Founded in 1902, Real Madrid has transformed itself from a football club to a billion-dollar company, attracting some of the greatest soccer players in the world to their facilities from a young age and putting forth one of the greatest futbol teams year after year. They are the pinnacle of success in the world of futbol and sports in general, an acumen to the quality of players they’ve managed to attract over the years, and there have been some really good ones. The club is considered to have been the best team of the 20th century, an honor that literally spans over one hundred years.
Madrid originally came out as a European powerhouse in the 1950s, where they would win five straight European Cup Finals, a lot of members of that roster being mentioned in the BEST part of this list. There’s no doubt that Madrid has an impressive history, but they also had the players necessary to make it all happen.
Throughout the years, lost in all the haze of the glory, there were also a few players who were unfortunately very out of place in a Madrid uniform. This article looks to explore both sides; the good and the very, very bad for Madrid. Here, we introduce the ten best and ten worst players to ever play for Real Madrid.
23 Best: Santillana
One striker to do wonders for Los Blancos was a footballer who goes by the name Santillana, actually called Carlos Alonso Gonzalez. His Real Madrid spell consisted of 17 La Liga seasons for a total of 643 official games, in which he scored 186 goals. In total, Santillana would go on to win an incredible nine league trophies throughout his career, adding four Copa Del Rey trophies and back to back UEFA Cups.
For Madrid, he was one of the best strikers in their history, and that’s saying something considering how many quality strikers have played for Madrid. To this day, he remains eighth in most goals ever in La Liga. He would win La Liga title in his final three seasons, retiring at 36 years old on a very winning note.
21 Worst: Predag Spacic
Spacic was Serbian defender that retired by the age of 31, but not before playing a season with Real Madrid. He joined the club in 1990 from Serbian Club Partizan. The Serb was coming off an appearance in the World Cup Finals representing Yugoslavia and a good season with Partizan. He was expected to truly solidify Madrid’s backline and add some much need depth in the defense. Unfortunately for him, things didn’t go exactly as planned. He had a horrid season for the club, appearing in 22 matches and earning no goals. Well, he technically did get a goal, when he put it into his own net during an El Clasico. Out of all the times to score an own goal, it had to be in the biggest match of the year.
Needless to say, Spacic was not a fan favorite after that and was not re-signed for the following season, instead signing with the likes of Osasuna for three years. Needless to say, Spacic ranks high qw the worst players to ever wear a Madrid uniform.
19 Best: Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima
The original Ronaldo isn’t the same Ronaldo that plays for Madrid at the moment, but you better believe that this Ronaldo was just as special, if not more special. Ronaldo was with the club from 2002 to 2007, having joined from Inter Milan. Interestingly enough, he’s one of the very few superstars in the history of the game to have played with both Barcelona and Real Madrid. When he joined Madrid, the hype was so incredible that his jersey sales broke records on the first day. Another victim of the Galacticos era in Madrid, Ronaldo joined a Madrid team that was ridiculously stacked.
His contribution in Madrid was incredible, winning La Liga in his first year while scoring 23 goals. In 2003-04, with Ronaldo looked set to win the treble, but an unfortunate injury for Ronaldo saw them lose the Copa Del Rey Final, lose in the Champions League quarterfinal, and lose their form in the league. Such was the importance of the Brazilian in this side. In 2013, long after retiring, Ronaldo would make Marca’s list of Real Madrid’s best starting 11.
18 Worst: Edwin Congo
You know when you go to the store, see something that grabs your attention and buy it, and three years later you realized you haven’t used it once, and it’s still in its original packaging? That’s the story of Edwin Congo and La Liga giants Read Madrid. After an impressive season with Colombian side Once Caldas, he was acquired by Madrid in 1999 but did not play one single game for the Club during his only season there, the rest of his contract being spent on loan.
It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, to be honest, purchasing a player you would not end up using. The Colombian striker literally had no impact at the Club, naturally making him a perfect fit for this list. The 23-year-old that had originally showed quite a bit of promise when arriving at the club, never really enjoyed a successful career, retiring at 33 after a brief spell in Spanish amateur football.
17 Best: Ferenc Puskas
Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskas first came to Madrid in 1958. It was a little odd how he came to find himself there, to be honest. The Hungarian revolution had broken out in Budapest, leaving Hungarian players confused as they were playing a game in another country at the time. He would ultimately receive a two-year ban for refusing to return to Budapest. After that, at 31 years old, bigger clubs were hesitant to sign the Hungarian who they thought was getting too old to be significant. Boy, were they wrong.
In his first season with Madrid, Puskas would score four hat-tricks, including one in his second game. He would also win four scoring titles during his time with Madrid and would go on to score an incredible seven goals in just two Champions League Finals. You’ll be glad to hear that his troubles with the Hungarian government were settled in 1993 after he defected in 1956, just in time for him to come and take over the national team as manager.
16 Worst: Perica Ognjenovic
Another Serbian to badly represent Madrid is Perica Ognjenovic. The forward who is now retired was with Madrid from 1999-2001 and was wildly unsuccessful. After a few solid performances at Serbian club Red Star, the Spanish giants signed him just hours before the closing of the transfer window. He only appeared in 30 games across all competitions although it must be said that most of those he started on the bench. He would have zero goals for the club, obviously not a stat you want to see for a forward.
He was so bad with Madrid that for the first six months after leaving the club he couldn’t find a new team to sign him. He finally arranged a tryout with German side FC Kaiserslautern and the club eventually ended up signing him for free.
15 Best: Roberto Carlos
We all know Robert Carlos for having perhaps the most wicked left foot the game of futbol has ever seen. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone curve the ball like Carlos. The Brazilian defender, often considered the best left back to ever play, was another Galacticos signing, joining Madrid when they were almost at their strongest in 1996, where he would stay until 2007. He would appear in 30 matches for Madrid, scoring 47 goals, quite something considering he was a left back.
Nicknamed “The Bullet Man” due to those ridiculous free-kicks we were talking about, Carlos’ shot has actually been clocked 105 miles per hour. He’s pretty much everything you want in a left back and more. His time at Madrid came with four La Liga titles and an incredible three Champions League wins, contributing to the most successful version of Madrid the world had ever seen. There is no doubt in my mind that Roberto Carlos was the best defender of all time.
14 Worst: Jaime Sanchez Fernandez
Jaime Sanchez Fernandez was a defensive midfielder from Spain who played for Read Madrid but spent most of his time playing with their reserves. Born in Madrid, he originally started with RSD Alcala and achieved a promotion into the second division before joining Madrid. As mentioned, he played regularly for Madrid’s B and C sides, but rarely made an appearance for the big club, his most notable appearance was coming on in the 82nd minute of a 1-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League Finals.
Needless to say, Fernandez really failed to have much of an impact for the first team and failed to find a starting role in another first-tier club, eventually settling into Spain’s second division before ultimately retiring in 2006.
13 Best: Zinedine Zidane
Zizou, as his supporters like to call him, played for Madrid during his career, having joined the club from Italian giants Juventus for a €77.5 million fee. At Real, Zidane was ultimately a legend, playing on a team ultimately nicknamed the Galacticos, in reference to the Madrid’s president going on a shopping spree and bringing in an array of superstars from all over the globe to form one of the greatest teams Madrid, and the world had ever seen. To sum it up, Zidane was a magical player, elegant on the ball yet fierce in the final third, and one of the deadliest finishers.
His highlight at Madrid must be the game-winning goal against Bayern Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League Final. Zidane would hit a volley with his weaker left foot from outside of the box right by the keeper into the top corner. To this day, it's considered one of the greatest goals ever scored in the Champions League. He would leave the club when he retired in 2006, scoring in his farewell match in a 3-3 draw against Villareal.
12 Worst: Royston Drenthe
At only 29 years old, Dutch footballer Royston Drenthe is still playing football today for Baniyas in Abu Dhabi, an obvious downgrade to when he played at Real Madrid. He was with the Spanish giants from 2007 to 2012 and made 46 total appearances, the winger achieving a meager two goals in the process. There was a lot of hope that Drenthe would be a force to be reckoned with down the left wing when he was brought to Madrid, and he featured in the starting line-up regularly in his first season. However, lack of productivity and the development of Marcelo meant that Drenthe would be cut from the starting 18 quite often, leading to him storming off the training pitch in frustration at some point.
Drenthe’s problems continued when he suffered from anxiety issues after being booed by the Bernabeu crowd, asking his manager not to start for the next three games. With the relationship between the team and player quickly deteriorating, he would be loaned for his final two seasons and would eventually join Russian club FC Spartak Vladikavkaz.
11 Best: Francisco Gento
Gento is a Spanish footballer that played with the Club from 1953 to 1971, appearing in a total of 428 games for Madrid. His most successful were from 1956-1961, where Madrid would win five straight Champions League titles. He wore number 11 for the club and quickly became a legend for the club. Playing on the left-hand side in the midfield, Gento was a gazelle on the pitch and had reportedly ran 100 meters in 11 seconds. Other than his speed, Gento also had amazing skill on the ball, a wonderful asset considering his speed, and was also a dangerous goal scorer from the midfield position.
His greatest feat, however, lies in winning six European Cup Finals, a record unmatched to this day and appearing a total of eight finals. He was the king of European football, going 6-2 in all European finals, just a tad better than Paolo Maldini, who also appeared in eight finals with a 5-3 record.
10 Worst: Carlos Secretario
We now move on the Portuguese footballer Carlos Secretario. The right back is now retired, but had a quite successful career for club and country, earning 18 trophies with Porto and three with Real Madrid. In three years at Madrid, he would only make 13 appearances, really struggling to find a place in the starting 11. Unfortunately for Secretario, Madrid had signed Christina Panucci in the same transfer window and he ended up stealing many of Secretario’s minutes.
The biggest highlight of Secretario’s career at Madrid was catching a rabbit that had invaded the pitch during a match against Real Betis. Quite impressive if you think of how fast they could be. Good job Secretario. “Secretário may or may be not a good player," said TV commentator Arsenio Iglesias at the time, "but he is indeed a great hunter."
9 Best: Iker Casillas
We move on to the only goalkeeper included on this list, and what a legend he was. Iker Casillas is undisputedly the best goalkeeper to ever wear the Madrid shirt, and he has the silverware to really prove it. Incredibly, Casillas first started with Madrid 26 years ago today in 1990 for Madrid’s youth side. He would be promoted to the senior side in 1999, where he would stay for the next 16 years, and then was somewhat unceremoniously shipped to Porto in 2015. For Madrid, he is the second most capped player after Raul with 725 appearances for the club.
And how about that silverware I mentioned previously? Well, during his time at the club, Casillas won five La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies (including la Decima), and two Copa Del Rey titles. He’s by far the best keeper in the history of the club, and will forever be remembered as a Madrid legend, similar in status to Raul in my mind.
8 Worst: Francisco Villarroya
We travel back in time to the early 90s, when the Spanish midfielder had just signed a contract with one of the greatest clubs to ever exist. It was an exciting time for Villarroya; he had just finished two strong seasons with Aragonese in which he helped them achieve a top 10 finish for two straight years. He was sparsely used in Real Madrid, battling for the left-back position with Mikel Lasa before ultimately losing the role to one of the greatest left backs to ever play the game, Roberto Carlos. Being an obvious inferior to Carlos, Villarroya’s time at the Club was done, and he returned to play for more modest La Liga teams.
He would play a total of 83 games at the end with Los Blancos, finding the net just once. As mentioned, the left midfielder was forced to play left back at Madrid, which had somewhat of a hole in that position. Nothing like a Roberto Carlos to come and fill that hole right back up.
7 Best: Alfredo di Stefano
When talking about the glory of Madrid, the name Alfredo Di Stefano may come up, a lot. Now he was playing soccer way before my time, so I won’t pretend to know just how good he was, but really, his record speaks for itself. He played for a few teams in Argentina and Colombia before joining Madrid in 1953, staying for 11 seasons until 1964. He is their third leading scorer with 216 goals in 282 appearances for the club. Nicknamed the blond arrow, Di Stefano was versatile and as complete as they get when it comes to futbol players, sometimes playing anywhere on the pitch.
