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Ranking the best Englishmen to play in La Liga

Jude Bellingham has made a stunning start to his career in La Liga, with the midfielder having scored five goals in four appearances for Real Madrid.

Bellingham has become just the 22nd Englishman to play in Spain’s top division and has wasted no time in announcing his arrival in La Liga, justifying the hype that surrounded his £88.5m arrival at the Bernabeu from Borussia Dortmund.

“From the first moment, [the whole squad] looked at each other and saw that he knew what he was doing,” teammate Dani Carvajal recently said on Universo Valdano (via Marca).

“He is a very complete player. He moves to both sides, he can finish, he uses both legs. You give him the ball and he is able to understand you with a glance with his teammates. This is very important.

“I wasn’t here when Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos first came to the club, but since I’ve been here, I’ve never seen such an adaptation.”


Bellingham has hit the ground running in Spanish football and will hope to eclipse the achievements of these five names. We’ve ranked the five best Englishmen to play in La Liga.

Ranking the best Englishmen to play in La Liga:

5. Laurie Cunningham – Real Madrid and Sporting de Gijón

Laurie Cunningham made history after becoming the first British player to represent Real Madrid, having signed for the Spanish giants from West Bromwich Albion for a fee of £950,000 in 1979.

Cunningham spent five seasons with Los Blancos and helped the club to a La Liga and Spanish Cup double during an impressive debut campaign at the Bernabeu, before lifting a second Copa del Rey in 1981/82.

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The winger scored 12 goals in all competitions during that double-winning campaign, but injuries impacted his contribution over the following seasons.

He scored 20 goals in 66 appearances for Real Madrid before a loan move to Manchester United, while he also had a loan spell at Spanish rivals Sporting de Gijón before leaving the Bernabeu on a permanent basis to join Marseille in 1984.

4. Kieran Trippier – Atletico Madrid

Kieran Trippier made a surprise switch to Atletico Madrid after leaving Tottenham in 2019 and became a popular figure across three seasons in the Spanish capital.

The right-back made 86 appearances in all competitions and formed part of the team that won La Liga during the 2020/21 campaign, beating Real Madrid to the title with the best defensive record in the division.

“It was a great experience. I am happy I did it. I was happy to win La Liga, I made good memories there,” Trippier said after leaving Atletico.

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“Unbelievable club, great experience, nice people out there. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I am a much better player than when I left Tottenham. Diego Simeone is a very good manager. He helped me defensively. I have matured a lot since I arrived there and I played with good players. He was a joy to play for and a privilege.

“We won La Liga. It is difficult with Real Madrid and Barcelona and you have good teams like Seville. We started well and it took off. The last three games it got tight and we won it on the last day of the season.”

3. David Beckham – Real Madrid

David Beckham became Real Madrid’s latest Galactico signing after joining the club from Manchester United in 2003.

After the signings of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo across the previous three summers, Real Madrid spent £25m to sign the England captain.

Beckham had won six Premier League titles and the Champions League since progressing from the academy set-up at Old Trafford, before joining a star-studded team in the Spanish capital.

Honours proved elusive despite the depth of talent at Real Madrid’s disposal, but Beckham played a prominent role as the Spaniards were crowned La Liga champions in his final season. The Galactico project never achieved the success most had expected when the big name signings arrived in the door, but Beckham’s ego-less endeavour ensured he was well appreciated by the Bernabeu crowd.

Remembering David Beckham’s best free-kicks for Real Madrid

2. Gary Lineker – Barcelona

Gary Lineker’s goalscoring gifts saw Spanish teams take interest, with Barcelona signing the striker in a £2.8m deal in 1986.

Lineker had scored 40 goals in all competitions the previous season at Everton, before top-scoring during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico with six goals.

He spent three seasons at Barcelona and continued to score goals at an impressive rate, recording 42 goals in 103 appearances in La Liga, including an El Clásico hat-trick against Real Madrid.

He won the Copa del Rey and European Cup Winners’ Cup during his time at the Camp Nou, the first major silverware in his career.

Lineker returned to England after a change in system saw him moved to a wide role in Barcelona, with the forward signing for Tottenham in 1989. He scored 24 league goals for the north Londoners during his debut season to win the top-flight’s Golden Boot for a third time.

1. Steve McManaman – Real Madrid

Steve McManaman signed for Real Madrid from Liverpool on a free transfer in 1999, having decided to leave the Premier League for a new challenge in Spain.

McManaman’s high-profile Bosman move to the Bernabeu proved inspired business for Real Madrid, as the midfielder adapted instantly to the demands of a new league and culture.

He scored a stunning scissor-kick goal in the club’s Champions League final win over Valencia during his debut season, earning the man-of-the-match award in the process. McManaman won eight trophies in four years at Real Madrid, including two La Liga titles and a second Champions League crown, to become one of British football’s best exports.

He became the first Englishman to win the Champions League with a non-English club and was a popular figure during his time at Real Madrid, where he featured alongside the superstars of the Galactio era including Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul and Ronaldo.

Read – Midfield Magicians: The floppy-haired Scouse schemer, Steve McManaman

Read Also – 90s Hitmen: Raul – Real Madrid and Champions League royalty

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