Real Madrid are arguably the biggest club in the world of professional sports. The team is routinely worth billions of dollars according to valuations that are released by sources such as Forbes. Fans of the club are located all around the planet. The popularity of Real seems to grow with every year and with every trophy that the team adds to its multiple cases. Thanks to massive media rights deals, fans who may never be able to make the trek to the Bernabeu can watch every meaningful game that Real play during a season. There has never been a better time to follow Real.
Some of the greatest players of their times have proudly worn the Real shirt over the years. That list is filled with names such as Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos. Cristiano Ronaldo currently serves as the biggest star playing for Real. Ronaldo has, over time, become an international phenomenon who has been featured in advertisements and marketing campaigns. When he exits the pitch one final time during his career, there will be debates about whether or not Ronaldo deserves to be mentioned as the greatest of all time. That speaks to the success that Ronaldo has enjoyed.
Every entity, even one as great and powerful as Real Madrid, gets a decision wrong from time to time. Not all of the players who joined Real with high expectations hanging over their heads were tremendous hits while playing for the Spanish outfit. Included among them was a midfielder who was desired by much of the Real fan base but who was ultimately not worth a fraction of the price the club paid to acquire his services. Don't forget about the man who remains one of the most famous individuals in the sport but who was also, as it pertains to play on the pitch, a letdown for the club.
15 Julien Faubert
It is easy, after the fact, for somebody to claim that Julien Faubert never should have been signed by Real Madrid in the first place. What you have to remember about the man who played right back and on the wing is that Faubert showed promise before he suffered a ruptured Achilles. What Faubert may have been had he not suffered that injury will forever be unknown, but it cannot be denied that Faubert failed to meet any expectations for him during his limited time with Real. It would be understandable if you forgot about his time with the club. He wasn't there all that long.
14 Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor has been a frustrating player throughout his career. Adebayor was, when in his prime, unquestionably a talented striker. One just sometimes had to wonder about Adebayor's dedication and commitment to the cause. That was the case during Adebayor's brief stint with Real on a loan. There were some bright moments from Adebayor while he was with the team, but he never showed that he was worthy of being a full-time starter for the Spanish giants. Adebayor went on to have an up-and-down tenure with Tottenham Hotspur after he left Real and is currently unsigned.
13 Nuri Sahin
It does not seem like it was all that long ago when Nuri Sahin was saying goodbye to Borussia Dortmund before joining up with Real Madrid. Sahin was largely an afterthought after linking up with Real, so much so that the club thought it best to loan him to Liverpool. Sahin's run with Liverpool was not much better than his stint with Real, and he made a return to Dortmund after he departed the Premier League side. While he showed some flashes every now and again. Sahin more so proved that he should not be playing for a club as big as Real.
12 Nicolas Anelka
You cannot completely bury Nicolas Anelka for his time at Real Madrid. Anelka did, after all, score some clutch goals for the club. Overall, however, Anelka never rewarded Real for the £24.5 million that the team spent to sign him. Anelka makes this list in part because he was a pain who refused to train for then-manager Vicente Del Bosque. This resulted in Anelka earning a suspension. Anelka was not worth the money and not worth the headaches when he was in Spain, and he continued to make headlines for controversial actions rather than for good play up through 2014.
11 Javier Hernandez
Javier Hernandez was always somewhat of an odd Real Madrid signing, in that it never really seemed like he would be a great fit for the club. That proved to be accurate, as the player affectionately known as Chicharito was a one-and-done loan who failed to impress. Hernandez was a fine option as a backup, but there was never a time when it appeared as if he was going to earn a full-time gig. Real surprised nobody in world football when the club elected to not make his loan a permanent move. Hernandez is now, at this stage of his career, a backup on a Champions League side.
10 Fabio Coentrao
Things change quickly in the world of sports. Fabio Coentrao made the switch from Benfica to Real Madrid in 2011 with the hope that he would be able to earn himself plenty of first-team football. It would be only two years later when then-Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas would be trying to add the fullback to his club. Coentrao is, no disrespect meant, the definition of a “squad player” for a club with the talent had on the roster of Real Madrid. Real have become so underwhelmed by Coentrao that the club decided to loan him to Monaco for the current season.