For Madrid, Di Stefano achieved greatness when he helped the team win five incredible Champions League Finals in five consecutive years, being part of almost half of all the club's Champions League trophies. There’s no doubt that Di Stefano was one of the greatest Madrid players of all time, but there’s one particular stat that really makes him a fan favorite, and that’s being the leading scorer in the El Clasico. The Argentine passed away just two years ago in Madrid.
6 Worst: Dejan Petkovic
We move on to yet another Serbian, this one by the name of Petkovic. He originally joined the Spanish giants from Red Star Belgrave after a few strong seasons with the Serbian club. However, his time at the Club could not be more forgettable. Madrid at the time was not where they wanted to be in terms of table positioning, and Petrovic was brought expecting to have a real shot of breaking into the 1st team permanently.
It wasn’t meant to be for Petkovic, who only made five appearances for Los Blancos before being loaned out to Sevilla. He would come back to Madrid under a different coach, none other than the infamous Fabio Capello. Competition for his spot in the attacking midfield was fierce, and Petkovic was ultimately loaned out again, this time to Racing Santander.
5 Best: Raul Gonzalez Blanco
More commonly known simply as Raul, the Spanish footballer is considered one of the most important footballers in the history of Madrid. He was also an amazing striker and an extremely critical finisher. Raul was with Madrid for an incredible 16 seasons that started when he joined the first team for the first time in 1994. He is the club's most capped player with 741 appearances and the second highest goalscorer with 323 goals, just recently surpassed by someone called Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s also the third-leading Champions League scorer, again behind Ronaldo and Messi.
With Madrid, Raul’s time was legendary. He would win six La Liga titles and three Champions League titles, scoring in two finals. He would also captain the team from 2003 until he retired in 2010. If there is one person in the world that literally bleeds Madrid, that has to be Raul. There is nothing this man has not done for Los Blancos. It is not an understatement when I tell you that he is the most important player to ever play for Real Madrid.
3 Worst: Julien Faubert
Unlike the other Frenchman on the better half of this list, Julien Faubert was with Madrid only in 2009, on loan from English club West Ham United. His beginnings in West Ham were marked by injuries, and the 30th of January, 2009, he was permitted to speak with Real Madrid, his move there on loan eventually being completed £1.5 million, with Madrid having the option to sign him on a three-year contract. His few months in Madrid were absolutely brilliant, in a comedy sense.
Faubert ended appearing only twice for the club. His highlights at Madrid include missing training because he thought he had the day off and also falling asleep on the bench during a tilt against Villareal. Needless to say, Madrid was in no mood to extend this relationship any further, and he was shipped backed to England the following season.
2 Best: Cristiano Ronaldo
You better believe that the player being currently considered as one of the best players to ever play the game is going to be at the top of this list. Cristiano Ronaldo has become one of the most powerful names in the game. I myself happen to be an avid Messi supporter and believe that he is the best player in the world, but that doesn’t stop me from believing that Ronaldo is a close second. The prolific attacker and three-time Ballon d’Or winner joined Madrid in 2009 and has since become their best attacker in the history of the old club.
For a team that was considered the best club of the 20th century, it says a lot that Cristiano Ronaldo has been able to elevate his game to such a high extent. He is the club’s top scorer in all of their glorious history, an incredible feat considering he just signed to stay with the club until 2021. This means that Ronaldo’s name is basically cemented in Madrid soil, all over the Bernabeu. His records will remain unbroken for decades, perhaps even centuries.
1 Worst: Fernando Sanz
Fernando Sanz is the only player on this dreadful list to have come up through Real’s youth system. The Spaniard appeared in 228 games for Madrid, 35 of those coming with the first team, although he unfortunately never managed to secure himself a spot in the starting 11. The central defender had no goals in his time with the club and played sparsely, despite his father, Lorenzo Sanz, being the president of the club at the time. If you can’t even find a spot for the president's son he must have REALLY been bad.
After it was clearly not going to work with Los Madridistas, Sanz moved on to Malaga and scored his first goal as a professional footballer against, you guessed it, Real Madrid. He would retire with five goals to his name and immediately become Malaga’s president after his father bought 97% of the shares.