Real Madrid is the world’s richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of €513 million, and is the most valuable sports team, worth €3.3 billion. Founded in 1902 as Madrid Football Club, it is one of the three clubs to have never been relegated from the Spanish top flight football, La Liga, along with Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. Real Madrid hold many long-standing and highly anticipated rivalries, most notably El Clasico with FC Barcelona and El Derbi madrileno with Atletico Madrid. The club has played its home games in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, boasting an 85,454-crowd capacity, since 1947.
Nicknamed “Los Blancos”, Real Madrid established itself as a major force in both Spanish and European football during the 1950s. It is the club which has won the highest number of trophies in European football, with 64 trophies, the most notable of those being 32 La Liga titles, 9 UEFA Champions League titles, 2 UEFA Cups, 3 Intercontinental Cups and 18 Copas del Rey.
Real Madrid’s rise in European football in the last two decades has been, to some extent, due to the club’s strategy to bring in the best football players around the world. After Florentino Perez was elected the club president in July 2000, he vowed in his campaign to erase the club’s €270 million debt and buy the best players around. Real Madrid was widely popular by the name of Los Galácticos in between 2000 and 2006; the team during that time boasted players like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, David Beckham and many more. Five players in the list of the current ten most expensive soccer contracts of all time come from Real Madrid’s transfer business. Without further ado, here are the 1o most expensive player signings in the club’s history.
10. Fábio Coentrão – €30 million ($41.23 million)
After extensive negotiations, Benfica and Real Madrid reached an agreement on July 5, 2011 over the transfer of Fábio Coentrão. The wing-back/defensive midfielder signed a six-year contract the same day for €30 million. Coentrão made his debut in a pre-season friendly against Los Angeles Galaxy creating an assist for Karim Benzema to receive the “Man of the Match” honors. The 25-year-old was named the “Portuguese League Breakthrough Player of the Year” in 2009/10 season, the “Benfica Breakthrough Player of the Year” in 2009 and the “Benfica Player of the Year” in 2011. During his two seasons stint at the Portuguese club, Coentrão made 97 appearances, scoring 8 goals and contributing 13 assists.
9. Karim Benzema – €35 million ($48.1 million)
Lyon and Real Madrid reached an agreement for the transfer of French international striker Karim Benzema on July 1, 2009. The transfer fee was priced at €35 million, with many other sources indicating the fee rising to as much as €41 million based on incentives. Benzema primarily plays as a striker, and is well-renowned for his technical ability, high goal-scoring rate and powerful style of play. His five-season spell at Lyon saw him score 66 goals and contribute 18 assists in 148 appearances. The 26-year-old was the “Ligue 1 Top Goalscorer” in the 2007/08 season, and received the coveted “French Player of the Year” award twice in 2011 and 2012.
8. Xabi Alonso – €35.4 million ($48.65 million)
Liverpool signed Xabi Alonso, the “2003 Spanish Player of the Year”, from Real Sociedad in August 2004 for £10.5 million. Alonso won the Champions League title in his debut season at the club, scoring the equalizing goal in the final. The 32-year-old spent 5 seasons at the club, making 210 appearances, scoring 19 goals. Although Alonso never wanted to leave the Anfield side, with his contract existing until at least 2012, due to the differences with Benitez, the Spanish midfielder made a move to Real Madrid on August 5, 2009. The deal was worth £30 million (€35.4 million as reported by the Spanish newspapers). Alonso was named the “La Liga Best Midfielder” in 2012. Now, he has a contract with the Los Blancos, keeping him at the club until 2016.
7. Luka Modrić ~ €40 million (~$55 million)
Luka Modrić plays as a central midfielder, attacking midfielder or winger for Real Madrid and the Croatia national football team. He played for Dinamo Zagreb from 2004/05 to 2007/08, scoring 33 goals and creating 29 in 128 appearances. After joining Tottenham on April 2008, Modric spent four seasons at the club, with 17 goals and 26 assists in 159 appearances. On August 27, 2012, Real Madrid announced that they had agreed to a deal with Tottenham for a fee in the region of €40 million (£33 million as reported in the UK newspapers) for Modrić on a five-year contract. Two days later, he made his debut for the club against Barcelona in the second-leg final of the 2012 Copa Del Rey. Madrid eventually won the game, giving the 28-year-old Croatian his first trophy with the club just 36 hours after his signing was announced.
