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From Zidane to Ronaldo to Bale: Ranking Real Madrid's Galactico Signings

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014

From Zidane to Ronaldo to Bale: Ranking Real Madrid's Galactico Signings

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    The term "Galactico" became known at the start of Florentino Perez's first period as president of Real Madrid.

    But it originates from the 1950s, when President Santiago Bernabeu purchased stars such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Raymond Kopa, Jose Santamaria and Francisco Gento.

    Real Madrid won five European Cups in that era, so Perez felt he was returning the club to its history and copying a winning model.

    The phrase was used to illustrate the transfer policy of signing the most expensive and world-famous superstars around.

    Like other clubs, Real Madrid paid millions for quality players under different presidents, but with Perez, these signings were incomparable.

    The strategy was initially called Zidanes y Pavones, deriving from Zinedine Zidane and Francisco Pavon, a Real Madrid youth player.

    The idea was to sign one major superstar per summer transfer window and promote youth players from within.

    Some players were also regarded as part of the Galacticos, such as Roberto Carlos and Raul, though neither really qualified for the title.

    The likes of Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Fabio Coentrao, Isco and Asier Illarramendi have not been included in this list.

    It could be argued that Ozil and di Maria were regarded as two of the best players in their leagues at the time of signing, but were they in the very top bracket for the world?

    Even someone with a passing interest in football should have heard of the majority of these individual Galactico players.

    Here they are ranked in order of success at Los Blancos.

10. Kaka

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    The Brazilian will forever be looked upon as a failure at Real Madrid due to his incredibly high transfer fee.

    Kaka spent four years at the Bernabeu but never quite hit the heights that he did at Milan. Last summer, he inevitably returned to his old club in Italy.

    He scored nine goals in his opening campaign with Los Blancos and showed flashes of his undoubted brilliance, via ESPN statistics. His second season didn't start until January after picking up a knee injury, and he never really recovered.

    With Mesut Ozil excelling in the No. 10 role, it was difficult for Kaka to get a run of games when he was fit, whilst it never particularly suited him to be shifted out wide.

    When he did appear, mainly in Copa del Rey matches and games of less importance, he did start to look like the Kaka of old, but it was fashionable to say he had lost it.

    His sale was best for all those concerned with younger talent vying for the attacking positions at the club.

9. Gareth Bale

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    Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

    The world's most expensive player has had a difficult start to life in the capital. Gareth Bale has been plagued by injuries since his arrival in 2013, which has disrupted his rhythm, though he has still contributed significantly when given the opportunity.

    Without a pre-season, his match fitness has not been at the required standard, and as a result, he keeps picking up knocks.

    When on the pitch, he has scored eight goals and helped out with seven assists, despite only playing in nine full matches, via Pete Jenson at The Independent.

    His two-goal, two-assist performance against Sevilla in his full home debut was impressive and proof that he has the credentials to play at the club.

    It's all about next season for the Welshman. With no World Cup duty this summer, the rest should see him gain a considerable advantage over his competitors.

8. Karim Benzema

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    Angel Navarrete/Associated Press

    The French forward has fought off the challenge of a number of high-profile competitors to start this season as the only recognisable senior striker.

    It was difficult to see where Karim Benzema fitted in when he first arrived in 2009, as Raul and Gonzalo Higuain were scoring goals up front, and Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka had also been signed for the other attacking slots.

    He was criticised for his attitude on several occasions, and he even told the French press that Raul refused to pass to him during matches, via Ben Lyttleton at Sports Illustrated.

    Then Jose Mourinho arrived and made him the target of his frustrations. In a pre-season press conference, he stated, per the Times of Malta: "Benzema must understand that he is extremely talented but that in itself is not enough."

    He continued his public criticism, and it worked. Just a fortnight ago, Benzema scored his 100th goal in white. Few would have predicted this turnaround in the opening months of his time in Spain.

7. Luka Modric

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    The former Tottenham playmaker also struggled with adaptation during his first year in Madrid.

    Mourinho couldn't find room for Luka Modric when the team already had plenty of creativity in Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil, not to mention the wide players.

    He topped a poll in Spanish daily Marca, as he was named the worst signing of 2012, via the Express.

    His goal against Manchester United in the 2013 Champions League seemed to change his fortune, and since then, Modric hasn't looked back.

    With the sale of Ozil last summer and an injury to Alonso in the opening months, the Croatian excelled with the added responsibility.

    When Alonso returned to the set-up, Carlo Ancelotti's 4-3-3 formation has allowed the two to work together perfectly in tandem.

    He is arguably Real Madrid's best player this season after Ronaldo, and there are no signs of his progress slowing.

6. David Beckham

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    Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

    There's no doubting the talent of David Beckham. His cultured right foot was brilliant at executing crosses, long-range passes and free-kicks. His work rate and positional sense epitomised his professionalism.

