Real Madrid – to the annoyance of several Premier League clubs in recent years – remain arguably the pinnacle for the world’s finest footballing talents, the mystique and allure surrounding Los Blancos difficult for any player to turn down.
The record-winners of the Champions League, Real are also amongst the most financially powerful clubs in world football and regularly seek only the biggest and best arrivals at the Bernabeu – evidenced by their Galactico policy since the turn of the millennium.
That said, for every Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo there have been some questionable dealings, none more so than the five men featuring on this list of bizarre buys.
Here are five of Real Madrid’s most bizarre signings ever:
Elvir Baljic – 1999
Real Madrid have played host to some of the finest forwards the game has seen throughout their illustrious history, the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and both versions of Ronaldo having adorned the famous all-white colours.
Elvir Baljic, however, is not a player many will remember with too much fondness from his time in the Spanish capital – if indeed at all.
John Toshack, during the second of his two spells in charge at the Bernabeu, had been impressed by the Bosnian’s talents during their respective times in Turkish football, persuading the Real hierarchy to splash the cash to bring the forward to Madrid.
The forward proved to be a huge disappointment, however, struggling after suffering a serious knee injury early into his Real career and scoring just once in 11 league appearances over a three-year spell that included loans at former club Fenerbahce and Rayo Vallecano.
Jonathan Woodgate – 2004
Jonathan Woodgate was a fine defender when fit, it just so happened that fitness was where he struggled.
Even given his talents, however, it still came as a huge surprise when Real Madrid decided to spend £13.4m to sign the centre-back from Newcastle in 2004, as the club desperately sought to bolster their defensive options.
Stellar names Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham had arrived in consecutive summers prior to Woodgate’s arrival, whilst the move looked even stranger given the defender’s injured status upon his signing.
The centre-back failed to make a single appearance during his debut campaign and when he eventually returned to fitness, endured one of the most memorable debuts in the club’s history – for all of the wrong reasons.
Woodgate scored an own goal and was later sent off against Athletic Bilbao, his Madrid career failing to take off as he made just 13 further appearances in all competitions before signing for Middlesbrough.
Thomas Gravesen – 2005
Gravesen was a popular figure during a five-year spell in the Premier League with Everton, the Danish international a combative figure at the heart of the Merseyside club’s midfield.
The bald battler had many admirers amongst the Goodison faithful, but even they must have been scratching their head when the world’s biggest football club came calling in 2005, Real seeking some midfield bite amongst their collection of stars.
The tough-tackling Gravesen made 34 league appearances over 18 months in the Spanish capital but his aggressive style saw him fall out-of-favour with manager Fabio Capello, the midfielder sold to Celtic just days after a training ground bust-up with Brazilian forward Robinho following some robust challenges.
Royston Drenthe – 2007
Dutch football has long produced some top talents and Real Madrid seemed keen to capitalise just over a decade ago, signing a contingent of the nations finest footballers including Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart and er… Royston Drenthe?
Now hindsight is a wonderful thing and it is easy to look back on Drenthe’s spell at Real Madrid as a crazy anomaly of a nomadic career, but the winger was once a promising talent at Feyenoord.
That said, Real’s recruitment staff should perhaps have done greater homework on the player’s character, Drenthe failing to handle the adjustment to life at the club, and struggling to recover after being booed by the ever demanding home crowd during a clash against Deportivo La Coruna.
The Bernabeu is a renowned pressure-cooker environment and Drenthe failed to live up to expectations, his career nose-diving after spells at several clubs including Everton, Reading and Sparta Rotterdam before his retirement to focus on a rap career aged just 29.
Julian Faubert – 2009
Even in a list of bizarre buys, Faubert’s move to Real Madrid is one that truly stands out.
The French winger had made little impression during two seasons spent at West Ham, hardly the previous to warrant a move to the reigning Spanish champions.
Unsurprisingly, the loan deal brought little success for either club or player, Faubert missing a training session after he mistakenly thought he had the day off, in addition to appearing to fall asleep whilst on the substitutes bench for a game against Villarreal.
Faubert’s Real Madrid career totalled just two substitute appearances and 54 minutes of action, a strange chapter in the history of the 13-time European champions.
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