Real Madrid Power Rankings: The 7 Worst Signings This Millennium
Real Madrid are arguably one of the best clubs in world football and their trophy cabinet reflects the years of success they have enjoyed at every level, from winning nine European Cups since 1956 to lifting 32 La Liga titles to date.
The glitz and glamour associated with the Santiago Bernabeu-based team has seen stellar players arrive and leave their mark; the Galacticos of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham to name a few.
Since 2000, however, there have also been footballers who were never really able to reach the dazzling heights of success expected in the Spanish capital.
Here is a list of seven players who, despite arriving with promise and panache, never took off from the Real Madrid launch pad.
1. Jonathan Woodgate (2004)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Jonathan Woodgate, the former England international, joined Real Madrid in 2004 for a reported £13.4 million from Premier League side Newcastle United, but his arrival in Spain was questioned following injury-ravaged campaigns.
Having waited over a year to make his debut for Real Madrid after nursing further injuries, Woodgate’s luck continued to go against him as he scored an own goal and got sent off in his first match for the club—a 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.
Woodgate’s Madrid nightmare ended in 2007 having amassed just 14 games for Los Merengues as he moved to Middlesbrough.
At the time, Reuters reported that Marca, a Spanish sports newspaper, claimed the former Leeds United man was Real Madrid’s worst signing in history.
And, in an interview with The Independent, the Englishman suggested his time in Spain was not the best.
"The club where there is the biggest 'what if' is obviously Real Madrid but I cannot dwell on that and I have to put that out of my mind," Woodgate said. "I do not even like talking about Real Madrid. It does my head in. I was there years ago. I was at Stoke last season. In my mind, let's just forget about all that. I get embarrassed about it to be honest."
Woodgate is currently playing in the Championship with Middlesbrough.
2. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (2009)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
The Netherlands forward crossed Europe's borders and made his big move to La Liga where expectations were high. A fee of £20 million swapped hands as Madrid got down to business to secure one of European football’s most coveted talents.
However, Huntelaar failed to gain enough territory up front for Real Madrid to warrant an extended stay as he made just 13 starts there.
He went on to score eight goals in 20 appearances for the Spanish giants but was left out of the club’s Champions League squad.
No-one really understood why Madrid had signed Huntelaar as he arrived in Spain with an ankle ligament injury he had suffered two months previously whilst playing for Ajax.
After signing for Italian club AC Milan in August 2009, Huntelaar said he never really felt comfortable with his role at Real Madrid.
Speaking shortly after his Madrid exit, the striker said:
"Those in power at Real did not behave in the way that club deserves. They surprisingly told me my new team would be Stuttgart.
"Those decisions irritated me, but thanks to my agent I was able to stay calm.
"During the first few months I was fine, but things started getting worse right after that.
"They did not take me into consideration and they made me feel useless. These things hurt, but I have a strong mind and I resisted."
Huntelaar has scored three goals in seven Bundesliga games for Schalke this season.
3. Thomas Gravesen (2005)
Cancan Chu/Getty Images
The former Denmark international initially settled in well under Brazilian coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo who allowed him to play with freedom in a defensive midfield role.
Gravesen's career in Spain ebbed and flowed, however. During a pre-season tour of Austria in the summer of 2006 his rough tackle on team-mate Robinho in training saw both men scuffle as tempers flared on the pitch.
Fabio Capello, coach at the time having arrived from Juventus following the Calciopoli scandal in Italy, grew out of touch with the Danish midfielder and he was dropped from the squad.
4. Antonio Cassano (2006)
New Press/Getty Images
Cassano would reunite with former coach Capello who had trained him in the Italian capital after rejecting new terms with the Giallorossi.
However, the now Inter striker made a handful of appearances in La Liga as he grew out of favour with the coach.
His move to Real Madrid was seen by many as a failure and his exploits there were well documented by the Daily Mail who claimed the player had fallen out on more than one occasion with Capello during their time together.
The Bari native was later be dropped from the Madrid squad for his rebel-style antics within the dressing room.
Cassano left Spain with just two goals in 19 games for the club and joined Sampdoria in 2007. After successful spells with AC Milan, the Italian forward is now enjoying life with Inter.
5. Javier Saviola (2007)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Having arrived on a free deal from the Camp Nou, Saviola penned a three-year contract in the Spanish capital, but he found space hard to come by in a squad where competition for places was rife.
The former Barca striker, like many before him, was not immune to the struggles of making it big in Madrid as he competed with club legend Raul, Arjen Robben, Gonzalo Higuain, Robinho, Soldado and Ruud van Nistelrooy for a place in the starting XI.
With limited opportunities, Saviola left the club in 2009 by moving to Portuguese side Benfica. Now a 30-year-old, Saviola is currently playing for Malaga.
6. Michael Owen (2004)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Owen had a Ballon d’Or to his name after winning the accolade in 2001, but the football at the Bernabeu was far from golden.
The striker hoped he would win big trophies at Madrid, but limited space and the arrivals of Brazilian duo Julio Baptista and Robinho further complicated matters for the former England international.
A year after leaving Liverpool for Madrid, Owen signed a four year deal with Newcastle United as he returned to the Premier League sooner than expected.
7. Hamit Altintop (2011)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
The Turkish midfielder left the Bundesliga having struggled to find at regular place in Bayern’s midfield as he had to compete with both Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery.
Yet, despite Altintop playing a less than perfect final season in Munich, Jose Mourinho persisted in his decision to sign him for the Spanish giants.
A four-year contract was rolled out for Altintop and Mourinho’s initial plans were to use him as a winger.
However, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil ensured the Turkey international never had a look inwards and his time in Spain ended in 2012 as he moved to Galatasaray having mustered just five games with Los Blancos.