    But no Galactico has been marketed better than the former Manchester United winger.

    A goal only three minutes into his La Liga debut and five goals in his opening 16 matches showed it wasn't just his ability to sell shirts that saw him swap Manchester for Madrid in 2003.

    In the star-studded line-up, his performances were decent, and there were some real outstanding moments of class from the England international.

    Then, in the 2006/07 season, he fell out of favour with coach Fabio Capello, and some poor showings from the team when he started did little to state his case.

    After being told he wouldn't be getting a new deal, Beckham signed a contract with the LA Galaxy, leading Capello to declare, per BBC Sport: "Beckham will train with the team but he won't play."

    The Italian backtracked a month later, and Beckham was superb, helping the club to the league title.

5. Xabi Alonso

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    The deep-lying playmaker has been exceptional since he made the move from Liverpool in 2009.

    Xabi Alonso's importance to any team he plays for is paramount. At Anfield, it took a number of years for the Reds to replace him, whilst Real Madrid aren't the same side when he is injured.

    He knits the team together from defence to attack, and his range of passing is rivalled only by a select few in world football.

    In the 2009/10 campaign, under Manuel Pellegrini, he started every Champions League and La Liga match unless he was injured or suspended, via ESPN statistics.

    He also helped the team to a record points total that season, but Los Blancos ultimately finished in second place. It was the third time in his career that he had achieved this unfortunate record.

    He finally claimed a league title in 2012 with Mourinho at the helm, adding to the Copa del Rey he picked up a year earlier.

4. Luis Figo

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    Epsilon/Getty Images

    The Portuguese winger was the first of the Galacticos, though that wasn't the only reason his 2000/01 transfer was so unique. Luis Figo was the best player at Barcelona.

    The club has poached some of the hottest talents from the biggest teams that football has to offer since, but none can really compare with buying the talisman of your archrival.

    In Sid Lowe's book Fear and Loathing in La Liga (via an extract on Sure Sports Tips), when asked if he had really wanted to go to Madrid, Figo replied: "It started with a calenton (a spark of anger) and ended up being real."

    Florentino Perez wasn't expected to win the presidential election battle, so he offered Figo around £1.6 million to sign an agreement legally binding him to Real Madrid if he surprisingly won.

    If Figo didn't move, he would have to pay around £19 million. Perez was willing to meet the buyout clause in Figo's contract, while Figo was trying to negotiate a new deal at Barcelona, but to no avail.

    The rest is history.

3. Ronaldo

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    When the Brazilian arrived for €46 million in 2002, he had to wait until October to make his debut due to injury.

    It was worth it for the Bernabeu faithful, as the striker lived up to the hype, scoring just one minute after entering the field as a substitute and then finding the net again 14 minutes later after a one-two with Steve McManaman, per Sports Illustrated.

    This was exactly a year after I had met him at a health spa in Leicester, whilst he was on international duty. He couldn't reply to my conversation but duly obliged with the famous smile when we were photographed together.

    Ronaldo finished his first season with 22 league goals and a league championship in the bag.

    His speed and power were a phenomenal combination that was unstoppable when in full flow. Injuries and weight issues finished his time at the club in 2007.

2. Zinedine Zidane

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Zizou, as he is affectionately known, was a player of elegance, gracefulness and superior ability.

    His former teammate Edgar Davids said, per The Telegraph, that "simply watching him train inspires me."

    "He is one of the best players in the world," the Dutch midfielder continued. "He thinks in one second and does it the next. He is a special player, one who is original and exceptional."

    He joined for a world-record fee of €75 million in 2001 and played five years for the club.

    In his first season, he won the Champions League, scoring a spectacular volley in the final. He was also given the "man of the match" award for his overall display in Glasgow that evening.

    The team won the league the following season, as he was named FIFA World Player of the Year.

    The French legend is now an assistant coach and sporting director at the club.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Paul White/Associated Press

    The current Ballon d'Or holder has been ripping up the record books since he arrived from Manchester United in 2009.

    Cristiano Ronaldo's goal tally belongs to a different world, and it's incomparable with the other extremely talented players on this list.

    Transfer fees are ridiculously high, but if anyone was worth €94 million, then it was the Portuguese forward.

    He currently has 233 goals in 229 appearances for the club, via ESPN statistics. As the figures instantly become out of date, few would bet against him overtaking Raul.

    Fuelled by the rivalry with his nemesis Lionel Messi, Ronaldo continues to improve and defy belief.

    It's a crime that he has only one league title for Los Blancos, but that can be attributed to competing with the best Barcelona side of all time.

    The complete modern-day footballer, he will surely go down as one of the best to grace the shirt—if not the best ever.

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