Real Madrid have seen unprecedented success in their rich and glorious history. They have won the Champions League a record 13 times and have also won the La Liga the highest number of times - 33; 7 more than arch-rivals Barcelona at 26.
They are a team that aims to win every trophy available to them in a calendar year; their ruthlessness in this regard is visible due to the revolving managerial door at the Los Blancos. Their thirst for consistent success saw both Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez shown the door in quick succession, before Zinedine Zidane arrived to shape a new era at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Most of their success has been built upon the backs of some truly great players - ‘The Galacticos’. The likes of Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario, David Beckham, Raul, Iker Casillas, Roberto Carlos, Fabio Cannavaro and Kaka have all called the Bernabeu home at some point in their careers. Each has contributed in one way or the other in making Real the footballing powerhouse that is it today.
However, not every signing turns out as expected. There are plenty of reasons why a signing may fail; the pressure of an enormous price tag, being unable to acclimatise to the new surroundings or simply not being good enough to step up to a higher level.
Let’s take a look at five signings that Real Madrid fans will probably be in a hurry to forget about.
#5 Elvir Baljic
Real Madrid fans can be forgiven for going “Who?” considering he hardly played 11 games and scored just one goal for Madrid between 1999 and 2002.
At one point in time, though, Baljic was averaging more than a goal every other game in Turkey and was one of the most exciting wingers in world football. He started his career at FK Sarajevo before going to play for Bursaspor and then domestic giants Fenerbahce.
His exploits in Turkey caught the eye of many of Europe’s top clubs, but the Los Blancos won the race for his signature, parting with a hefty €26 million back then to bring him to Madrid.
His career got off on an incredibly sour note with the winger rupturing his cruciate ligament in pre-season. He never managed to recover from the injury and was loaned out twice during his stay in the Spanish capital.
His contract was terminated by mutual consent in 2002, paving the way for a return to Turkey and further spells with Galatasaray, Konyaspor and few other clubs. He retired in 2008 and worked as assistant manager for his home nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 2010 and 2014.
#4 Thomas Gravesen
Everton sold Gravesen for a measly £2.5m to Real Madrid in January 2005, with the Danish midfielder’s contract set to expire the following summer. Hardly a signing that would sell shirts, he still came in with a reputation of being a tough-tackling, combative midfielder and boasted of considerable international pedigree.
Mostly used by David Moyes in a box-to-box role, he found himself shoehorned into a defensive midfield role at Madrid under Fabio Capello. Even though he was solid if unspectacular, the few occasions he did find himself in the starting lineup, it was a role he wasn’t comfortable performing.
It also didn’t help that he got into a training ground bust-up after a particularly heavy challenge on then wonder-kid Robinho, with Capello heavily criticising his approach to the game.
He was sold just a year later to Celtic for £2m and after another short spell at Everton, retired from the game.
#3 Julien Faubert
Julien Faubert was signed on loan from West Ham in January 2009, with an option to buy at the end of the season and he will go down in Madrid’s history books for all the wrong reasons.
The Frenchman is most famous for falling asleep on the bench during a match between Real Madrid and Villarreal. He also famously missed a training session thinking that he had the particular day off.
Quite obviously then, Madrid never took up the option to buy, and he returned to London after making only two appearances for the club. He made a further 100 appearances for West Ham before turning out for Turkish Super Lig side Elazspor.
He returned to his home town club of Bordeaux in 2013 and after three years in France, plied his trade at Kilmarnock in the Scottish top division. He is currently plying his trade in the fourth division of French football at the age of 36.
#4 Antonio Cassano
A supremely talented forward, Madrid managed to lure Antonio Cassano from Roma for a pittance of £3.8m back in 2006 after five immensely successful seasons with the Italian giants.
The Italian scored three minutes into his debut for the Los Blancos after coming off the bench against Real Betis. Despite his promising start, his poor attitude and refusal to train properly saw him pushed down the pecking order.
Now quite popular for being one of the “bad boys” in football, Cassano ruined any chance of making it big at Real by consistently lacking any semblance of discipline. Hefty fines didn’t hinder his knack for causing trouble, and in late 2006 he was suspended for “a lack of respect” and subsequently dropped altogether.
His disciplinary problems saw him leave on loan to Sampdoria before making the deal permanent in 2008, having scored just four goals for the club in 29 appearances. After spells at AC Milan, Inter Milan and Parma, he retired in 2017.
#1 Jonathan Woodgate
Injury problems aside, Jonathan Woodgate had proven himself to be one of the country’s best centre-backs during spells with Leeds and Newcastle United. However, it was still a surprise that the Los Blancos came calling in August 2004 and after paying the Magpies a tidy £13.4m, managed to usher him away to Madrid.
Woodgate’s career in Madrid got off to a rocky start; injured at the time of his signing, he did not feature even once during the entirety of the 2004-05 season. In the process, he had the ignominy of being branded as one of the worst footballing debutants for a club.
He eventually made his debut on 22 September 2005 against Athletic Bilbao. The game did not go as planned for the Middlesbrough native, as he scored an own goal past Iker Casillas and was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Even though things did briefly begin to look up for him, establishing himself as a first-team regular in early 2006, further injury problems curtailed a promising career in the Spanish capital.
He left on loan for Middlesbrough for the 2006/07 campaign and signed permanently for the club a year later. Woodgate has since then turned out for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City before retiring from all forms of the game in 2016.
He was also, unfortunately, voted as the worst signing of the 21st century by users of Spain’s leading sports daily, Marca, polling 37.1% of votes cast.