Picking Real Madrid's Mount Rushmore

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2017

Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez ( L ) celebrates his goal with teammate Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo  against Zaragoza during their Spanish League football match at Romareda  stadium in Zaragoza  on April 24, 2010. AFP PHOTO / DANI POZO (Photo credit should read Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Mount Rushmore: the enormous granite carvings of four presidents of the United States, indelibly hewn into the Mount itself in South Dakota, serves as a reminder of the history of the nation, more than a century's worth.

Real Madrid: a football club of enormous history and prestige, a club which has changed hands and faces down the decades—but remains a bastion of success, wealth and enormity overall.

Mix the two together and who would be selected, from all the many names and achievements, to best represent the history and tradition of the club to be etched for the world to see? Not just the faces of the club, but a representation of what the club stands for, on and off the pitch?

We've trawled the record books, looked back over the greatest periods of one of the world's biggest clubs and selected four who would make the cut for Real Madrid's own version of the Black Hills memorial.

                 

Honourable mentions

In selecting just four, we've had to cast aside any number of individuals whose achievements at any other club would earn them not just legendary status, but be the single greatest hero of all time for the supporters.

We've cut down from an initial pool of over a dozen, but four in particular still bear noting even though they eventually fell just short of the final selection.

Madrid fans still remember the great forward Juanito after his decade of service, five league titles won and over 100 goals. He died in 1992 after a traffic collision on the way home from watching a Real match.

Manuel Sanchis gave close to 20 years of service to Madrid, the only club he played for in his entire career, during which he won eight league titles and four European titles.

19 Sep 1998:  Manuel Sanchis of Real Madrid in action during a match against Barcelona in Madrid, Spain. The game ended in a draw 2-2. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Another who only played for Los Blancos, Chendo was a centre-back of great standing who played almost 500 times for the club. Later, he worked for the club's administrative side for many years.

Finally, Jose Antonio Camacho was so close to making the final four: He graduated through the youth team, played nearly 600 games, won nine league titles and was later youth coach, first-team assistant and twice manager of the first team in his own right.

          

Raul

MADRID, SPAIN:  Real Madrid's Spanish forward Raul tries to control the ball during the Spanish League soccer match between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, 19 December 2000 in Madrid. Real Madrid won 3-1. (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Get
CHRISTOPHE SIMON/Getty Images

Onto the final four, then, and first of all, it's Raul Gonzalez Blanco, who couldn't possibly be left off the list.

The former forward is a legend of the game, not just at Real but in Spain and indeed Europe. He was a noble player, fair and respectful, but fearless and enough of a leader to captain one of the greatest sides in recent club history.

More than 100 Spanish caps were won by the forward, sadly coming to a close on the international stage just before Spain's great successful period began, but with Real he still won six league titles and three European Cups.

In close to 750 matches for Real Madrid, he was not just a big part of the team, but a face of the club; he was a recognisable talent before the age of instant highlights and social media, feared and admired in equal measure by rival teams and defences.

Perhaps most of all, he was a hero for the fans and a spokesperson to support the club from within; he grew up in Madrid and left Atletico for Real youth academies at a young age before rising through the ranks to senior level.

An aggressive, hardworking performer, he wasn't just a finisher but also a creator, a leader, an inspirational figure with his work rate and someone who always, always, put the club first.

        

Alfredo Di Stefano

For many, the greatest player to ever grace the white shirt.

A hero during the 1950s and '60s, he won a massive and unprecedented five European Cups with Madrid...in a row. Never again is such a feat likely to be equalled, let alone bettered, by any club.

Di Stefano was a forward by trade, but his work rate and technical ability meant he was a force for his team all over the pitch, in both defensive work as well as buildup play—a true all-rounder. Madrid's own official website heralds Di Stefano as the "best footballer of all time"; If there are some who could argue against it in favour of another, the simple inclusion of him in the conversation at all points to just how good a player he was.

The Argentinian-born attacker played international football for his home country, Colombia and Spain—another point of stardom, that even countries fought over the right to his quality—and later managed Madrid on two occasions, helping the famous Quinta del Buitre begin to emerge, the band of players seen as one of the most talented generations at Real Madrid.

For a period, he was the club's record goalscorer—Raul went on to surpass him first—and his consistent ability to hit the back of the net is recognised by the fact he scored in all five of his European finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo

CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real Madrid at National Stadium of Wales on June 3, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo b
David Ramos/Getty Images

From the annals of history to the face of modern-day Real Madrid, there's no way Cristiano Ronaldo could be overlooked for inclusion.

To represent Real can be taken in many ways; Ronaldo fits the bill in pretty much every regard. The club pay big money for signings? He was the world's most expensive signing. The club are winners, first and foremost? He's won everything there is to lift at club level, and he is a European champion on the international stage. The biggest-supported club in the world? Cristiano is the sporting face on social media.

He is everything about the modern game, not just the money and the fame, the goals and the glory but also the absolute professionalism and dedication, the embodiment of physical improvement in the sport and living proof of what can be achieved through force of will applied to talent.

A four-time Ballon d'Or winner, he is Madrid's all-time highest scorer, the best footballer on the planet for many and continually striving to remain at the top—just like the club themselves.

        

Santiago Bernabeu

Outside view of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, pictured on April 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

Finally, the man whose name graces the stadium of the club...and with good reason.

He only played a relatively small number of games while with Madrid's first team—less than 100 official matches—despite being a player for more than 15 years.

It is later, after the Spanish civil war, when Bernabeu's true value to the club came to the fore. He helped rebuild the club that had been torn apart by death and disappearance during the war, serving as president for over 30 years and being a part of the initial discussions which burgeoned into the European Cup—today the UEFA Champions League.

Bernabeu who, as president, built the club's stadium and training ground, signed the likes of Di Stefano and was in the post during the period when they won the five European Cups in succession.

He was a true great, without whom it would not be the same club as it is today, and an unforgettable part of club history.

       

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