As one of the world’s richest and biggest club – some would say the biggest outright – it’s hardly a surprise that when Real Madrid make a move into the transfer market, they tend to go hard. Los Blancos have become renowned for buying some of the world’s greatest players in the modern era, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo.
Of course, not every signing they make is a big one – and not every signing turns out to be a hit, too. Real have made some truly terrible signings over the years, for huge transfer fees and for some surprisingly small ones, too.
Here are the 5 worst signings in Real Madrid’s history – with some honourable mentions, too.
1. Thomas Gravesen
Danish midfielder Thomas Gravesen – signed from Everton in January 2005 for a relatively small fee of £3.4m – was always a bit of an odd signing for Real Madrid to make, particularly because his style of play was not flashy in any way nor did he carry a high profile.
The Dane was bought to provide some bite to Madrid’s midfield, but the club’s fans were never enamoured with his tough-tackling style and he quickly slipped out of the starting line-up. A training ground bust-up with star striker Robinho followed after Gravesen hit him with an especially hard tackle, and just weeks later in the summer of 2006, he was offloaded by boss Fabio Capello to Celtic.
2. Pedro Leon
Signed from Getafe for a fee of €10m in the summer of 2010, winger Pedro Leon helped Real Madrid to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League in his debut season with a last-gasp equaliser against AC Milan, but that was about all he achieved at the Bernabeu.
Then-boss Jose Mourinho was apparently concerned about his fitness and work ethic in training, and so Leon was largely frozen out of the first team. And when the Portuguese boss was quizzed about why the winger was offered so little playing time, Mourinho stated that he was “no Zinedine Zidane”. It came as no surprise then when he returned to Getafe on loan just one year after his move, after playing just 14 matches for Real.
3. Elvir Baljic
Bosnian winger Elvir Baljic moved to the Bernabeu in the summer of 1999 for a surprisingly expensive fee of €26m, but the form he displayed for Turkish side Fenerbahce – 18 goals in 30 appearances – never emerged in the colours of Real.
Baljic ruptured his ACL in pre-season training before his career with Los Blancos even began, and in his debut season, he made just 11 appearances for Real – 8 of them from the bench – scoring just one goal. He was loaned back to Fenerbahce in the summer of 2000, and a further loan to Rayo Vallecano followed in 2001/02 before his Real contract was finally terminated.