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Five of the best players to play for Chelsea and Real Madrid

Chelsea face Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League this evening, with both sides seeking a positive result ahead of next week’s return meeting.

Both teams have a storied history in this competition with Real Madrid the record 13-time winners, whilst no English side has ever reached the last four on more occasions than Chelsea, who won a second Champions League crown in 2021.

As we prepare for what promises to be a fascinating clash between the two sides, we’ve decided to look back at some of the best players to have represented both clubs.


Here are five of the best players to have played for Chelsea and Real Madrid.

Claude Makélélé

So good that the holding midfield position became colloquially named as the ‘Makélélé role’, the former France international was the under-appreciated anchor of Real Madrid’s Galactico side, before earning a wealth of success and plaudits in the Premier League.

Makélélé signed for Real Madrid from Celta Vigo in 2000 and enjoyed huge success during a three-year spell with Los Blancos, winning two league titles and forming part of the side that won the Champions League during the 2001/02 campaign.

His role as a defensive screen for the backline was understated but effectively brilliant, though the acceleration of the Galactico era at the Bernabeu saw him move on – much to the dismay of his illustrious teammates.

Zinedine Zidane had described his compatriot as the ‘engine’ of the side and Real’s loss proved Chelsea’s gain, as Makélélé proved the perfect player to help a revolution in English football.

The arrival of Jose Mourinho saw Chelsea move to a three-man midfield and away from the traditional 4-4-2 that had been popular in the Premier League, with the Frenchman’s tactical intelligence and ability to break up the play crucial to the system.

He won two league titles among his five major honours at Stamford Bridge, making 217 appearances in all competitions and proving a pioneer for the defensive midfield role.

The midfielder’s plugging of gaps became the stuff of legend and ensured a lasting legacy both at Chelsea and further afield, the game’s best modern enforcers still compared to the selfless Makélélé.

Ricardo Carvalho

Cool, calm and so often classy at the heart of the backline, Ricardo Carvalho can often be overlooked when assessing the best centre-backs of the Premier League era.

Carvalho arrived at Chelsea from Porto after following Jose Mourinho to London, having played his part in the Portuguese side’s shock Champions League triumph in 2004.

The Portugal international instantly became an integral part of the side, helping the Blues to a first league title in half a century during his maiden campaign with a record low of just 15 goals conceded.

Chelsea retained the Premier League the following season with Carvalho forming an excellent partnership with club captain John Terry, the elegant style of the Portuguese a fine complement for Terry’s domineering defending.

Carvalho spent six seasons in English football and added a third league title to his collection, making 210 appearances for the west Londoners before reuniting with former manager Mourinho at Real Madrid.

He featured regularly during his debut season at the Bernabeu before falling out of favour, though did form part of the squad that won La Liga in record-breaking fashion with 121 goals scored and 100 points in 2011/12.

Iconic Duos: Chelsea’s impregnable pairing made of steel and silk, Terry and Carvalho

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben’s performances at PSV Eindhoven saw Chelsea make a move to sign the promising winger, securing his services ahead of Premier League rivals Manchester United.

The deal was agreed pre-Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the club, though it was the Portuguese who extracted the best from the Dutchman as Robben and fellow winger Damian Duff provided the cutting edge of the Chelsea side.

The two – when fit – dovetailed superbly as the wide support in Mourinho’s 4-3-3 system, forming part of the side that won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.

Robben made 107 appearances and scored 19 goals for the west Londoners across three seasons despite injury problems, winning five major honours before a £24m move to Real Madrid.

The Netherlands international scored five goals as Real were crowned champions during his first season with the club, though spent just two campaigns in the Spanish capital before a switch to Bayern Munich.

Robben’s finest football came during a glittering decade with the German giants, winning eight Bundesliga titles and the Champions League among his honours during a Bayern career that saw him score 144 goals in 309 appearances.

Amongst the very finest in world football at his peak and one of the best of his generation, Robben was a player who perfected his simplistic brilliance and became one of modern football’s great inverted wingers.

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Michael Essien

The mid-2000s saw Chelsea compile one of the most fearsome midfield line-ups of the Premier League era, the unrivalled defensive nous of Claude Makélélé mixed with the goalscoring prowess of Frank Lampard and German great Michael Ballack.

Added to that was Michael Essien, who arrived in a record deal after Chelsea’s first Premier League title triumph and added a new dimension to the club’s options.

Essien was a box-to-box midfield powerhouse, his strength and running power seeing him nicknamed the ‘Bison’ with the Ghana international capable of influencing the play at both ends of the pitch.

He spent eight years as a Chelsea player and played a fundamental role in the Blues’ modern success, his versatility also invaluable with Essien often deployed at right-back and centre-back.

Stunning strikes against the likes of Arsenal and Barcelona live long in the memory, but injuries impacted his influence in his latter seasons as the dynamism that defined his game gradually decreased.

He moved to Real Madrid on loan for the 2012/13 season and reunited with Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu, making 35 appearances but rarely looking like the player who overpowered opponents in his early seasons at Chelsea.

Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard could face his former side in the Champions League this week, having left Chelsea as a huge fans’ favourite and one of the club’s greatest players of the modern era.

Chelsea beat off competition from a host of Europe’s elite to sign Hazard from Lille in 2012 and it proved an inspired investment for the west Londoners, the winger developing into one of the division’s most influential footballers over seven seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Hazard was named as the PFA Player of the Year during the 2014/15 campaign after inspiring Chelsea to the league title, one of three times he was named in the top two of the voting for English football’s most prestigious individual accolade.

The Belgium international won six major honours including two Premier League winners’ medals and two Europa League trophies, whilst he was named as Chelsea’s Player of the Season on four occasions.

At his best the winger was mesmeric in possession, gliding effortlessly past challenges and providing the creative spark in Chelsea’s successes of recent seasons.

He scored 110 goals across all competitions before a big-money move to the Bernabeu, but has failed to replicate his previous performances since making the switch to Spain.

The 31-year-old has endured a host of injury problems and has made just 28 league starts in almost three full seasons, falling down the pecking order with Vinicius Junior the chief support to Karim Benzema in the side.

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