Ranking the 10 greatest Real Madrid players of all time

Bhargav
Ranking the greatest footballers to play for Real Madrid.
Ranking the greatest footballers to play for Real Madrid.

Real Madrid are one of the most successful football clubs in the history of the game. Los Blancos have won a record 13 European Cups - seven of them in the Champions League era. They have also won a record 34 La Liga titles, and are on course to win their second league title in three years next summer.

Considering their rich and illustrious history, many world-class players have worn the legendary Merengues jersey over the years. That is especially the case in the last few decades.

Real Madrid have never really had a lean period in their history. That explains why most of the top players to have played for the club come from different eras. On that note, here's a look at the ten greatest players to have turned up in Real Madrid's all-whites:


#10 Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos is a Real Madrid legend.
Roberto Carlos is a Real Madrid legend.

Roberto Carlos is one of the finest goalscoring defenders in the game's history. Carlos blazed a trail down Real Madrid's left flank with his marauding runs, laying crosses and assists galore, and making heroic last-ditch tackles at the other end.

The 2002 FIFA World Cup winner was also a set-piece specialist, scoring several thunderbolts from distance. With 16 goals, he is the joint-most prolific goalscoring defender (alongside Gerard Pique) in UEFA Champions League history.

In a glorious 11-year stint at Real Madrid, the 48-year-old racked up over 500 appearances, scoring 70 times and setting up 90 others. He won four La Liga and three Champions League titles with the club.

Carlos famously set up Zinedine Zidane's winner in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen, sealing Madrid's eighth title in the competition.


#9 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid's third highest goalscorer of all-time)

Karim Benzema is closing in on 300 goals for Real Madrid.
Karim Benzema is closing in on 300 goals for Real Madrid.

Karim Benzema is one of the most underrated players in Real Madrid history. The Frenchman arrived in the same summer (2009) as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo (more on him later).

The former Lyon striker largely operated in the shadow of his illustrious team-mate. However, when Ronaldo left for Juventus in the summer of 2018, Benzema stepped up big time.

The Frenchman, who is closing in on 300 goals for Real Madrid, has scored more than 100 goals in a little over three seasons. The four-time Champions League and three-time La Liga winner has been on a tear this campaign, bagging 17 goals and 12 assists across competitions.

He recently scored his 200th La Liga goal to enter the competition's all-time top-ten goalscorers list.

Aging like fine wine, Benzema is a bonafide Real Madrid legend in his own right, and is far from done yet.


#8 Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas is a Real Madrid legend.
Iker Casillas is a Real Madrid legend.

Iker Casillas is widely regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers in the game's history. The Real Madrid legend won every major title for club and country.

The two-time European Championship and one-time FIFA World Cup winner, won five La Liga and three Champions League titles with the Merengues. In over 750 games across competitions spanning 16 seasons, Casillas kept 264 clean sheets.

Casillas' calm presence and sharp reflexes played a key role in Real Madrid's success in major competitions. Widely tipped to retire at the club, the Spaniard called time on his illustrious career after a short stint with Porto.

Casillas is currently involved with the Real Madrid Foundation, whom he joined last year. The foundation hopes to reach over 800 participants in social sporting schools.


#7 Fernando Hierro

Fernando Hierro is another Real Madrid legend.
Fernando Hierro is another Real Madrid legend.

Fernando Hierro enjoys a special pride of place in the history of Real Madrid and La Liga.

The 53-year-old, with 127 strikes, is the capital club's most prolific goalscoring defender. More than a hundred of these goals came in La Liga, a competition Hierro won five times.

Quite impressively, Hierro netted an astounding 21 times in the 1991-92 edition of the competition. However, Real Madrid were pipped to the La Liga title by Johan Cruyff's Barcelona by a solitary point.

The three-time Champions League winner donned the Real Madrid jersey more than 600 times across 14 seasons. Hierro was also versatile enough to play as a sweeper and defensive midfielder.

#6 Paco Gento

Paco Gento is a Real Madrid legend.
Paco Gento is a Real Madrid legend.

Paco Gento is a Real Madrid legend in his own right. The 88-year-old is the only player to win six European Cups (now called the UEFA Champions League), winning five of them on the trot.

He made over 600 appearances for Real Madrid, scoring nearly 200 goals. The winger was an integral part of a forward line comprising Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas (more on them later).

The former Spain international is widely regarded as one of Spain's best players of all time. Apart from his crossing ability from the flanks, Gento also possessed a mean shot from distance.


