Jovic and the 10 worst Real Madrid transfers of all time

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald 8 Jul 2022 20:56 BST 7 min read
Luka Jovic, Real Madrid, 2021/22

Real Madrid are a club with a huge reputation in the transfer market for signing 'Galacticos'.

Madrid have signed some of the greatest players of all time - and have done so for history-making prices. They have broken the world-record transfer fee on several occasions, although now struggle to complete with oil-backed clubs such as Manchester City and PSG in this regard.

Big money has been spent on the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard.

Over the last 25 years, they have made their name from a succession of Hollywood signings, who have each brought their own unique drama to the Santiago Bernabeu - often for good, but sometimes for ill.

But this reputation for exorbitant spending has brought some flop signings to the Santiago Bernabeu too.

Nicolas Anelka – €35m from Arsenal, 1999

Nicolas Anelka was Arsenal’s top goalscorer in the 1998/99 season and was voted PFA Player of the Year. But he was unable to replicate his form thereafter in the next campaign, with fans of the club subsequently turning on him for his perceived lack of lack of enthusiasm, which earned him the nickname ‘Le Sulk’.

In the summer of 1999 he would sign for Real Madrid for just over €35m, but it would take him five months to score his first goal for the club, with his first La Liga goal not coming until February.

Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka

A falling out with head coach Vicente del Bosque soon came, and even though he would perform well in the latter stages of the Champions League, scoring in both legs of the semi against Bayern Munich and eventually gaining a winner’s medal, he returned to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2000.

Elvir Baljic – €26m from Fenerbahce, 1999

Real Madrid’s spending spree in the summer of 1999 including splurging €26m on 25-year-old Elvir Baljic from Fenerbahce.

After impressing in Turkey, things went pear-shaped for the Bosnian pretty much immediately after moving to Madrid as he suffered a double cruciate ligament injury before the season even started, putting him out for an extended period of time.

By the time he returned, he was unable to find the form he enjoyed with Fenerbahce, and when John Toshack – the man who brought him to Madrid – was sacked, he fell even more out of favour under replacement Del Bosque.

After a couple of loan deals to Fenerbahce and Rayo Vallecano, Madrid terminated his contract in 2002.

Mariano Diaz – €23m from Lyon, 2018

The signing of Mariano Diaz is one of the strangest in the long history of Madrid’s costly transfer mistakes.

An academy graduate, Mariano shone for Castilla before making the step up to the first team in 2016. But after quickly realising he wasn’t up to the standards of the 13-time European Cup winners, the club sold him to Lyon in the summer of 2017.

Then after a successful year, Mariano found himself back in Madrid for €23m, which has so far been repaid with a dismal goal return. He is currently well down the pecking order.

Royston Drenthe – €14m from Feyenoord, 2007

A big-money addition from Feyenoord, Royston Drenthe signed for Real Madrid along with compatriot Wesley Sneijder. Within three years, one of these men had lifted the Champions League and held a very strong claim to win the Ballon d’Or.

That man was not Drenthe.

Instead, he embarked on a stormy five-year relationship with the Spanish club, during which he had a tumultuous relationship with head coach Bernd Schuster.

After loan spells are Hercules and Everton, he departed with a record of 65 games and four goals in all competitions. It is remarkable, though, that such a workmanlike player survived so long at such an illustrious club.

Julien Faubert – On loan from West Ham, 2009

One of the most bizarre transfers in recent Real Madrid history is that of Julian Faubert on loan from West Ham.

The Frenchman’s move was a surprise because there was apparently no-one who believed he was of that standard.

When he moved to Spain, it became apparent why. In his short burst at the club, he managed only a couple of league matches. He was not helped by failing to turn up to training on one occasion because he thought he had the day off.

Eden Hazard – €100 million from Real Madrid, 2019

Eden Hazard’s transfer to Madrid had long been a case of when, not if, he would go, but as it’s turned out the ‘when’ was much more critical than it seemed.

Coming off his most impressive individual season at Chelsea, the then-28-year-old was granted his dream move to Los Blancos as a sure-fire galactico.

However, arriving overweight for pre-season laid down a marker for a troubled first two seasons. A talisman who often carried his team to success is now being brought along for the ride, with injuries and poor discipline to blame.

Since arriving at Real Madrid, the once unplayable Belgian has had more injuries than goal contributions. Madrid are now desperate to get rid of him after a third successive poor season.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – €27m from Ajax, 2008

The winter transfer market can be a bit of a minefield and Real Madrid found this out when they signed Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from Ajax in January of 2008.

The Dutchman was enjoying a developing reputation as a talented poacher in his time at Ajax and actually performed okay at Real Madrid, scoring eight goals in 20 appearances.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Though he never really had the opportunity to impress, Real Madrid jumped at the chance to cut their losses as after just a half-season in the Spanish capital, he was moved on to Milan in August of 2009.

Luka Jovic – €60m from Eintracht Frankfurt, 2019

One of the most in-demand strikers in Europe at the time, Luka Jovic was brought in as the long-term replacement to Madrid legend Karim Benzema – for €60m.

The Serbian had posted an almost one-in-two goal record for Eintracht Frankfurt at just 21, so was undoubtedly deserving of the hype attributed to his name.

Likened to his idol Radamel Falcao, Jovic proved to be an absolute sporting and economic disaster at Madrid. He scored just three goals in three seasons for the club and was even loaned back to Frankfurt for the second half of the 2020-21 campaign.

In the summer of 2022, Madrid not only let him leave on a free transfer to Fiorentina, they agreed to pay half of his wages for the following two seasons. They will retain a 50 per cent sell-on clause if Fiorentina decide to sell after those two seasons.

Walter Samuel – €25m from Roma, 2004

Strangely, either side of Walter Samuel’s one unsuccessful season at Real Madrid he could be counted among the most dominant centre-backs in the world.

With Roma and Inter he enjoyed great success, including winning the treble with the latter in 2009/10.

There is no doubt that Samuel flopped at Real Madrid and was unable to translate his defensive abilities to Spain from Italy.

It may simply just be the case that Italian football suited him a lot better, but Real Marid had to pay a lot of money to find that out.

Jonathan Woodgate – €18m from Newcastle, 2004

Woodgate moved to Real Madrid with a reputation of being injury prone. It was one he lived up to as he failed to make a single appearance in his first 14 months at the club.

Jonathan Woodgate

Jonathan Woodgate

When he did finally play, he produced a debut that has gone down in footballing infamy as one of the worst in history. Not only did he score a spectacular diving header own goal against Athletic, he was later sent off.

Things did not get much better. His European debut was a 4-1 defeat by Rosenborg, albeit he scored, and only 11 months after making his debut he was back home in England playing for Middlesbrough.

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