Skip to main content

Ranked! The 50 greatest Real Madrid players of all time

Real Madrid
(Image credit: Future)

Real Madrid have a history like no others. An association not just with success but in bringing the best to the Bernabeu. Whether you love them or hate them, you can never quite write them off.

13 times, they've been continental champions, from the glory days of the 1950s to the modern Galactico sides assembled by Vicente Del Bosque and Zinedine Zidane: club legends who know a thing or two about winning. It's in the very DNA of this institution. They simply know how to grind out victory. And some of the greatest footballers to ever kick a ball have represented this iconic club. Let's run through the best 50 ever.

LOOKING FOR BARCA? The 50 greatest Barcelona players of all time

50-41

50. Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil

(Image credit: Getty)

Simply put, a chance creation machine. Cristiano Ronaldo's righthand man during Jose Mourinho's 2012 title, Ozil delivered a level that few playmakers ever had, supplying the ammunition for an incredible campaign. Real Madrid had to be outstanding that season, too, to reach the heights that Barcelona had set. 

49. Raphael Varane

He won everything at club level and then went and bagged the World Cup, too. While Sergio Ramos was loud, brash and passionate, Raphael Varane was the cool antithesis next him: a defender with unreal speed and excellent reading of the game. He was a lynchpin for so many big trophy wins. 

48. Guti

Guti Real Madrid

(Image credit: PA)

Perhaps the most underrated player of the 2000s? While Real Madrid went all-in on the Galactico product, one of their own academy stars became one of their most effortless playmakers. With beautiful assists and the ability to turn games, he became one of the fans' most-loved stars in the noughties. 

47. Juanito

"Playing for Real Madrid is like touching the sky," Juanito said when he joined the club – and he managed to take Los Blancos to amazing heights. A key member in five league titles, two Copa Del Reys and two UEFA Cups, the Spaniard spent a decade at the Bernabeu and cemented his name as one of the club's classiest forwards. 

46. Steve McManaman

Liverpool legend Steve McManaman

(Image credit: Getty)

One of the first superstar free transfers, Steve McManaman brought a brand of British guile to Spain, with breakneck dribbling and bustling work ethic. the first English player to win the Champions League with a non-English club in 2000 before becoming the first English player to win the Champions League twice, he scored a glorious volley against Valencia to help his side win the trophy. 

45. Fernando Morientes

See more

The less said about Fernando Morientes sending Real Madrid out of the Champions League in 2004 – while on loan at Monaco – the better. But he finished as Real's top scorer in 1999/2000, helping his side to a second Champions League title in three years and when he left for Liverpool in 2005, he departed as a huge success who had brought consistency and big moments to the Spanish capital.

44. Jose Maria Zarraga

The dependable midfield general for five European Cups on the trot, Jose Zarrraga was the Casemiro of his day with tough tackling and a steely leadership. The Spaniard was a mainstay of the side for over 10 years and was much missed when he retired in 1962. 

43. David Beckham

David Beckham

(Image credit: Getty)

The marketing furore around his transfer might be all that anyone remembers of David Beckham becoming a Galactico – but Goldenballs was a success in Spanish football. Beckham didn't play in a side that conquered all before them but his contribution to the 2006/07 title – as his contract was expiring – was exactly what the Merengues bought the England captain for. 

42. Predrag Mijatovic

In a strike partnership with former Yugoslavia teammate Davor Suker, Predrag Mijatovic managed to wrestle the title away from Bobby Robson, Ronaldo and an all-devouring Barcelona side in his first season. Two years later, he capped off his time at the club with the goal to win them their first Champions League title in 32 years. Not bad going for a striker who played just 118 times: his legacy is short but very, very sweet indeed. 

41. Pepe

Pepe

(Image credit: PA)

You know you're an animal of a defender when you're the more ferocious one in a central defensive partnership with Sergio Ramos. Portuguese stalwart Pepe was imperious at the back for Real Madrid, leading with aggression but a perceptiveness to the game that belied him. His role in two Champions League titles cannot be questioned – and not just because he'd bite your head off if you did.

40-31

40. Rafael Gordillo

One of the greatest wing-backs of a generation, Rafael Gordillo moved from Real Betis to Real Madrid and won everything in Spanish football. Five consecutive titles were punctuated by the UEFA Cup in 1986, with Real's homegrown heroes sweeping the board. Gordillo was ever-reliable and formed a formidable partnership with Jose Camacho on the opposite flank. 