9 Pedro Leon
There was once a time when it was debated if Real manager Jose Mourinho was making a mistake in his treatment of Pedro Leon. It turns out that Mourinho was probably right. While Leon was able to be solid for a club such as Getafe, the winger has never shown that he can routinely start for a team that can contend for a Champions League title. Leon's inconsistent nature on the pitch could have been what kept Mourinho from trusting him. Whatever occurred behind the scenes, Leon has not managed to prove Mourinho wrong since leaving Real. Leon will be lucky if he ever again plays for such a huge club.
8 Diego Lopez
The hope when he made his way to Real Madrid was that Diego Lopez would one day become the club's first-choice goalkeeper on nights when the team would be playing Champions League matches. There was one thing keeping that from happening: Iker Casillas. Lopez is a different type of player who never made it at Real Madrid in that he was given multiple opportunities to prove his worth to the club. That worth was that of a backup. While he did manage to make some memorable saves during his time with the club, Lopez was not good enough to earn a full-time spot in the team's lineup.
7 Royston Drenthe
Real Madrid jumped the gun when the club scooped up Royston Drenthe from Feyenoord. Drenthe had impressed for club and for country, but he was not, simply stated, ready to play for one of the biggest teams in the world. One has to wonder what might have been had Real loaned Drenthe back to his former club so that he could continue to develop before he was brought to Spain. That did not happen and Drenthe failed to make much of an impact for Real and later for Everton. Patience really can be a virtue and Real were reminded of that with this signing.
We are putting this one in the “predictions for the future” category as it pertains to players who did not make it at Real Madrid. It seemed, at the time, as if Real had landed the next great future Spanish attacking midfielder when the club acquired Isco, who had proven his worth at other clubs. Isco has failed to make himself a mainstay in the Real starting XI and rumor is, as of November 2015, that he is unhappy with his situation at the club. Isco's name is now featured in transfer rumors more so than it is whenever people discuss Real's future. He could find himself playing in the Premier League in 2016.
5 Antonio Cassano
There have been plenty of great athletes who had “me ahead of team” mentalities. Antonio Cassano had that personality but not great talent during his brief run with Real Madrid. Cassano was signed by the club to be a goal-scorer, but he was far more so a thorn in the side of coach Fabio Capello than he was a difference-maker on the pitch. Fans may remember seeing Cassano mocking and mimicking Capello when the two were on the training ground. That, sadly, is probably the top moment that comes to mind when you reflect on Cassano as a Real Madrid player.
4 Michael Essien
Michael Essien was a talented player in his prime, one who was able to feature in multiple positions in a Champions League starting lineup. By the time that Essien linked up with Real Madrid via a loan move, he had been seriously affected by injuries. What Essien could have meant for Real when at his best is anybody's guess, but what we do know is that he failed to make any considerable impact for the team. Essien's departure from Real was about as quiet as his time with the team. He will likely never again play for such a massive team during his career.
3 Jonathan Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate had the physical tools to be a star defender for Real Madrid. The problem was that he was already battling a thigh injury when he arrived to the club. Woodgate never truly found his form while with Real and his start with the club could not have gone worse. He scored an own goal and was sent off when he made his Real debut. Woodgate was named by Marca as the worst signing to date of the 21st century, which is a bit harsh considering how well he played before he joined the team. Sometimes, in sports and in life, something is just not meant to be for a person.
2 David Beckham
David Beckham was a tremendous get for Real Madrid in that he helped increase the brand-recognition and worth of the club. As a player, however, Beckham was more so associated with trophy-less campaigns than he was responsible for Real being the best team in the world. Remember that then-Real president Ramon Calderon famously hit out at Beckham after he signed for LA Galaxy, saying the following about the matter:
“(Beckham is) going to Hollywood to be half a film star. Our technical staff were right not to extend his contract, and that has been proved by the fact that no other technical staff in the world wanted him except Los Angeles.”
The argument could be made that Kaka going to Real Madrid is one of the worst transfers in the history of world football. Real reportedly spent £60 million for the attacking midfielder and in return the club received a player who was past his prime and in decline when he linked up with the team. Kaka was but a shell of his former self when he returned to AC Milan, and he has since joined Major League Soccer club Orlando City. While Kaka may be able to make highlights playing in the North American top-flight, he probably never should have been given the opportunity to feature for Real.