6. Ronaldo de Lima – €46 million ($63.22 million)
One of the greatest footballers of all time to have graced the game, Ronaldo de Lima joined Real Madrid from Internazionale in 2002 for a fee of €46 million. Ronaldo’s five-season stint with the Nerazzurri saw him score 59 goals in 99 competitive matches. Having signed with the Spanish giants, his jersey sales broke all records on the first day, such was the obsession and hype surrounding him. The 37-year-old was sidelined by injury for a few months, but scored twice in his Real Madrid debut, receiving a standing ovation from the fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
In the second leg of Real Madrid’s 2003/04 Champions League quarter-final, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Manchester United, knocking the English giants out of the tournament. Ronaldo was substitued in the 80th minute, and received a long standing ovation from both sets of fans at Old Trafford. With the introduction of Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006, injuries and weight issues, Ronaldo grew more and more out of favor with the then Real manager Fabio Capello. He then moved to AC Milan on January 18, 2007. In April 2013, Ronaldo was included in Marca’s list of “Best Foreign Eleven in Real Madrid’s History”.
5. Luís Figo – €60 million ($82.46 million)
Perhaps the most controversial transfer, and again one more record-breaker transfer by Real Madrid, Luis Figo made a surprising €60 million move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000. The transfer news made many Barcelona fans feel betrayed, and they turned against the Portuguese winger, despite Figo having many years of success with the Catalan giants and having been a fan favorite for over five years. When he returned three seasons later for El Classico, he got an angry reception from the Barcelona fans, and when he took corners and throw-ins, many started throwing objects at him, including a pig’s head. Luis Figo spent five seasons at Real Madrid, making 239 appearances and scoring 57 goals. He won the “FIFA World Player of the Year” award in 2001. In April 2013, Figo was included in Marca’s list of “Best Foreign Eleven in Real Madrid’s History”.
4. Kaká – €65 million ($89.34 million)
In 2003, Kaká joined Milan for a fee of €8.5 million. While at Milan, Kaká won the “Ballon d’Or” and “FIFA World Player of the Year” awards in 2007. His six seasons stint at the San Siro saw him score 95 goals and contribute 46 assists in 270 appearances. After his success with Milan, Kaká joined Real Madrid for a transfer fee of €65 million on June 8, 2009 on a six-year deal. At that time, this was the second highest transfer fee ever, behind only the €75 million fee for Zinedine Zidane. Due to injuries, Kaká couldn’t be as successful with Real Madrid as he was with Milan. He spent four seasons at the club, making 120 appearances, scoring 29 goals and creating 32, before heading back to Milan again on September 2, 2013.
3. Zinedine Zidane – €75 million ($103.08 million)
In 2001, Zinedine Zidane moved from Juventus to Real Madrid for a then world record fee of €75 million (150 billion Italian lire), signing a four-year contract. His debut season saw him score a famous match-winning goal, a volley hit with his weaker foot, in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final. Zidane helped the Spanish giants win the UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 2002 and the La Liga title in 2002/03. The 41-year-old won his third “FIFA World Player of the Year” award in 2003, having won it already in 1998 and 2000. In 2009, Zidane was named the “Player of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated magazine. In April 2013, the French football legend was included in Marca’s list of “Best Foreign Eleven in Real Madrid’s History”.
2. Gareth Bale – €91 million ($125.07 million)
Whether Gareth Bale is the most expensive footballer of all time is still a debate, because he joined Real Madrid from Tottenham for an undisclosed fee on September 1, 2013. The Spanish press and Real Madrid TV reported the deal to be worth €91 million, while the English press reported a world record transfer fee of €100 million. Bale played for Tottenham Hotspur from 2007/08 to 2012/13, scoring 55 goals in 203 appearances for the club. His career at the North London club was highlighted by two world-class matches against Inter in 2010/11, in which he provided three assists in the first match and scored a hat-trick in the second. He was named the “Premier League PFA Player of the Year” in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13. Currently the 24-year-old is also the second highest-paid player in world football, with Real Madrid paying the Welsh winger $25.7 million per year.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – €94 million ($129.19 million)
Cristiano Ronaldo is the most expensive and highest-paid player in world football. On June 26, 2009, Real Madrid confirmed that Ronaldo would join the club from Manchester United for €94 million (£80 million). Ronaldo had spent six seasons at Old Trafford, scoring 118 goals in 292 appearances. He was named the “Premier League PFA Player of the Year” in each season from 2005/06 to 2008/09. The 29-year-old also won the “Ballon d’Or” and “FIFA World Player of the Year” awards in 2008. After moving to Madrid, Ronaldo helped the club win the La Liga title in 2011/12 season. His goal-scoring rate skyrocketed after joining the club; he scored 33 goals in 35 appearances in the 2009/10 season, 53 in 54 appearances in 2010/11, 60 in 55 appearances in 2011/12 and 55 in 55 appearances in 2012/13. Ronaldo’s most notable individual honors with Real Madrid include winning the “FIFA World Player of the Year” award in 2013, finishing ahead of arch-rival Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery.