a Champions League winner’s medal having scored in a 3-0 win over Valencia in the final, helping restore Madrid as… well one of the world’s top clubs.

After a successful four years at the Bernabeu, in which he won LaLiga twice, he moved to Manchester City in 2003.

Nicolas Anelka

(Arsenal, £22.3m, 1999)

In a move a little more high-profile than McManaman’s switch, Madrid managed to prize away Arsenal’s prolific young marksman Anelka for a fee which by today’s standards was in the same ballpark as Hazard’s Bernabeu switch.

Madrid had not done their homework though. Despite his goals nearly helping Arsenal retain the Premier League title he had picked up the nickname ‘Le Sulk’ due to his volatile attitude.

Five months into his Real career he still had not scored in the league and although he netted in both legs of a Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich before going on to lift the trophy, he was offloaded to Paris Saint-Germain… long before they became a European force.

David Beckham

(Manchester United, £25m, 2003)

For months it looked like Barcelona would be ending David Beckham’s stay at Manchester United following his bitter and very public fallout with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

But the lure of becoming the latest ‘Galactico’ after Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo was too much for the England captain and a high-profile tussle between the Spanish giants ended with Beckham penning his signature at the Bernabeu.

Although he started well enough he never quite hit top form in his first season under Carlos Queiroz.

Still by April Madrid were going strong in the Champions League and in La Liga before a run of seven defeats in their last eight games saw them spectacularly collapse and leave Beckham reflecting on an average first year.

He went on to win LaLiga in 2007, however, and his work-rate, quality and embracing of Spanish culture mean he is still fondly remembered in Madrid.

Michael Owen

(Liverpool, £8m, 2004)

Maybe Madrid just needed more ‘Galacticos’ after their 2004 collapse and they soon pounced to sign an unsettled Michael Owen from Liverpool.

The problem was they hadn’t quite worked out how they could fit him in the team. Ronaldo and Raul were still considered top dogs and he never got an extended run in the side.

Considering he rarely completed 90 minutes he had a good return of 16 goals in 45 games, and netted in a 4-2 Clasico victory over Barcelona. Yet Real couldn’t find a spot for him and he was offloaded to Newcastle United after just one season.

Jonathan Woodgate

(Newcastle United, £13.4m, 2004)

As bad as Hazard’s first season has been, at least he never had a debut like Jonathan Woodgate.

Pressure was already on the injury-prone centre-back as he was seen as the ideal option to plug the defensive holes at the club following the failed pursuit of the more celebrated Alessandro Nesta.

He was injured when he signed… and was still injured a full year later meaning it took him 13 months to finally pull on a Madrid jersey. It wasn’t worth the wait. In his first match against Athletic Bilbao he scored an own goal and was then sent off.

Although his performances improved over the season Madrid fans had long lost patience with the defender whose otherwise promising career was being ruined by constant injuries.

He was sold to Middlesbrough in 2007 after just a handful of games for Real.

Jose Antonio Reyes

(Arsenal, loan, 2006)

Seven years on from Anelka, Madrid were back to Arsenal trying to pinch more attacking talent and wasted no time in trying to convince young forward Reyes he should return to Spain.

The unsettled forward, at Arsene Wenger’s reluctance, got his wish in a move that saw Julio Baptista head in the opposite direction.

The forward did little of note at the Bernabeu… until the last game of the season when he came off the bench to score twice and help Fabio Capello’s side claim the league title. Then he signed for crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

(Manchester United, £11m, 2006)

The anti-Hazard transfer? Van Nistelrooy was one of Europe’s best strikers having banged in 150 goals in 219 games for Manchester United. So for Real to pick him at just £11m was a real bargain.

So what was the catch? Well, the Dutchman had just hit the age of 30 and it was uncertain if his best days had already passed, having seen his importance slowly fade away at Old Trafford.

Yet he would go on to prove he still had much to give, scoring 33 times in all competitions as he went on to help Real lift the Spanish league title.

Gabriel Heinze

(Manchester United, £8m, 2007)

Liverpool and Real Madrid were keen on signing the talented, yet unsettled full-back at Manchester United and with those two options Sir Alex Ferguson was only ever going to sanction one of them.

So to the Bernabeu it was for the Argentina international, who was seen as replacement for Roberto Carlos even if he could not quite hit a free-kick as well.

Despite helping the club retain the Spanish title, he struggled to impose himself in a mixed campaign where he featured 20 times. He was shipped off to Marseille after two seasons.

Arjen Robben

(Chelsea, £24m, 2007)

Lining up alongside Heinze as an arrival (and with more fanfare) was Robben, who had been a star in a Chelsea side that recently won two Premier League titles.

While he could only muster five goals and assists during his first season, he did feature 28 times across all competitions and did pick up yet another league winner’s medal.

Maybe Madrid supporters could have been forgiven for wanting to see more of his trademark ‘cutting inside from the right and blasting home’ speciality, but his debut year was an overall success.

Still, his face never quite fit at the Bernabeu and he was off to Bayern Munich after two years, becoming a legend in Bavaria.

Lassana Diarra

(Portsmouth, £20m, 2009)

Four years on from the Gravesen mis-step, Madrid seemed to have learned their lesson when to bolster the defensive side of their midfield they swooped to land Diarra from a Portsmouth side starting to stare at financial ruin.

Diarra had impressed on the south coast following spells at Arsenal and Chelsea where he had also shown promise.

After an impressive six months he featured often in his first full season and was always a steady pair of hands rather than a superstar. But like many Madrid stars before and after him, he would soon make way for bigger names. The riches of Anzhi Makhachkala beckoned in 2012.

