Raphael Varane and Martin Odegaard are two of the latest high profile arrivals to the Premier League from Spanish giants Real Madrid, with English sides having enjoyed mixed success in bringing in big names from the Bernabeu in recent years.
With a move to Madrid often viewed as the pinnacle of a player’s career, managing to tempt a star into making a switch away from the club is often seen as a major coup, albeit with the often hefty transfer fees paid not always equating to good value on the pitch.
Here’s a look at Los Blancos’ top five most expensive exports to the Premier League to date.
Robinho – £38.7m to Manchester City
Just edging recent Manchester United signing Varane from this list is Robinho, the mercurial Brazilian the first marquee signing of the Sheikh Mansour era, after making the switch from Madrid to Manchester City in 2008.
Not only a statement signing to mark the ambitious intentions of the club’s new owners, the fact that City had managed to get the better of big-spenders Chelsea in their pursuit of the player was also telling, as it showcased their newfound financial muscle.
Having previously looked set to make the switch to Stamford Bridge, a frantic deadline day saw the former Santos man instead arrive at the City of Manchester Stadium, with the club’s former target Dimitar Berbatov opting instead to join rivals United in a stunning climax to the summer window.
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 1, 2017
The forward initially started brightly in his new surroundings, notably netting a hat-trick in a win over Stoke City in October, before ending the season with 14 Premier League goals to his name, albeit with Mark Hughes’ side finishing a disappointing tenth in the table.
After a promising debut campaign, Robinho suffered a noticeable drop off the following season, failing to score a goal in his ten league appearances. He was ushered out on loan to former club Santos in January 2010, before a permanent move to AC Milan.
Mateo Kovacic – £40.5m to Chelsea
One of the more successful signings on this list, Mateo Kovacic has developed into a key figure at Stamford Bridge in recent years, having joined Chelsea on an initial loan deal in 2018.
The hugely talented midfielder had failed to nail down a regular starting berth in Spain, but featured heavily in west London, making 51 appearances in all competitions in his debut season with Chelsea and ending the campaign with a Europa League winners’ medal.
Despite a change in manager – with Frank Lampard replacing Maurizio Sarri – and the presence of a transfer ban, the Blues were able to sign the Croatian on a permanent basis in the summer of 2019, having agreed an option to buy in the original deal that had seen Thibaut Courtois head in the opposite direction.
Since then, he has gone from strength to strength in English football, remaining a key player under Lampard and his successor Thomas Tuchel, helping the club to Champions League glory last season under the German coach.
While N’Golo Kante and Jorginho had been the preferred midfield pairing for much of last season, the 27-year-old has been a regular starter this season, making his mark with five assists and one goal from his nine Premier League appearances so far this term.
Mesut Ozil – £42.5m to Arsenal
Mesut Ozil’s acrimonious end to his Arsenal career makes it easy to forget the excitement that greeted his initial arrival, the German having been a real statement signing for the Gunners in September 2013, following his superb performances in Spain.
After joining the Spanish side in 2010 after impressing at that summer’s World Cup, the playmaker went on to register the most La Liga assists in each of the next three seasons and forge an impressive partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo, albeit with his form perhaps unappreciated by the powers that be in Madrid.
Having made the switch to the Emirates on deadline day, he made an instant impact in north London, ending his first season with 13 assists and seven goals across all competitions, while also helping the club end its nine-year trophy drought by winning the FA Cup.
While a largely promising debut season, the former Werder Bremen man had shown signs of the inconsistency that would at times plague his Gunners career, while also coming in for criticism for his work ethic.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 11, 2021
At times infuriating, the World Cup winner would produce moments of magic during his time at the club, notably his stunning solo effort in the win over Ludogorest in the Champions League in 2016, having finished the previous season with 19 Premier League assists – just one shy of Thierry Henry’s record.
There would, however, be a noticeable dip in both his performances and his involvement in his final few seasons at the club – after he had signed a new £350,000-a-week deal in 2018 – eventually culminating in his exclusion from Mikel Arteta’s squad during the 2020/21 campaign, before the 33-year-old departed for Fenerbahce in January.
Alvaro Morata – £58m to Chelsea
Alvaro Morata has one of the most impressive CV’s in the game having spent the entirety of his career at the top level with some of Europe’s elite clubs, although one spell he perhaps won’t look back too favourably on is his time at Chelsea.
After netting 15 league goals in just 26 appearances in a solitary season back at Madrid – having previously risen through the club’s youth ranks before moving to Juventus – the Spaniard made the switch to Stamford Bridge for a sizeable fee in 2017, linking up with the then Premier League champions.
Tasked with filling the shoes of the departed Diego Costa, Morata scored just 11 league goals in his debut campaign, as the Blues eventually went on to end the season fifth, leading to manager Antonio Conte’s departure despite an FA Cup win.
The striker had been resigned to the bench for the Wembley triumph over Manchester United, making just a brief cameo in the closing stages, with the arrival of Olivier Giroud in January 2018 seeing his involvement limited.
He scored just five league goals in the first-half of the following season, before securing an 18-month loan switch to Atletico Madrid in January 2019.
The 29-year-old made a return to Turin in 2020 and is still on loan at the Italian club, while he also recently helped fire Spain to the Qatar World Cup with a pivotal winner against Sweden.
Angel Di Maria – £59.7m to Manchester United
The most expensive Real Madrid export to the Premier League, Angel Di Maria’s time at Manchester United was both fleeting and frustrating, the Argentine showing just glimpses of his quality in his solitary season at Old Trafford.
Much like former teammate Ozil, the attacking midfielder was surprisingly let go by the La Liga side in the summer of 2014, despite having been named man of the match in the Champions League final victory over rivals Atletico just months earlier.
As he has made evidently clear in recent years, the former Benfica man was perhaps far from delighted at having to make the move to Manchester, while he’s also spoken of his lack of interest at being handed the club’s iconic number seven shirt, only serving to further sour his relationship with United supporters.
Di Maria initially started brightly in his new surroundings, netting a stunning dinked effort in the 5-3 defeat to Leicester City, although his form quickly deteriorated as the season progressed and he finished the campaign with just three league goals to his name.
Perhaps at odds with the pragmatic style of manager Louis van Gaal, he never truly looked settled in a United shirt and failed to secure a regular starting berth, with some confusion as to whether he was better suited to a midfield role or a more advanced, attacking position.
He would eventually depart at the end of the season in a £44m deal to Paris Saint-Germain and the 33-year-old remains a key player for the Ligue 1 outfit.