Even though rivals FC Barcelona have been on the receiving end of trophies more often than Real Madrid in the last decade, if you look at it from the big picture, no other club has been as successful as Real Madrid in Europe in terms of silverware. From Alfredo Di Stefano to Ferenc Puskás and Hugo Sanchez to Raul and Zidane to the new-age Galacticos, Real Madrid were never short of great players on their roster – and not surprisingly, it comes off as a tough task to put up a team together with the best players who have ever donned the iconic White jersey.
Building up to the much awaited El Clasico, here's my attempt at compiling the best possible team that Real Madrid could field with all their players in the history at their disposal.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
"Saint Iker saves the day again!"
Even though Iker Casillas' departure from the club was anything but pleasant for fans to witness, his contribution to the team is second to no other keeper. He has been Real Madrid’s first choice in front of the goal since the turn of the century, and knowing how fragile their defence has always been, it was only because of Casillas’ sheer brilliance, the team didn’t concede as much as they would if he wasn’t there to save the day again and again with his lightning fast reflexes.
And, when it comes to loyalty, Casillas comes second only to Raul with 725 appearances for the club. There has simply been no one better.
Miguel Porlán Noguera or Chendo as he is more commonly known as takes up the right-back position, beating Michel Salgado in the running. A graduate of the Real Madrid youth academy after joining them at the age of 15, Chendo has spent his entire professional career at the club – helping them win seven league titles, two Copa del Rey cups and one Champions League trophy over seventeen seasons and 497 matches.
He was a key member of the 80’s Real Madrid team which had won five consecutive La Liga titles. These numbers speak for themselves. His association with the club didn’t end after his retirement as he now serves as the match delegate for the first team.
CB: Fernando Hierro
‘The total footballer’ is how Real Madrid describe Hierro on their official website, and there couldn’t be a better way to put things into perspective. He knew how to score goals, pass the ball accurately, win the ball in the air, position himself on the pitch – basically every quality a manager would want in his player.
In his 14 years at the club, Hierro managed to score 127 goals – a feat that is no joke for a player in his position.
With over 600 appearances for the Blancos, he stands out as one of the club’s most loyal players, leading them to five successful league campaigns and three Champions League victories. He recently served the club as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant manager.
CB: José Santamaría
There was a reason the Real Madrid team led by Gento, Di Stefano, and Puskas were so successful in the '50s and '60s. It was because of the sense of security that Santamaria offered at the back.
Leading the Madrid defence, he became a reliable figure and earned the nickname 'The Wall' for his consistent display. He represented Real Madrid in 337 official games, bagging five league titles and four European cups.
LB: Roberto Carlos
“Hey, have you watched that Roberto Carlos free-kick goal?” is perhaps a question every football fan has asked their friends, and if you don’t know what I am talking about, please feel free to look it up on Youtube. It will be the greatest thing you will see today.
The Brazilian left back was known for his attacking prowess and set-piece abilities. He was definitely one of the first full-backs to make overlapping runs a thing - inspiring a whole generation of attacking full-backs.
In his 11 seasons with Real Madrid, Carlos played a crucial role in helping the club win three European Cup titles and four La Liga titles.
DM: Fernando Redondo
Every choir needs a conductor, and Fernando Redondo was Real Madrid's. His elegance and technique with the ball stood out every time he was out there in the center of the pitch for the team.
Even though his start at the club wasn't as ideal as he would have liked because of an injury, he came back stronger than ever, cementing his position in the team and eventually becoming the team's focal point for every attacking move.
He represented Real Madrid in 225 official matches, winning two league titles and two Champions League trophies.
CM: Zinedine Zidane
During his playing days, Zinedine Zidane was like fine wine – getting better and better with age. The French maestro is not only regarded as one of Madrid’s best ever players, but all of football.
Zidane was never known for his pace, yet he was always first on the ball. He had skills and technical potential that were just out of the ordinary. When it came to leading the team or orchestrating an attack, he managed to see and analyse situations quicker than anyone else in the field.
He made the difference count. You could often find him gazing at the ball with a desire to win it; you could see the eloquent respect in his eyes.
His record money move to Real Madrid may not have been as productive in terms of trophies won, but in a team where Raul played the role of a local hero-turned-captain, he was the guy who pulled the strings; he would be the example of true footballing perfection.
He emerged as the marquee Galactico in the roster. And among all the superstars, he was one of the few players in Madrid’s transfer history who was actually worth that much. He was the quintessential playmaker in the team, and what he did on the pitch would leave all who witnessed in awe.
He was a wizard, a magician and his sense of austerity, hard work, humility and honesty were an inspiration to all.
CM: Alfredo di Stefano
Alfredo Di Stefano was the star of the 50s and not surprisingly, every fan wanted to see him play for their club. After a hard fought tug of war between Barcelona and Real Madrid, he eventually signed for the Whites and instantly became their most prized asset.
He was unbeatable on the pitch, creating his own chances from the middle and scoring them all by himself. He led the club to eighteen trophies in eleven seasons, scoring 308 goals in the process as his name became synonymous with Real Madrid's success.
And, his stint with the club didn't just end there. His second innings as a coach incited a generation of five homegrown Real Madrid players who proved to be the core of the team that dominated all of Spanish football in the 80s.
It was because of his contribution to the club, he was made Real Madrid's honorary president. Rest in peace, Godfather!
First Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo
The only active player in this team – the world of football will surely feel the void when Cristiano Ronaldo decides to call it a day, and rightly so. Before his arrival from Manchester United, Real Madrid's search for their next big player wasn't going all that great, and it reflected on the club's performance.
However, when he arrived, he turned the table – well to a certain extent. There was a shift of power in Spain. Pep Guardiola's Barcelona was finally beaten, and Real Madrid owed it to Ronaldo the most.
He now stands as the leading goalscorer of all time for Real Madrid, and that should definitely mean something, right?
Second Striker: Raul
Raul was more than just a footballer, he was a team player who had a natural footballing brain. He had the ability to read the game and lift his teammates’ spirits during tough times.
He was the ideal choice to wear the captain’s armband after fellow veteran Fernando Hierro decided to step down. Ex-Spanish national coach Luis Aragones describes him as a ‘blood donor’ who would do anything for his team.
He was a true captain and the face of the club; a player every new footballer could look up to. But, before all of that – Raul was a Madridista. With 741 appearances and 323 goals, he stands as a true Real Madrid symbol. My personal hero who made me fall in love with the club.
Striker: Ferenc Puskas
Recognized as the top scorer of the 20th century by the IFFHS, Ferenc Puskas joined Real Madrid at the age of 31 – and understandably so, the supporters were left stunned after his signing was announced, deeming him to be misfit and too old for the then star-studded team.
But, that didn't stop him from breaking every sort of goalscoring record that was out there, proving his critics wrong again and again.
He helped Real Madrid in their successful pursuit of three European Cup and five league titles. FIFA introduced the FIFA Puskás Award, awarded to the player who has scored the best goal of the season, honouring the great goalscorer that he was.
Here is how this team would line-up: