Real Madrid is arguably the most famous club in the world and has a large number of ex-players spread across the football world.
While some are known like Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, others have taken off the beaten track – whether in obscure leagues or just in the minor leagues of Spanish football.
We have selected six former Madrid stars who are hard to believe will still play professionally in 2021.
Negredo made it through to local club Rayo Vallecano before moving to the city in 2005 to join Real Madrid Castilla.
He stayed there for two years and impressed enough in the B team to be called up to the senior team by then coach Fabio Capello for a few Copa del Rey games.
However, Negredo never got by and moved to Almeria in 2007, where he began a long and relatively successful career. The highlight was undoubtedly Seville, where he won the Copa del Rey and scored regularly enough to convince Manchester City that he was worth an initial £ 16.4million fee.
He scored 23 goals in his only season with Etihad, winning the Premier League and the League Cup. Since then he has played in Spain, for Middlesbrough in the last Premier League season, in the United Arab Emirates and in Turkey.
The now 36-year-old helped keep Cadiz in La Liga last season and remains an integral part of their team.
Soldado won La Liga with Madrid early on in his career, scoring dozens of La Liga goals for Getafe and Valencia. After his stints at Valencia, Fenerbahce and Granada, the 36-year-old is still playing with Levante in the Spanish top class. All in all, a strong professional career.
In England, however, Soldado will always be remembered as one of the not-so-great seven Tottenham signed to place Gareth Bale …
READ: Where are you now? Tottenham’s seven substitutes for Gareth Bale
It’s easy to forget that Leon ever played for Madrid, but think back to 2010.
Leon was brilliant for Getafe, scoring eight goals and assisting nine in La Liga when Getafe qualified for the Europa League. Madrid was convinced. It was worth a boat.
You spent 10 million euros on his signature and then … well, he didn’t really do much.
His confidence probably wasn’t boosted by becoming one of Jose Mourinho’s sacrificial lambs, who was slaughtered very publicly for an argument. We’re not exactly sure why, but let’s go.
After Mourinho dropped Leon over a Champions League match against Auxerre, he was asked by the Spanish press why and replied: “You speak of Pedro Leon as if it were him”. [Zinedine] Zidane, [Diego] Maradona or [Alfredo] Di Stefano. I don’t have to justify his absence. “
Unsurprisingly, Leon stayed at the Bernabeu for just one season, playing six league games before moving back to Getafe, first on loan, then for half the fee Madrid paid.
However, this bad experience did not deter him. After five years at Getafe, he spent five more at Eibar before signing for second division club Fuenlabrada in 2021.
Royston Drenthe was the hot new thing in European football after a brilliant U21 European Championship with the Netherlands in 2007 and was taken over by Madrid for a € 14 million deal.
However, he never lived up to his seemingly enormous potential and was eventually loaned out, first to Hercules and then to Everton, before finally moving to Alania on a perpetual contract that turned out to be not very permanent.
After six games in Russia, he signed with Reading and has been on the road ever since, playing for six other clubs in five countries and trying his hand at rapper and actor.
In 2021 he showed up at Racing Murcia in the Spanish Tercera division and told the Guardian: “I’m here because I still like football, you know? Football makes me happy, it clears my head. “
READ: Los Oranje: Recalls when Real Madrid went Dutch crazy in the late 00s
Another who made it through the ranks and played for the Castilla B team, Callejon moved away from Madrid and played two seasons with Espanyol before being brought back in 2011 with a € 5.5m deal.
His return to the Bernabeu was solid if unspectacular, winning La Liga in 2012 but mainly playing as a substitute and in smaller games.
After two seasons in the Spanish capital, the winger moved to Napoli and became a brilliant player in Maurizio Sarri’s rousing team.
A few Napoli managers later, Callejon moved to Fiorentina in October 2020, where he now plays and reached the top at the age of 34.
Like Callejon, Lopez rose through the ranks, left him and returned to Madrid. In January 2013 he returned after an injury to goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Little did we know then that Lopez’s return was the sign of a fascinatingly dramatic episode.
Lopez received the gloves while Casillas was out, but it was of course expected that Casillas would regain 1st place after his recovery.
That hadn’t happened at all. Instead, Mourinho high-praised Lopez’s achievements, told Casillas he had to stay on the bench and sparked a political incident out of the club this summer or they would.
The players prevailed but under new boss Carlo Ancelotti, Lopez remained the first choice in La Liga throughout the 2013-14 season. But at the end of this season Lopez moved to AC Milan and Casillas finally got back into the team.
After two seasons in Itlay, Lopez returned to his homeland and signed with Espanyol. He stays there, back in the top flight after helping Espanyol to rise last season.
More Real Madrid
Ranking of Real Madrid’s last 10 summer transfer windows from worst to best
Iconic debuts: Ronaldo’s brace to replace Real Madrid against Alaves
Can you name Real Madrid’s team from the 2014 Champions League final?
How Carlo Ancelotti ended Real Madrid’s twelve-year wait for La Decima