A history of British players at Real Madrid

Gareth Bale became the most expensive football player of all time in the summer when he sealed a £85.3 million switch to Real Madrid from Tottenham.

The Wales international became only the sixth British player to step out for the historic Spanish club in the 112 years of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu outfit’s existence.

Madrid are Europe’s most successful club having been crowned the European champions on nine occasions, with Bale charged with playing a part in landing the illustrious Decima.

The former Spurs winger follows in the footsteps of five British players to wear the famous Los Blancos shirt.

The first British player to play for Madrid was Laurie Cunningham, who made the move to the Spanish capital from West Brom in 1979.

During his time on Madrid’s books Cunningham picked up his six England caps, won La Liga and two Copa del Rey titles.

After five years in Madrid, the left-winger moved to Marseille, via loan spells at Manchester United and Sporting Gijon.

Woodgate, Beckham and OwenIt was a 15-year wait between 1984 when Cunningham left the Bernabéu and 1999 until the next British player signed for the Spanish giants.

Steve McManaman left boyhood club Liverpool after nine years in the Reds’ first team to join Madrid just before the turn of the century. The talented attacking midfielder became a fans’ favourite over four years in Spain, winning two La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns.

He became the first English player ever to win Europe’s top competition with a foreign club in 2000 in Madrid’s 3-0 win over Valencia, scoring a volley in the process. McManaman also played a part in Madrid’s win over Leverkusen at Hampden Park in the 2002 Champions League final.

During Madrid’s Galácticos period in the early 2000’s, it made sense that David Beckham played for the Spaniards as one of the most recognisable and well-known players in the world game.

The free-kick specialist also spent four years with the Spanish giants winning one La Liga title and endearing himself to the club’s fans before departing for the MLS in 2007.

Despite Cunningham, McManaman and Beckham’s success at Madrid, some have been less fortunate.

Jonathan Woodgate joined the Santiago Bernabéu outfit in his prime and promising to be a real star for club and country. However, injuries plagued the defender’s time in Spain, with Los Blancos only getting nine La Liga appearances in three years from their crocked £13.4 million signing. He instantly soured his time in Spain with an own goal and by being sent off on his debut.

Michael Owen spent a solitary season with the Spanish side in 2004-05, but was largely limited to substitute appearances due to the presence of an abundance of superstars in the squad.

Despite netting 18 goals for the Spanish club, the former Liverpool forward was sold to Newcastle after 12 months on the continent.

Early signs are that Bale can join the successful group rather than continue in the vein of the latter.

His injury concerns after signing for Carlo Ancelotti’s men threatened to get him off on the wrong foot, but since returning to fitness the Welshman has won over the fans and media with some spectacular performances.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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