Picking the 11 greatest players to have ever played for Real Madrid is not an easy task - which is why I had to make it 15. Sadly Steve Macmanaman still didn't make the cut.
1. Alfredo Di Stefano
Di Stefano signed for the club in 1953 and no sooner had he arrived than the Whites were celebrating league glory for the first time in two decades. He went on to help them to seven more league titles, scored in the five consecutive European Cup wins and inspired, amongst others, Alex Ferguson and Hugh Mcllvaney who were both in attendance that night at Hampden Park when Los Blancos slaughtered Eintract Frankfurt 7-3. In the 396 games he played for Real Madrid, he scored an astonishing 307 goals.
2. Paco Gento
Gento's legacy stands unmatched to this day; e is the only player in the history of the game to win six European Cups. Nicknamed La Galerna del Cantabrico (the storm of the Cantabrian Sea), Gento spanned two eras with Real Madrid; the glorious fifties and the Ye Ye generation of the late 1960s – adding 12 league titles to his European feats.
3. Raymond Kopa
This attacking midfielder formed a part of the legendary Real Madrid of the 1950s, lining up alongside Di Stéfano, Rial, Gento and Puskas. Born in France into a family of Polish immigrants, Kopa came to Madrid in the 1956/57 season after 5 successful years with Stade de Reims. He became the first French player to win the European Cup in his first season in white when Madrid beat Fiorentina 2-0. Kopa also scooped the Ballon d'Or in 1958.
4. Ferenc Puskas
Signing for Madrid in 1958, he was 31, out of shape and hadn’t played for two years due to political problems in Hungary. It didn’t matter. In the eight seasons Puskas spent at the Bernabeu, he scored 236 goals in 261 games and was league top scorer four times. 35 of those goals came in his 39 European games, he scored two hat-ticks in European Cup finals and it's little wonder that he is hailed as one of the greatest players of all-time, let alone Madridistas.
Solid at the back and deadly on the attack, The Ye Ye generation (named because four players posed in Beatles wigs when ‘She Loves You was released) took Real Madrid back to the top when they scooped the 6th European Cup in the 1965/66 season. Amancio got his name on the scoresheet in the 2-1 win over FK Partizan in Heysel Stadium, selling his marker a dummy before craftily striking past the Yugoslavs. During his years in white El Brujo won 9 league titles as well as back-to-back Pichichi trophies in 1969 and 1970.
6. Carlos Alonso Gonzalez
Santillana's aggressive style of play, limited range of movement and lack of technical ability meant he was not a typical Madrid player. But, the squat striker became one of the best contemporary footballers to grace the Bernabeu. He won nine la liga titles, scored in the 1986 UEFA Cup final win over FC Koln and Only Raul and Manolo Sanchis have notched up more appearances for the club than Santillana - who featured in 778 matches and scored 352 goals in the process.
7. Manolo Sanchis
Barely 18 when handed his debut by coach Alfredo di Stefano, the cultured defender and product and product of the famed Cantera youth system scored on his debut that day in 1983 and never looked back. His 20 year career resulted in 8 la liga's, two UEFA Cup's, two Copa del Rey's and, the day after his 35th birthday , he came on in the 79th minute of the European Cup final against Valencia to add to the medal he had received two years earlier.
In the eight seasons Puskas spent at the Bernabeu, he scored 236 goals in 261 games and was league top scorer four times. 35 of those goals came in his 39 European games
8. Emilo Butragueno
The vulture was the leader of the famous Quinta del Buitre, which along with himself and Sanchis also included Martin Vazquez, Michel and Miguel Pardeza. Butragueno was a stunningly skilful striker, who scored over 100 goals and won back to back UEFA Cups, five consecutive league titles and two Copa del Reys.
9. Hugo Sanchez
If 207 goals in 283 games tells the story of an extremely talented striker, it is for the famous bicycle kick he scored against Logrones in the 1987/88 season that Sanchez will be remembered. Outright winner of the ‘Pichichi’ trophy in five consecutive seasons, Sanchez also scored 45 goals in 47 European games. Nuff’ said.
10. Fernando Hierro
The rock on which three Champions league successes were built, Hierro scored 102 goals from his position as a holding midfielder or centre-back. 102. Ridiculous. Mr Madrid to the tip of his boots, he is also the third highest scorer in the history of the national team.
11. Fernando Redondo
A tremendous footballer in any era, the “technically perfect” (Fabio Capello) Redondo controlled games to such an extent that he was said to have magnets in his boots. He regularly tops favourite player lists of younger fans, formed a sparkling central midfield partnership with Steve McManaman, captained the side to Champions League victory and, if you remember, nut-megged Hening Berg with a backheel. Ace.
12. Roberto Carlos
Part of the team that lifted Real Madrid's last three Champions League trophies, the raiding full-back with thighs like that thing Fred Flintsone eats also scooped 4 league titles. With 41 goals for Madrid, including some absolutely belting free-kicks, he also overtook Alfredo di Stefano’s record of number of appearances for a foreign born player.
Top scorer in the history of the club with 323 goals, Raul, alongside Hierro, was Madrid for a decade. At his best, his canny movement, lethal finishing and indefatigably made him the most feared striker in Europe. Sir Alex Ferguson always considered him the best and who am I to argue. Remains the Champions League top scorer with 61 goals. Legend.
14. Zinedine Zidane
Do you remember that goal? Of course you do. Well so does every single Madridista and every other football fan in the world. Zidane's records and silverware collection during his years as a Madridista may not match up to some of the others on this list, but that goal he scored at Hampden Park on May 15, 2002 is enough to warrant a place on this list alone.
15. Iker Casillas
That Casillas is still only 29 is frankly unbelieveable, he seems to have been part of Madrid folklore since the beginning of time. Captain of club and country, he has been Madrid’s most consistent performer since he came on at Hampden Park in 2002 and made three world-class saves to keep Madrid in the tie. Fit as a fiddle, he could easily play for another decade.
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