Real Madrid’s five worst signings from the Premier League

Eden Hazard’s torrid time at Real Madrid has come to an end with the winger understood to be considering retirement after release from his contract.

Hazard arrived at Real Madrid regarded as one of world football’s finest talents, but his dream move to the Spanish side turned into a nightmare as the Belgian struggled for form, fitness and favour.

Four seasons after his arrival, the big-money buy from Chelsea has had his contract cancelled early after a miserable period at the Bernabeu. Following Hazard’s exit, we remember five of Real Madrid’s worst signings from the Premier League.

Real Madrid’s five worst signings from the Premier League.

Jonathan Woodgate

Jonathan Woodgate was a fine footballer at his best.

A centre-back who formed part of David O’Leary’s exciting upstarts at Leeds, represented England and scored a winning goal in a cup final for Spurs. Yes, really.

Woodgate, however, has perhaps become most synonymous for his tough time at Real Madrid. The defender signed for the Spanish side from Newcastle in a £13.4m deal in 2004, but did not make a single appearance during his first season due to injury.

When he did return, things got little better.

An infamous debut saw Woodgate score an own goal and get sent off, with his own-goal gaffe fantastically impressive. The defender launched himself at Joseba Etxeberria’s off-target shot, only to divert it past the wrong-footed Iker Casillas with a diving header.

Woodgate made just 13 more appearances for Real Madrid before returning to the Premier League to sign for hometown club Middlesbrough.

Thomas Gravesen

Thomas Gravesen spent five seasons as a snarling presence patrolling the Everton midfield, before Real Madrid came calling in an extraordinary shock transfer.

The Spanish side signed Gravesen in a £2.5m deal and the Denmark midfielder spent 18 months with the club, though it’s fair to say it’s a move that still leaves many confused almost two decades later.

Gravesen appeared an odd fit at Real Madrid in the era of the Galacticos, with former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon admitting the arrival of the Dane was a deviation from the club’s usual recruitment.

“It is true we always try to sign big names and he was not a big name,” Calderon, a director at the time, told The Athletic.

“I don’t remember who it was that recommended him. The football director would be the one who recommended him. I don’t remember the record at the time or where he was playing at the time. No, it was Everton. We realised in the first matches he perhaps wasn’t the right player at that moment.”

Gravesen made 49 appearances but failed to become the Claude Makelele replacement he had been envisaged to be, while he memorably had a training ground scuffle with Robinho after an uncompromising challenge on the Brazilian.

Gravesen signed for Celtic in 2006, before a short loan at former side Everton. Post-retirement, he reportedly spent a period living a luxurious life in Las Vegas where he amassed a fortune of more than £100m from investments and success on the poker tables.

Julien Faubert

Another baffling piece of Real Madrid recruitment.

Julian Faubert had hardly pulled up trees during 18 months at West Ham, in fact, the Frenchman had flattered to deceive during an injury-hit period at Upton Park.

Real Madrid’s enquiry into his services came as such as a surprise that Faubert himself had deemed it a prank, turning his phone off after the initial contact before it became apparent that the interest from Spain was genuine.

The winger moved to Real Madrid on loan for the second half of the 2008/09 season, but made just two appearances. He made headlines for missing training after mistakenly believing he had a day off and was later accused of falling asleep on the bench against Villarreal.

Faubert later admitted to briefly closing his eyes as he was ‘bored’.

Michael Essien

Managers often have their favourites and Jose Mourinho’s fondness for Michael Essien was perhaps behind his loan move to Real Madrid in 2012.

Essien had been a powerhouse of a performer under Mourinho at Chelsea, but was a shadow of his former self by the time he arrived at the Bernabeu. The Ghana international struggled to make an impact on the pitch, lacking the box-to-box dynamism which had made him so important in the Premier League.

A bizarre introductory press conference saw Mourinho refer to Essien as ‘his son’ and the midfielder repeatedly call Mourinho ‘daddy’, while there was also the memorable attendance – or lack of – at Essien’s 30th birthday. The loanee had invited the entire Real Madrid squad to his celebrations, but only Ricardo Carvalho and Luka Modric attended.

He returned to Chelsea after 35 largely forgettable performances for the club.

Eden Hazard

The dream transfer that turned into a nightmare.

Eden Hazard had made no secret of his desire to one day represent Real Madrid and was given the chance to fulfil those ambitions after seven successful seasons at Chelsea.

Hazard had tormented Premier League defenders during a decorated spell in English football, one which saw the Belgium international win two league titles and score 110 goals in all competitions for the west Londoners.

Real Madrid spent an initial £88.5m to sign the winger, in a transfer that could rise to £150m. The return on that investment has been almost nothing, with Hazard having scored just four league goals in four seasons at the Bernabeu.

Injury problems have impacted Hazard’s time with the club and have reduced one of Europe’s most exciting talents to a pale imitation of his former self. Based on the initial fee alone, Hazard cost Real Madrid around £1.2m per appearance and a staggering £22m per La Liga goal.

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