#5 Raul (Real Madrid's second-most prolific goalscorer of all-time)

Raul scored over 300 goals for Real Madrid.
Raul scored over 300 goals for Real Madrid.

Raul is a legendary player in Real Madrid history. The former Spain attacker is one of only two players to score over 300 goals for the club.

With 323 goals in nearly 750 games for the capital club, Raul was Real Madrid's all-time top scorer before he was displaced by Cristiano Ronaldo (more on him later). During his illustrious 16-year stint with the Merengues, Raul played a key role in Real Madrid's six La Liga and three Champions League triumphs.

Predominantly playing as a centre-forward or second striker, the versatile Raul could also operate on the wings and in attacking midfield. Two and a half decades after scoring a hat-trick as an 18-year-old, Raul remains the youngest player to score three goals in a Champions League game.


#4 Ferenc Puskas

Ferenc Puskas (pic courtesy Guardian)
Ferenc Puskas (pic courtesy Guardian)

Ferenc Puskas is widely regarded as one of the best players to have graced the game. The magnificent Magyar arrived in Madrid past his 30th birthday. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for Puskas to enthrall the Madrid faithful with his silken skills on the ball and sublime goalscoring ability.

During a hugely successful eight-season stint at Real Madrid, Puskas scored nearly 250 goals and won three European Cups and five La Liga titles. He formed a deadly partnership with the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano, Kopa and Paco Gento.

Blessed with a magical left foot, Puskas scored many brilliant goals for Real Madrid. The late four-time Pichichi winner was honored by FIFA, who named their annual Best Goal of the Year award after Puskas.

Puskas passed away in 2006 at the age of 79 after contracting pneumonia, but his legacy lives on.

#3 Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is a Real Madrid legend.
Sergio Ramos is a Real Madrid legend.

Former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is one of the game's premier goalscoring defenders.

A centre-back by trade, the 35-year-old (101) is only the second defender ever to score over 100 goals for the capital club, doing so in over 650 games. He was a force to be reckoned with at both ends of the pitch, thanks to his aerial ability and set-piece prowess.

The five-time La Liga and four-time Champions League winner was also a big-game player for Real Madrid. Ramos, who left Real Madrid this summer, has scored in two Champions League finals, joining an exclusive list of players to do so.

Now at PSG, Ramos has a stellar resume for club and country. Spain's most-capped player is a two-time European Championship and one-time FIFA World Cup winner.


#2 Alfredo Di Stefano (two-time Ballon d'Or winner)

Alfredo Di Stefano (pic courtesy Irish Times)
Alfredo Di Stefano (pic courtesy Irish Times)

The late Alfredo Di Stefano is fondly remembered by the Real Madrid faithful as one of the greatest players to pull on their jersey.

During a prolific decade-long stint at the capital club, the late Argentine scored goals and won big titles galore. The two-time Ballon d'Or winner won a staggering eight La Liga and five consecutive European Cups with the club.

A quintessential leader both on and off the pitch, Di Stefano was pursued by both Barcelona and Real Madrid before the latter secured his signature. The rest, as they say, is history.

He scored in each of the five European Cup finals he played in. Unsurprisingly, Real Madrid were on the victorious side on all five occasions.

The five-time Pichichi winner didn't enjoy as much success on the other side of the touchline, though, when he delved into management. Nevertheless, Di Stefano did more than enough to etch his name in Real Madrid folklore.


#1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid's all-time record goalscorer)

Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably Real Madrid's greatest-ever player.
Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably Real Madrid's greatest-ever player.

Where does one even start to describe Cristiano Ronaldo and his staggering exploits?

The Portugal captain is Real Madrid's all-time top-scorer by a proverbial country mile, netting a stunning 450 times in just nine seasons at the club. Ronaldo's stint at the Santiago Bernabeu saw Real Madrid enjoy unprecedented success, especially in the UEFA Champions League.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner played a key role in Madrid becoming the first club to do a three-peat in the Champions League era. No other club has successfully defended their title, let alone do it twice. Ronaldo is one of only two players to score over 300 La Liga goals and the first to breach the 40-goal mark in the competition.

The all-time Champions League goalscorer (140) is the first player to score 100 goals in the competition and has also racked up the same tally for a single club. No wonder his exploits helped Real Madrid become the team to beat in the Champions League, winning four titles in five years.

It was perhaps fitting that the Manchester United attacker scored his 450th and final goal for Real Madrid against their arch-rivals Barcelona.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman
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