Cristiano Ronaldo

(Manchester United, £80m, 2009)

After the Faubert nonsense, it’s fair to say Madrid’s swoop on the Premier League six months later was more of a success.

The world-record transfer fee was smashed to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. For the previous three years alongside Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo had been running rings around practically every defence in the Premier League.

Straight away he was a monster at the Bernabeu too, scoring 33 times and laying off 12 assists across just 35 games in all competitions. The only negative was that it still didn’t land him a trophy, although they would soon follow as his influence increased.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Xabi Alonso

(Liverpool, £30m, 2009)

Quite why Liverpool were so willing to allow Xabi Alonso to leave is a mystery but their loss was Madrid’s gain in the second of the Anfield departures for the Bernabeu in 2009.

Alonso had admittedly fallen out with Rafa Benitez at Liverpool but he wasn’t initially keen on moving to Madrid.

But while he was uncertain of a move back to Spain it was no surprise he proved a snug fit in the Madrid midfield once he was there, providing six assists and scoring three goals in his 34 top-flight appearances.

Five years, one LaLiga title and one Champions League win later, he left established as one of the world’s finest midfielders.

Ricardo Carvalho

(Chelsea, £6.7m, 2010)

Ricardo Carvalho was heading into the autumn of his career at 32 by the time he rocked up at Madrid.

But he was a key man for Jose Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea and his advancing years were not going to deter the Portuguese from signing him again for a cut-price deal from the Blues.

He slotted in as expected at centre-back and impressed enough to make 48 appearances throughout his first season. Before moving to Monaco in 2013 he had won LaLiga, making his move a success.

Emmanuel Adebayor

(Manchester City, loan, 2011)

Adebayor’s career needed a kick-start after his high-profile switch from Arsenal to Manchester City soon fell flat, and that was exactly what he got when he joined Madrid on loan halfway through the 2010-11 season.

In his few months at the Bernabeu he still showed he could cut it at the top level, scoring eight times, including a brace against Tottenham Hotspur to help eliminate them from the Champions League quarter-finals.

It wasn’t enough to earn a full-time deal at Madrid though, or even stay at City. However Spurs soon went with the policy ‘if you can’t beat them, sign them.’

Luka Modric

(Tottenham Hotspur, £33m, 2012)

While Adebayor was sinking Spurs in the quarter-finals, Madrid were busy keeping their eye on the opposition.

Modric was a key part of Tottenham’s attack that brought them to the table of Europe’s elite at the start of the last decade and his performances convinced Madrid that he was the playmaker to lead their first team.

He featured prominently in a wide range of midfield positions in his first season but rarely did he look unsettled and he has only improved in his following seven years at the club. His four Champions League wins make Modric arguably one of Real’s best ever signings.

Michael Essien

(Chelsea, loan, 2012)

Following the successful Carvalho experiment, Jose Mourinho once again returned to Chelsea to pick up some former favourites as he looked to bolster his midfield with Essien.

The Ghanaian had fallen out of favour following an impressive seven years at Stamford Bridge but things got off to an awkward start at Madrid when he referred to Mourinho as ‘daddy’ at his unveiling after the Portuguese had called the midfielder ‘his son’.

Fortunately his on-pitch showings were less questionable.  A solid year at the Bernabeu followed but at 30-years-old he was not the future and so returned to Stamford Bridge at the end of his loan.

Gareth Bale

(Tottenham Hotspur, £85.3m, 2013)

Tottenham had been in what they described as a ‘special relationship’ with Madrid following Modric’s sale, but that marketing ploy was soon dropped when the Spanish side pinched their most prized asset Bale the following summer.

Bale’s pace was frighting at this point of his career, nevertheless it took him a couple of months to find his feet in Spain before his world-record fee started to have more of a shine than a smear to it.

Fears of him and Cristiano Ronaldo clashing were soon eased as he struck 22 goals in 44 games with 19 assists, including netting in the Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid.

His ongoing spat with boss Zinedine Zidane can never take away from his four Champions League wins, and THAT overhead kick against Liverpool in the 2018 final.

Javier Hernandez

(Manchester United, loan, 2014)

After his incredible first season at Manchester United, Javier Hernandez’s stock gradually declined at Old Trafford and Louis van Gaal was only too happy to allow him to join Madrid on loan for the season.

It was a chance for ‘Chicharito’ to get his career back on track, but just nine goals in 33 matches followed and the Spanish giants soon lost interest over making the deal a permanent one.

It was not a complete waste of time though and he did win some favour among the Real support after scoring against rivals Atletico to seal a semi-final spot in the Champions League.

Thibaut Courtois

(Chelsea, £35m, 2018)

Courtois left Chelsea on a pretty sour note having forced his way out of the Blues to join Madrid as their new No 1 goalkeeper.

However his arrival at the age of 26 marked him out as a long-term No 1 at the club and while his first year was far from a disaster he did not look the same safe pair of hands he did at Stamford Bridge.

He did enough to earn a second season between the sticks, but with Alphonse Areola also now hanging around the club, he is already watching his back.

Brahim Diaz

(Manchester City, £15.5m, 2019)

Diaz only joined Real Madrid last year having grown frustrated with the lack of first-team chances offered at Manchester City.

Not much has changed for the 20-year-old attacking midfielder over a year on. He has just 23 minutes of LaLiga action under his belt this term.

It appears if first-team football is his desire, he might have to move on again.


1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Nice one

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