Barca v Real: Top 10 legends of the Bernabéu

By Mark Carter

Real Madrid

The Sport Review continues its build-up to Sunday’s ‘El Clasico’ – football’s greatest spectacle – by counting down the 10 greatest-ever players to have displayed their talents at Spain’s most successful club – Real Madrid.

10. Gheorge Hagi (1990-92) – Despite plying his trade at both Real Madrid and Barcelona, Hagi failed to win a La Liga title, that said, it would be impossible to ignore the legendary Romanian’s lavish talent. The attacking midfielder was renowned for scoring an array of spectacular goals – contributing 15 to the Real cause during his 64 games for the club – and was selected by Pele as one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers in 2004.

9. Manuel Sanchis Jr (1983-2001) – As part of the famous ‘ Quinta del Buitre’, the commanding centre-half was instrumental to an impressive haul of conquests during his 18-year playing career at the Bernabeu. He rarely missed a game – appearing 710 times in the famous white of Madrid, scoring 49 goals – and captained the side for over a decade as Real won eight La Liga titles, two European Cups, two UEFA Cups, as well as several domestic trophies.

8. Luis Figo (2000-05) – One of the few footballers to have enjoyed glittering spells at both Barcelona and Real Madrid. After joining Real in a controversial world-record deal from the Camp Nou in 2000, Figo won the La Liga title and went on to score 57 goals in 244 games (a greater ratio than he managed in his time with Barca). The Portuguese winger helped Real to European Cup success in the following year and another La Liga triumph in 2003.

7. Emilio Butragueno (1983-95) – Nicknamed ‘The Vulture’, Butragueno led the legendary ‘Quinta del Buitre’ in an era that would see Real clinch five consecutive La Liga titles and several other trophies. The skilful striker went on to win a sixth La Liga title in 1995, as a 17- year-old Raul emerged to steal the limelight. He was known as ‘the gentleman of the pitch’, having never received a red card and netted a total of 170 times in 463 appearances.

6. Santillana (1971-88) – Carlos Alonso Gonzalez – better known as Santillana after his birthplace – joined Real at the tender age of 19 and became an instant hit with the fans; scoring 10 goals in his debut season as the club were crowned La Liga champions. He was known for his athletic aerial ability, despite his diminutive stature, and is regarded as one of the best strikers in the history of Spanish football. He played 643 games for Real and notched 290 goals, before scoring in his final game prior to retiring at the age of 36. Real clinched three successive La Liga titles in his final three seasons with the club. During his career at the Bernabeu, he amassed an incredible nine La Liga-winning medals, five domestic cup successes and two UEFA Cup triumphs.

5. Ronaldo (2002-07) – Considered by many as the greatest striker of all time, Ronaldo became one of only two players to have won the title of World Footballer of the Year on three occasions. The prolific Brazilian would also comfortably take a place among the legends of the Camp Nou having enjoyed a season in Barca colours, scoring an unbelievable 47 goals in 49 games before commanding a then world-record fee and moving to Inter Milan. He arrived at Real as part of a side famously referred to as the ‘Galacticos’ and after scoring twice on his debut and being given a standing ovation as he left the field, he led the team to the La Liga title – scoring 23 goals along the way in his first season with the club. The pacey and powerful striker finished the season as the league’s top goalscorer in 2005, with 21 goals, and went on to score a total of 104 goals in 177 games. Ronaldo became the World Cup’s all- time leading scorer after scoring 15 goals in three World Cups – a record he may extend should the buzz surrounding a World Cup return materialise this summer.

4. Hugo Sanchez (1985-92) – The prolific Mexican striker is the second highest goalscorer in the history of Spanish football, behind Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra, and was part of a Real side that was to win an incredible five consecutive La Liga titles. During that period, Sanchez reigned as La Liga’s top goalscorer for four successive seasons – scoring 207 goals in 283 games – including a haul of 38 in a single season, tying the record set by Zarra in 1951. His record in the European Cup is even more astounding, finding the net on 47 occasions in just 45 games. He was voted by Pele as one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA ceremony in 2004.

3. Ferenc Puskas (1958-66) – The awe-inspiring Hungarian striker joined Real at the age of 31 and, as most footballers would be heading into the twilight of their careers, Puskas embarked on leading Real to five successive La Liga titles and three European Cups – in two of the European Cup finals, Puskas netted seven times. During eight seasons with Real, he scored 156 goals in 180 La Liga matches, including two hat-tricks against Barcelona in the ‘El Clasicos’ of 1963, and bagged an astonishing total of 240 goals in just 263 goals, earning him the International Federation of Football History’s title as top scorer of the 20th century.

2. Zinedine Zidane (2001-06) – Arguably the greatest of his generation, Zidane arrived in Madrid for a then world-record fee to take his place in what was to be famously considered as the ‘Galacticos’ era. He led his side to the 2002 final of the Champions League where he would thump home a thunderous volley with his weaker foot in Real’s 2-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen and was part of a side that clinched the La Liga title in the following year. The elegant midfielder would mesmerise the crowd with his exuberant skill and was named World Player of the Year on three occasions, a feat only matched by his Real teammate Ronaldo.

1. Alfredo di Stefano (1953-64) – Widely regarded as one of the best players of all time, di Stefano was instrumental in the era of European domination that defines Real to this day. The period saw di Stefano strike up a formidable partnership with Puskas in Real’s frontline to inspire the side to an implausible five successive European Cup triumphs and he became Real’s second highest league goalscorer – with 216 goals in 282 games – behind current club icon Raul. The powerful forward was awarded the title of European Player of the Year on two occasions in 1957 and 1959. In 2003, di Stefano was crowned the Golden player of Spain by the Royal Spanish Football Association and he was also named by Pele in the 125 Greatest Living Footballers in 2004. His 49 goals in 58 European Cup matches stood as the all-time highest tally until he was overtaken by Raul in 2005. The prestigious title of Real Madrid’s President of Honour was awarded to him in 2000.

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