Real Madrid's All Time Starting XI
For the purposes of brevity, let me introduce this slideshow with a word of caution: in creating this list I don't mean to pick the best players ever to wear the white shirt, or to stand on the turf at the Bernabéu.
I mean instead to choose a group of people who gave the most to Real Madrid, in terms of time at the club, titles, and general legend.
Because there are only 11 players on the pitch, and because Real Madrid's legends number in the hundreds, I've had to cut some players that certainly deserve to be lauded for everything they've done.
Also, in making the list, I decided to move some players around positionally: Hugo Sánchez, for example, played striker, second striker and occasionally midfield for Real Madrid, as did Emilio Butragueño.
Both appear as midfielders on my list, though they are traditionally remembered as forwards.
GK: Iker Casillas
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Casillas exemplifies everything that has made Real Madrid great over the years: a personal commitment to the fans, a tireless work ethic, and an indomitable will to win.
He's been Madrid's captain for a year now(since Raúl left), and has guided the team to various titles; he's widely regarded as the best keeper in the game, and has been on the top echelon of keepers for around 10 years.
He has a 1:1 games:goal ratio for Madrid, and an astounding 2:1 games:goal record for Spain; he's won 13 titles with Madrid, and captained Spain to last year's World Cup.
Honorable mention: Ricardo Zamora, Madrid's first superstar-keeper, and one of the greatest of all time.
Defender: Fernando Hierro
Fernando Hierro was los blancos' "gran capitán" before Raúl.
He was the original defender of the White House, the embodiment of everything Real Madrid until he left the club.
He was the center of Madrid's defense for most of his time at the club, and was the spiritual leader for most of the White's Champions League titles in the late 1990's.
Defender: Manuel Sanchís Hontiyuelo
Manuel Sanchís Jr. comes from a family of Madridistas: His father played defense for los blancos during the glory days of the late 1950's and mid 1960's.
Manuel Sanchís Sr., however, played for various other clubs; his son devoted himself to Real Madrid throughout his illustrious career.
Sanchís played in over 700 games for Real Madrid, and established himself as the key part of Madrid's shut-down defense during the famous "Quinta del Buitre" run in the late 1980's.
He was certainly one of the best defenders to grace the club.
Defender: Roberto Carlos
The short, stocky Brazilian left-back was one of the most dangerous defensive wing backs of all time: He was unbelievably fast, and had one of the strongest left feet in the history of the game.
He played almost his entire career—and all of his prime—with Real Madrid, winning countless trophies in the process.
Madrid fans remember him because of his incredible free kicks, and because his pass set up Zidane's left-footed volley to win the Champions League in 2002.
Defender: Míchel Salgado
Nicknamed "Il due" ("the two" or "number two") by the Italian press, Salgado was famous for his ability to shut down opposing attackers and spring on to counter attacks.
The feisty man from Galicia was famously labeled as "the hardest player in the world," by Real Madrid teammate Steve McManaman, and played for Real Madrid for 10 years.
He was a fixture for los blancos as soon as he came over from Celta, and guided Madrid's counter attack throughout his time in the starting lineup.
Midfielder: Paco Gento
Gento was the center of Madrid's legendary ye-yé generation, which won six Champions Leagues; he was famous for being incredibly fast, both without and with the ball.
He could famously score from almost anywhere on the pitch, and was always a threat to slice in a perfect cross to his counterpart Alfredo Di Stefano.
Gento appeared in eight Champions League finals, and was 6-2 in those games; he is tied with Paolo Maldini (5-3 record) for most all-time Champions League finals appearances.
Midfielder: Emilio Butragueño
The first of my not-technically-midfielders-but-sort-of choices on this list, "el Buitre" championed Madrid's brutal attack during the late 1980's, and had an era of play named after him.
Think about that. There are very few players in world history who have entire eras named after them.
And it was well deserved: during the "Quinta del Buitre" era, Real Madrid won five consecutive Liga titles, two UEFA cups, and various other trophies.
Midfielder: Hugo Sánchez
The second of my not-really-midfielders segment.
Hugo Sánchez was one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the history of the Liga, and was world-renowned for his speed and athleticism.
He famously scored an unbelievable bicycle kick goal for Madrid that still stands as one of the greatest shots of all time.
His nickname "Pentapichichi" is a reference to his five consecutive "Pichichi" awards (top scorer in Spain). He culminated in an amazing 1989-1990 season where he scored 38 goals in 35 matches.
Midfielder: Zinedine Zidane
One of the top three greatest players of all time, Zinedine Zidane graced Real Madrid from 2001-2006, winning various Liga and Champions League titles.
He spearheaded Madrid's midfield during the galáctico era, and was single-handedly responsible for Madrid's 2002 Champions League title. His goal in the final against Bayern Leverkusen remains one of the most iconic sports moments of the past 20 years.
Along with Brazilian forward (and Madrid legend) Ronaldo, Zidane is one of two players to ever win three FIFA World Player awards; he captained France to a 1998 World Cup win, and to the final of the 2006 World Cup before retiring.
He now serves as a highly regarded advisor to José Mourinho, and is likely in the running to become coach of one of Real Madrid's youth sides in the future.
El gran capitán. What else do I need to say about Raúl González Blanco?
He played almost his entire career for Real Madrid, leading the team to three Champions League titles, and numerous other trophies.
He spearheaded Madrid's lethal attack and holds the current all-time goal-scoring record in the Champions League.
Raúl has a special, central seat in the pantheon of Real Madrid legends.
Forward: Alfredo Di Stefano
One of the greatest forwards of all time, Alfredo Di Stefano came to Madrid amid great outcry from FC Barcelona, which thought he would sign with them.
He proceeded to guide Madrid through one of the longest eras of extended dominance in modern sports history.
He played in 282 games over the course of 11 years for Real Madrid, and scored 216 goals.
Pelé described him as both the "greatest footballer ever" (2009), and "the most complete player to ever play" (2008).