39. Jacinto Quincoces

A defender of strength and intelligence, Jacinto Quincoces is regarded as one of the greatest pre-WWII Spanish footballers ever. With a penchant for the dramatic, the Basque centre-back was a key member in two LaLiga triumphs and two Spanish Cups.

38. Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria

(Image credit: Getty)

Were it not for Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid may not have won any of their most four recent Champions League trophies: not least because it was a virtuoso performance from the Argentinian that set the ball rolling in 2014. An unsung hero of that side, Di Maria was the complete wide man, with creativity, incision and brilliance both in tight spaces and with grass ahead of him to run in. He may have only been at Real four years – but he left quite the mark.

37. Chendo

There were few defenders as committed as Chendo – and he may well have put in the greatest-ever performance against Diego Maradona. The right-back had a modest stature but incredible concentration and discipline, winning seven titles and playing nearly 500 times for Los Blancos. He finished his career in 1998 with a Champions League to put the cherry on a magnificent career at the top. 

36. Ignacio Zoco

Ignacio Zoco

(Image credit: Getty)

In over 400 appearances, Ignacio Zoco was the gearbox of the Real Madrid midfield, dictating the flow of a match and driving forward with confidence. With the Hollywood stars of the 1950s winding down, Zoco gave the side an added steel to compensate for its lack of flair – and ended up winning 10 major titles with the team.

35. Hector Rial

See more

The English got a taste of Hector Rial when he scored against them in a friendly in 1955. The Three Lions' defence couldn't deal with him that day: Rial was a complete striker and a playmaker rolled into one, capable of unleashing firebolts of shots and setting up his teammates. He was underrated in those early European Cup-winning sides – but certainly not by teammates who saw him as the perfect foil. 

34. Amancio Amaro

'The Galician Wizard' put some showmanship back into Real Madrid when he arrived in 1962. A winger with a wicked lick of pace and an eye for the spectacular, Amancio was a member of the "Ye-Ye" side that made multiple European finals with its devastating strike force, inspiring so many to play with his reckless abandon. He retired in 1976 as a European champion 10 years' prior and nine-time LaLiga winner. 

33. Fernando Redondo

See more

"What does this player have in his boots?" Sir Alex Ferguson asked of Fernando Redondo. "A magnet?” 

The Argentinian midfielder was nicknamed 'the Prince' and soon became Real royalty with displays of grace and deftness in a white shirt. He won two Champions League titles with Los Blancos – the second of which, he was the player of the tournament for. 

32. Marcelo

Perhaps no one has ever had a first touch as good as Marcelo's – there's especially not a left-back to rival him. But the Brazilian was barely a left-back during Real's threepeat of the 2010s, marauding forward, adding a body to the midfield and helping to cut Europe's finest apart in an attack with BBC. He was simply a complete footballer – and has gone down as one of the greatest full-backs of a generation.

31. Jose Antonio Camacho

Jose Antonio Camacho

(Image credit: Getty)

Jose Antonio Camacho spent two years out of the game with a knee injury – and still managed nearly 600 games in a white shirt. The left-back was a pillar of strength, pace and boundless stamina over 15 years at the Bernabeu, winning 17 domestic titles and two UEFA Cups, back-to-back in the 1980s. His passion and desire to win is still the bar that many fans hold today. 

30-21

30. Gareth Bale

See more

Despised by a section of the Real Madrid fans, Gareth Bale is responsible at least in part for two Champions League titles that he scored in finals to win. Formerly the most expensive player on Earth, the Welsh wonder has lit up the Bernabeu with intense running and directness: if only he'd valued Los Blancos above his nation and his love of golf…

29. Manolo

One of many Spaniards through the Real youth system of the 80s, Manolo was a fixture until 2001 – and was an intelligent defender instrumental in six championship titles. Hard but fair, he skippered Los Blancos for 13 years, racking up 710 appearances for the side he broke into as a boy. 

28. Miguel Munoz

Miguel Munoz was Real Madrid's first European Cup-winning captain and the first man to lift Old Big Ears as a player and a manager. A true leader, Munoz only played for his country eight times but led Real by example, driving his side to four league titles and three European triumphs. In the dugout, he managed the Merengues for 14 years to become the longest-serving coach ever. 

27. Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos

(Image credit: PA)

Wherever Toni Kroos needs to be, he finds himself. His decision-making is second to none, like he has a map of the pitch in his head and knows exactly how to connect his teammates. The German is one of the less flashy buys of the past decade but one of the most important, offering Real consistency, class and a metronomic presence in midfield. 

26. Marquitos

Marquitos was a defender with bravery and versatility in spades. After impressing in a match against Real, the capital club were convinced to bring him to Madrid, where he lifted the first five European Cups. Whether he played at full-back or centre-back, he would leave all of himself on the pitch for the cause. 

25. Jose Santamaria

Jose Santamaria

(Image credit: Getty)

You don't get the nickname 'the Wall' for nothing. One of the greatest South American defenders ever, Jose Santamaria arrived from Uruguay in 1957 and played over 330 games for Real Madrid, winning 12 trophies in nine years. A solid presence who simply couldn't be beaten in the air, he was a leader in defence who allowed the Hollywood names to flourish at the top of the pitch. 

24. Claude Makelele

Claude Makelele

(Image credit: Getty)

Famously, Claude Makelele had a position named after him. The Frenchman was the silent screener behind the Galacticos, sweeping up and keeping possession for the Merengues. He was instrumental in the 2002 Champions League triumph and adored by just about every footballer he played with. 

23. Santillana

Carlos Alonso Gonzalez earned his nickname, Santillana, from his birthplace: a picturesque and historic town in Cantabria. It was fitting to be named after such a beguiling place. 

The striker had a mesmeric jump to reach headers, power in abundance and was a natural goalscorer who managed to net 290 goals for Los Blancos across nine title wins and two UEFA Cups. Only Alfredo Di Stefano had scored more by the time Santillana hung up his boots.

22. Ronaldo

See more

In truth, Ronaldo gave his electric best to Barcelona. By the time he made the switch to the Bernabeu, his body had been ravaged by injury: but he was still a World Cup winner and a true Galactico.

R9 – or R11, as he was here – netted 104 goals in 177 matches in a white shirt, forming a potent partnership with Raul. He only won one title in his time in the Spanish capital but dazzled with his explosive bursts and unbelievable eye for goal.

21. Martin Vazquez

One of the most skilful attacking midfielders of a generation, Martin Vazquez put the glamour into the ‘Quinta del Buitre’ quartet of the 80s. He helped Real Madrid to 16 titles with – including the 1989/90 LaLiga trophy in which Real achieved a domestic record 107 goals. A mercurial passer and dribbler, he was a fans' favourite for his ability to change a game. 

20-11

20. Vicente Del Bosque

Vicente Del Bosque

(Image credit: Getty)

As a coach, he had an innate sense of balance in a team: as a player, he was a moustachioed midfielder who learned the importance of organisation. A true team player, Vicente Del Bosque was Real's gel for 11 seasons, knitting together the midfield and forward line in perfect harmony. Coaches loved him for his selflessness and intelligence: fans loved him for his loyalty and will to win.

19. Ivan Zamorano

Ivan Zamorano is remembered for having a "+" between his 18 squad number digits at Inter Milan by some – but for anyone in Spain, he's nothing but a tormentor of defenders. 

Best typified by a 5-0 thrashing in the Clasico – in which the Chilean got a hat-trick and set up the other two – Zamorano was a pocket rocket: capable of beating defenders for pace, for headers and simply through his will to get a toe to anything. He managed over 100 goals in four seasons. 

18. Emilio Butragueno

See more

Barcelona may well be more associated with culture: but Emilio Butragueno was a true artist. The ball simply stuck to his feet when 'the Vulture' took flight and for 13 years, he was the Galactico to watch. Butragueno played over 450 matches in Real white, winning six titles and two UEFA Cups: but it's the moments of genius and extraordinary goals that fans hold so dear today. 

17. Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos

(Image credit: PA)

Roberto Carlos pushed the boundaries of what anyone thought possible with a full-back. The World Cup winner was a tornado in attack, capable of whipping crosses like missiles or, famously, long-range free-kicks that would swerve, float and smash. But perhaps his most underrated trait was just how reliable he was: Carlos was far more than just a flashy Galactico and he was European champion three times.

16. Ricardo Zamora

'The Divine One', Ricardo Zamora gave his name to the goalkeeping trophy that's still awarded to the custodian with the most clean sheets in a LaLiga season. The Spaniard is still regarded as one of his nation's most important footballers of all time and was between the sticks when Los Blancos won the 1931/32 title without losing once. Had the Zamora Trophy existed during his playing career, he'd have won it three times. 

15. Pirri

Pirri

(Image credit: Getty)

In 16 years, Pirri played in defence, midfield, up front and even in the 1971 Cup Winner's Cup final with his arm in a sling. There was simply no keeping him down: in the 10 league titles he won with Los Blancos, Pirri netted double digits in five, with his tenacity and aggression a must-need component for the Merengues for over a decade. He's one of only two players to have the Laureada award bestowed upon him by president Santiago Bernabeu.

14. Hugo Sanchez

Hugo Sanchez's record of 208 goals in 282 matches – all in just seven years – is frankly astounding. But they only tell half the story of quite how brilliant he was. The Mexican was perfect converter for the ‘Quinta del Buitre’: ruthless, cold and always in the right place when he needed to be. He was LaLiga top scorer four times and won nine trophies with Real. 

13. Karim Benzema

Real Madrid 3-1 PSG

(Image credit: Getty)

Karim Benzema has been all things to all teams: the deep-lying, selfless foil for Ronaldo and Bale, before becoming the prolific leader dragging Real Madrid without CR7. As an all-round forward, there's perhaps been no one better over the last decade, with the Frenchman having unbelievable touch and control for a player quite so powerful. The frontman for four European titles, he's a club legend. 

12. Raymond Kopa

Raymond Kopa

(Image credit: PA)

A Ballon d'Or recipient, three-time European champion and the first football player to receive the Legion d'honneur in his native France, Raymond Kopa was a superstar of his era. His speed, balance and playmaking would have made him a success in any era of the game, however – and though he only played 101 times in Real white, he left an indelible mark on the club forever. He was one of the first true Galacticos: in every sense of the title. 

11. Luka Modric

Luka Modric

(Image credit: PA Images)

Forever doubted throughout his career, Luka Modric has helped not only change perceptions about himself but players like him. A dimunitive midfielder who uses ball-carrying as much as passing to evade pressure, he's not just been a creative spark in four Champions League titles but a vital figure when the chips have been down. His Ballon d'Or was testament to the sheer beauty of what he do with a ball.

10-1

10. Luis Figo

Lus Figo, Barcelona Vs Real MAdrid, Clasico, 2000

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Real Madrid were going to complete the most star-studded football team in Europe since the one they'd assembled in the 1950s: and they didn't care whose toes they stepped on. 

Luis Figo arrived from Barcelona as the most controversial transfer of all time. But he was worth every penny of the eye-watering £40m or so – and worth all that drama. It wasn't just the incredible ability to beat a man, lay on the perfect assist or find space where there was none to be found, either: he never hid. He was a truly leader that aspired to carry his new teammates and they loved him for it. In five years in Madrid, he won two league titles and the Champions League. 

9. Ferenc Puskas

Ferenc Puskas

(Image credit: PA)

'The Galloping Major' had already had one career before he wound up in Spain: a career in which he'd scored 358 goals for Budapest Honved in 350 games and dazzled as part of the Magnificent Magyars. 

Ferenc Puskas reinvented himself at Real Madrid, however. He still had his velvet touch, his ability to bamboozle defenders and an unreal set-piece ability but alongside his new superstar teammates, he was happy to supply, too. He won three European Cups – and scored a hat-trick in a final that Los Blancos lost: he also scored four hat-tricks in his first season.

8. Santiago Bernabeu

He's best remembered as a president (and, err, a stadium) but without Santiago Bernabeu the player, Real Madrid would look very different today. 

Bernabeu joined the club at the age of 14 and after breaking into the first team, it wasn't long before he captained them as a senior figure. In 79 official matches, he scored 68 times, leading from the front with physical strength and the kind of leadership that he'd later give to the club off the pitch. 

Better, more talented players would follow, of course – though that goal record and commitment could certainly argue Bernabeu as deserving to be in the upper reaches of any list – but there has arguably never been a more important player in the club's history. 

7. Raul

See more

Raul bridged a gap between the talent-producing Real of the 80s and the home for superstars in the 2000s. He was both at once: despite his first coach, Jorge Valdano calling him limited technically.

But what Raul may have lacked in natural genius, he more than made up for in sheer confidence. He scored even when Real Madrid were woeful in the league – and ended his time at the Bernabeu with six titles and three Champions League. David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo arrived: but neither could take the no.7 shirt off of him. Raul was always the King of Madrid. 

6. Paco Gento

Paco Gento

(Image credit: Getty)

Some believe him to be the greatest left-winger of all time. If we're going off trophies, it's no contest.

Paco Gento won six European Cup titles at Real Madrid, with his speed and precision a vital ingredient in making Los Blancos the incredible threat they were in transition back then. The Spaniard was nicknamed the ‘Storm of the Cantabrian’ for his bustling style and in 18 years at Real, he barely changed gear. In 600 games for the club, he played for the first five European Cup wins before captaining the "Ye-Ye" side of 1966 to the trophy.

5. Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas

(Image credit: PA)

For 25 years, Iker Casillas set the benchmark for goalkeeping in Spanish football. He joined Real Madrid at the age of nine years old and in 725 games for the club, he was a beacon of consistency and composure between the sticks for club and country. 

San Iker was a showman, too, able to produce saves that looked beautiful on camera and not allowing his fellow Galacticos to hog all the attention. He became the youngest goalkeeper to appear in a Champions League final, still holds the record for the most Champions League clean sheets – he won the trophy three times – and later racked up 1,000 matches in the professional game. Not bad considering he wasn't the tallest, either. 

His departure from the Bernabeu was heartbreaking and not at all fitting for one of Real's greats – but in the ashes of him leaving, tributes from rivals highlighted just what a figure he'd been for Los Blancos. He's one of the greatest keepers of all time.

4. Sergio Ramos

Liverpool vs Real Madrid, Champions League, Sergio Ramos and Mohamed Salah

(Image credit: PA)

Sergio Ramos was born to lead Real Madrid. Brash, brazen and brilliant in equal part, the centre-back commanded the Merengues' defence first from right-back before moving into the centre and coming to define the position in fans' eyes.

Not only was Ramos an exceptional defender with pace, physicality, aggression and aerial prowess, however, he would chip in at the other end with goals. He left Real with 101 in all competitions – some of them penalties – and typified the never-say-die attitude that was forged in the Champions League-winning sides of the 2010s. 

He left with his name a part of 22 trophy successes, having racked up almost 700 games in white. For some, he is the ultimate Real hero: flawed, of course, but always playing his heart on one of those rolled-up sleeves. 

3. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane

(Image credit: Getty)

It was eight years that Zinedine Zidane's record of being the most expensive footballer on Earth stood. He made every penny count when he swivelled and walloped home Roberto Carlos's cross in the 2002 Champions League final.

Zizou is the Galactico: a player of grace and delicateness, yet capable of true fiery power whenever he flicked the switch. He was a myth of a man to those growing up in the 2000s. He could transform football matches on his own and though his time at Real Madrid was one of tactical flux, he sparkled like few others ever had done in that brilliant white shirt.

That he came back to manage the Threepeat side only cemented him as a Merengues favourite. As a player, though, he's one of the most talented human beings to ever touch a football – and he completely defines everything that Real Madrid hold dear as a football club. 

2. Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo di Stefano

(Image credit: PA)

It was a man from Buenos Aires who made Madrid "Real". 'The Golden Arrow' was some footballer: and managed to set the direction of an entire institution.

Alfredo Stefano was a total footballer, too: strong, lean and skilful was stamina that few had seen in that era. He had incredible vision, too – though he liked the spotlight curving towards his dashing runs: he completed 11 seasons in Merengues colours, scoring over 300 goals in just under 400 games. In the first five European Cup finals, Di Stefano scored in each. 

The undisputable superstar of eight league titles and five European triumphs, Di Stefano embodies the glamour and the mystique that become associated with the club. It's not just thanks to him that so other stars flocked to the Spanish capital in the 50s: it's thanks to him that they continue to, to this day. 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

(Image credit: PA Images)

No one has ever played at 100% of their physical capacity quite as often as Cristiano Ronaldo. No one has ever had his blend of physicality, speed, touch and movement – and no one has ever scored more goals. For Real Madrid, or for anyone. 

By the time he'd departed the Bernabeu, CR7 had 450 in fewer games than that. Every season he was at Real, he scored over 30 goals a season: twice, he hit over 60. He wasn't a man, he was a machine. He gradually earned a reputation for single-handedly propelling this team to glory, whether or not they were playing well or not.

Because aside from everything he had physically, Ronaldo arguably had the most driven mentality of any footballer to ever pull on Los Blancos colours. 15 titles in eight years – and a bag full of memories of overhead kicks, El Clasico strikes, impossible finishes, hat-tricks and moments of magic – cemented him as the greatest player in the club's history. According to some, he's the best-ever…

Subscribe to FourFourTwo today and save over a third on shop price (opens in new tab)

Restock your kit bag with the best deals for footballers on Amazon right now (opens in new tab)

ALSO READ

QUIZ! Can you name Real Madrid's record signings?

LONG READ How the 2000s saved El Clasico – and made Barcelona vs Real Madrid bigger than ever before

EL CLASICO 5 classic El Clasico clashes

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1