Real Madrid are arguably the most famous club in the world and have a plethora of former players spread across the soccer world.
While some like Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos are well known, others have taken a path outside the box – whether playing in more obscure leagues or simply in the lower divisions of Spanish football.
We’ve picked six former Madrid stars, it’s hard to believe they’re still playing professionally in 2021.
Negredo came through local club Rayo Vallecano before moving through town to join Real Madrid Castilla in 2005.
He stayed there for two years, impressing enough in the B squad to be called up to the senior squad for a few Copa del Rey games by then coach Fabio Capello.
However, Negredo never got along and moved to Almeria in 2007, starting a long and relatively successful career. The highlight undoubtedly came in Sevilla, where he won the Copa del Rey and scored consistently enough to convince Manchester City he was worth an initial £ 16.4million.
He managed 23 goals in his only season at the Etihad, winning the Premier League and the League Cup. Since then he has played in Spain, for Middlesbrough in their last Premier League season, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Now 36, he helped Cadiz stay in La Liga last season and is still an integral part of their squad.
Soldado won La Liga with Madrid early in his career and scored dozens of La Liga goals for Getafe and Valencia. Now 36 years old, he still plays in the leading Spanish peloton with Levante after stints in Valencia, Fenerbahce and Granada. In short, a great professional career.
In England, however, Soldado will be remembered as one of the Not-So-Magnificent Seven that Tottenham signed to place Gareth Bale…
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It’s easy to forget that Leon once played for Madrid, but think back to 2010.
Leon had been brilliant for Getafe, scoring eight goals and assisting nine in La Liga as Getafe advanced to the Europa League. Madrid was convinced. It was worth a punt.
They paid 10 million euros for his signing and then… well, he didn’t really do much.
His confidence probably wasn’t helped by the fact that he became one of José Mourinho’s sacrificial lambs, shot very publicly to make a point. We don’t know exactly how much, but there you go.
After dropping Leon for a Champions League match with Auxerre, the Spanish press asked Mourinho why and replied: “You talk about Pedro Leon as if he was [Zinedine] Zidane, [Diego] Maradona or [Alfredo] Di Stefano. I don’t have to justify his absence.
Leon only lasted one season at the Bernabeu, unsurprisingly, making six league appearances before returning to Getafe, first on loan and then for half the fees Madrid paid.
This bad experience didn’t put him off, however. After five years back at Getafe, he spent five more with Eibar before signing for second tier Fuenlabrada in 2021.
Royston Drenthe was the new trend in European football following a European Under-21 Championship with the Netherlands in 2007, and was acquired by Madrid in a € 14million deal.
However, he never lived up to his seemingly huge potential and was eventually loaned out, first to Hercules and then to Everton, before eventually moving to Alania as part of a permanent deal that turned out to be. not be permanent at all.
After six games in Russia, he signed for Reading and has been on the move ever since, playing for six other clubs in five countries, while also trying his hand, rapping and playing.
In 2021, he appeared at Racing Murcia in Spain’s Tercera division, telling the Guardian: “I’m here because I still love football, you understand? Football makes me happy, it frees my mind.
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Another player who rose through the ranks and played for the Castilla B side, Callejon moved away from Madrid, playing two seasons at Espanyol, before being brought back to a € 5.5million contract in 2011.
His return to the Bernabeu has been solid but unspectacular, winning La Liga in 2012 but playing mostly as a substitute and in less important fixtures.
After two seasons back in the Spanish capital, the winger moved to Napoli and became a brilliant player in Maurizio Sarri’s scintillating squad.
A few Napoli managers later, Callejon moved to Fiorentina in October 2020 and that’s where he plays now, rising to the top at the age of 34.
Like Callejon, Lopez rose through the ranks, left and returned to Madrid, returning in January 2013 after injury to first-choice goalkeeper Iker Casillas. We didn’t know then that Lopez’s return was the harbinger of a dramatically fascinating episode.
Lopez received the gloves while Casillas was out, but it was of course expected that Casillas would regain the No.1 spot after recovering.
This is not at all what happened. Instead, Mourinho praised Lopez’s performance at the highest point, told Casillas he should stay on the bench and sparked a political incident, with Casillas, Sergio Ramos and another unnamed player reportedly surrendering to club president Florentino Perez to say that either Mourinho left the club in the summer or they would.
The players were successful, but under new boss Carlo Ancelotti, Lopez remained La Liga’s top pick throughout the 2013-14 season. Yet at the end of that campaign, Lopez left for AC Milan and Casillas eventually came back to the side.
After two seasons in Italy, Lopez returned to his homeland and signed for Espanyol. There he remains, back in the Premier League at 39 after helping Espanyol get promoted last season.
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