Top British players at Real Madrid: Who has the greatest lasting impact?

Few British athletes have had the chance to play for Real Madrid, but those who do frequently leave their imprint.

Some of the greatest names in British football have strutted their stuff at the Bernabeu, and the opportunity to play for Real remains tremendously coveted. 

The following is a list of how the 6 British players representing Real in the Spanish capital have performed: 

Gareth Bale


Bale may have alienated some Real Madrid fans with his alleged unwillingness to adopt Spanish culture and his passion for golf, but he has achieved great success in Spain.

Bale developed the habit of scoring important goals after completing a deal from Tottenham in 2013 for a then-world record transfer fee, but he never entirely won over the Madrid supporters.

His greatest accomplishments were the goal in Kyiv and five! Champions League titles, of which he played a significant part in all except one. The Welshman’s legacy in Madrid will be very well treated by time.

Jonathan Woodgate


Woodgate’s stay at Real Madrid was a complete failure and had one of the worst terrible debuts.

Due to physical issues, the center-back had to wait a year before playing, and to commemorate the occasion, he scored an own goal and received a red card.

Normally, the narrative stops there, but Woodgate did succeed in breaking into the first squad during the 2005–06 campaign. However, subsequent injuries forced him to leave, and in 2006, he transferred to his old club Middlesbrough.

In 2007, readers of Marca, Spain’s top sports daily newspaper, chose him as the worst signing of the twenty-first century.

Michael Owen


For Owen at Real, it never truly occurred, but he was more effective than is typically recognized.

At the height of the Galacticos period at the club, Owen was vying for a starting position against players like Raul and Ronaldo.

In that context, 16 goals in 45 games doesn’t seem too awful, but the English striker came to Newcastle in 2005 because he was fed up with the lack of opportunities.

As bizarre and even defeatist as this may seem, almost as soon as we landed in Spain, I immediately got this sensation that my time there was going to be brief, Owen said in his autobiography Reboot – My Life, My Time.

“The club started housing us in hotels in the middle of August while we looked for a home. It would have been challenging enough for one month for the two of us to share a room with a small girl who needed to be entertained. However, a month turned into two, and two into four. 

David Beckham 


Beckham, the Galactico of the Galacticos, was acquired for £25 million from Barcelona in the summer of 2003.

The England captain’s move to Spain undoubtedly increased shirt sales, but during his first three seasons there, no silverware was won because different managers couldn’t make the most of the several exceptional offensive skills.

Beckham was underutilized by Fabio Capello in 2006–07, but the midfielder was able to fight his way back into the starting lineup as Real won the La Liga championship that year.

Before leaving for the LA Galaxy in 2007, Beckham made 155 appearances and scored 20 goals.

Steve McManaman


The fact that McManaman spent time at Real Madrid emphasizes the idea that a player’s talent is sometimes underappreciated these days.

McManaman, who had performed well for Liverpool and England, came to Spain on a free transfer in 1999 and won the Champions League in his first season, earning man of the match honors during the 3-0 victory over Valencia in the final.

His playing time was cut short by Luis Figo’s arrival, and Real declared McManaman surplus to needs. He persisted though and continued to be a vital team player, scoring in the 2002 Champions League semifinal against Barcelona.

Many people were won over by his perseverance and attitude, and McManaman is still highly regarded by the Madrid supporters.

Laurie Cunningham


Cunningham joined Real Madrid from West Brom in 1979, becoming the first English player to play for the Spanish club.

Cunningham, a dynamic winger with quick feet and a keen eye for goal, scored twice on his debut and assisted the Spanish powerhouses in capturing the league and cup double in his rookie campaign.

Cunningham, known as the “Black Pearl” in Madrid, won over the crowds with his flamboyance, but his total effect was diminished by injuries and a dedication to experiencing Madrid’s nightlife.

Cunningham departed the team in 1983, and six years later, he tragically lost his life in an automobile accident. He passed away while he was just 33 years old.

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