World-class players in football can be broadly categorized into two. The first are the ones who enjoy stardom and back it up with on-field performances. The second ones are the quiet and hard-working type, rated highly by managers and compatriots, but do not enjoy a massive fanbase. At Real Madrid, where the biggest football stars on earth are seemingly omnipresent, many players who are low on stature fly under the radar. In this article, we will look at five under-appreciated Real Madrid players.
Redondo’s career was the classical case of “what if?” as his injury struggles often dominated the headlines over his performances. Redondo joined Real Madrid in 1994 and was one of their best players during Champions League victories in 1998 and 2000. Redondo was one of the earliest deep-lying playmakers, capable of splitting the defense with a single pass.
Redondo possessed a magical skillset and his flamboyance earned him the nickname of “El Principe”. Despite all the talent, his injury struggles kept getting worse throughout his career. It is perhaps one of the reasons why a whole generation of fans seemed to have forgotten his contribution to the game.
Santillana deserves a mention among under-appreciated Real Madrid players, primarily due to his goal-scoring record. Santillana has 289 goals for Real Madrid and is placed fourth on the list of most goals for Real Madrid. He served the club for 17 years, starting from 1971.
Santillana was a vital component of the Real Madrid team that won hat-trick La Liga titles from 1978 to 1980. He also won four Copa del Rey titles and two UEFA Cup titles with Real Madrid. Despite all his achievements, Santillana’s name is barely mentioned among Real Madrid legends due to his quiet nature.
#3 Michel Salgado
From 1999, until the emergence of Sergio Ramos, Salgado was Real Madrid’s first-choice right back. Salgado joined Real Madrid after four impressive seasons with Celta Vigo. Salgado was a starter in the team that won the Champions League in 2000.
Salgado was renowned for his very aggressive attitude on the pitch and even during training. Salgado’s dirty work in defense was often forgotten, despite his impact on many big games.
#2 Claude Makelele
Makelele’s contribution to the Real Madrid team was not recognized by the hierarchy or the fans until he left them in 2003. After joining Chelsea, Makelele revolutionized the role of a defensive midfielder. His impact was such that the name “Makelele role” is still used often in football training grounds.
Makelele made 140 appearances for Real Madrid and was the defensive bedrock of the team. He often had to carry the workload of two players, as Madrid’s galacticos were not too eager to defend and cover spaces.
Guti’s name holds a special place among under-appreciated Real Madrid players due to various reasons. He was a Real Madrid youth product, and his early days at the Bernabeu indicated the making of a rare genius. Guti possessed a gifted passing range and a first touch that can rival that of Bergkamp.
He was also an unselfish player who sacrificed his best position to Real Madrid’s bigger stars. The arrival of Figo and Zidane meant that Guti had to play as a defensive midfielder to be an automatic pick. Hence, he spent the last few years of his Real Madrid career by adapting to a deeper role, which impacted his goals and assists tally.