How did Premier League stars fare in first Real Madrid year after Eden Hazard flop?

Marilyn Dubinski Chelsea FC

For a move that was a long time in the making, Eden Hazard‘s first season at Real Madrid has been little short of a disaster.

The Belgian sealed a transfer from Chelsea worth up to £150million in the summer yet has been dogged by poor form and injuries to feature in only 15 games – scoring just once.

It’s been a campaign to forget for a player who has gone from being one of the world’s best talents to almost a forgotten entity in just under a year.

He will be hoping for a vast improvement in the remainder of his five-year-deal at the Bernabeu, but how does he compare with fellow Premier League stars who opted to join the Spanish giants in their first seasons? 

Injuries and poor form have seen Eden Hazard struggle in his first full year at Real Madrid

Injuries and poor form have seen Eden Hazard struggle in his first full year at Real Madrid

Injuries and poor form have seen Eden Hazard struggle in his first full year at Real Madrid

Robert Jarni

(Coventry City, £3.4m, 1998)

This barely qualifies but for 10 days at least Robert Jarni was a Coventry City player… he just never played for them.

Legend has it they were simply a middle man (or team) in a deal where Real Betis refused to sell their Croatian World Cup star to Real Madrid directly.

So was it worth it? Not really. Jarni never had a chance to impress behind Roberto Carlos at the Bernabeu and despite his 27 La Liga appearances the left-back’s impact was so minimal he dropped down a division to Las Palmas a year later. 

A battered Robert Jarni playing for Croatia in the semi-final of the 1998 World Cup in France

A battered Robert Jarni playing for Croatia in the semi-final of the 1998 World Cup in France

A battered Robert Jarni playing for Croatia in the semi-final of the 1998 World Cup in France

Steve McManaman

(Liverpool, free, 1999)

‘If McManaman thinks he is coming to one of the world’s top clubs then he has made a big mistake.’

Real Madrid legend Raul didn’t exactly set the bar high for Steve McManaman prior to his arrival at the Bernabeu. His words were understandable though. Madrid were in turmoil in the summer of 1999 following unrest between players and a changing of managers.

McManaman was just the second English player to play for the club after Laurie Cuningham but had a slow start which saw him left out of the first team for much of October and November.

The winger slowly came into prominence though and ended the year with a Champions League winner’s medal having scored in a 3-0 win over Valencia in the final, helping restore Madrid as… well one of the world’s top clubs.

After a successful four years at the Bernabeu, in which he won LaLiga twice, he moved to Manchester City in 2003. 

Steve McManaman volleys home as Real Madrid defeat Valencia 3-0 in the 2000 Champions League final at the Stade de France

Steve McManaman volleys home as Real Madrid defeat Valencia 3-0 in the 2000 Champions League final at the Stade de France

Steve McManaman volleys home as Real Madrid defeat Valencia 3-0 in the 2000 Champions League final at the Stade de France

Nicolas Anelka

(Arsenal, £22.3m, 1999)

In a move a little more high-profile than McManaman’s switch, Madrid managed to prize away Arsenal’s prolific young marksman Anelka for a fee which by today’s standards was in the same ballpark as Hazard’s Bernabeu switch. 

Madrid had not done their homework though. Despite his goals nearly helping Arsenal retain the Premier League title he had picked up the nickname ‘Le Sulk’ due to his volatile attitude. 

Five months into his Real career he still had not scored in the league and although he netted in both legs of a Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich before going on to lift the trophy, he was offloaded to Paris Saint-Germain… long before they became a European force.

Nicolas Anelka's (right) flopped in his sole season with Real Madrid after arriving from Arsenal

Nicolas Anelka's (right) flopped in his sole season with Real Madrid after arriving from Arsenal

Nicolas Anelka’s (right) flopped in his sole season with Real Madrid after arriving from Arsenal

David Beckham

Manchester United, £25m, 2003)

For months it looked like Barcelona would be ending David Beckham’s stay at Manchester United following his bitter and very public fallout with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

But the lure of becoming the latest ‘Galactico’ after Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo was too much for the England captain and a high-profile tussle between the Spanish giants ended with Beckham penning his signature at the Bernabeu.

Although he started well enough he never quite hit top form in his first season under Carlos Queiroz.

Still by April Madrid were going strong in the Champions League and in La Liga before a run of seven defeats in their last eight games saw them spectacularly collapse and leave Beckham reflecting on an average first year. 

He went on to win LaLiga in 2007, however, and his work-rate, quality and embracing of Spanish culture mean he is still fondly remembered in Madrid. 

A late collapse left David Beckham looking at an average first season at Real Madrid

A late collapse left David Beckham looking at an average first season at Real Madrid

A late collapse left David Beckham looking at an average first season at Real Madrid

Michael Owen 

(Liverpool, £8m, 2004)

Maybe Madrid just needed more ‘Galacticos’ after their 2004 collapse and they soon pounced to sign an unsettled Michael Owen from Liverpool.

The problem was they hadn’t quite worked out how they could fit him in the team. Ronaldo and Raul were still considered top dogs and he never got an extended run in the side.

Considering he rarely completed 90 minutes he had a good return of 16 goals in 45 games, and netted in a 4-2 Clasico victory over Barcelona. Yet Real couldn’t find a spot for him and he was offloaded to Newcastle United after just one season.

Michael Owen celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Real Betis in the 2004-05 season

Michael Owen celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Real Betis in the 2004-05 season

Michael Owen celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Real Betis in the 2004-05 season

Jonathan Woodgate

(Newcastle United, £13.4m, 2004) 

As bad as Hazard’s first season has been, at least he never had a debut like Jonathan Woodgate.

Pressure was already on the injury-prone centre-back as he was seen as the ideal option to plug the defensive holes at the club following the failed pursuit of the more celebrated Alessandro Nesta.

He was injured when he signed… and was still injured a full year later meaning it took him 13 months to finally pull on a Madrid jersey. It wasn’t worth the wait. In his first match against Athletic Bilbao he scored an own goal and was then sent off.

Although his performances improved over the season Madrid fans had long lost patience with the defender whose otherwise promising career was being ruined by constant injuries. 

He was sold to Middlesbrough in 2007 after just a handful of games for Real. 

Jonathan Woodgate's arrival at the Bernabeu was greeted with widespread bemusement

Jonathan Woodgate's arrival at the Bernabeu was greeted with widespread bemusement

Jonathan Woodgate’s arrival at the Bernabeu was greeted with widespread bemusement

Thomas Gravesen 

(Everton, 2005, £2.45m)

With the ‘Galactico’ policy not quite working out, eyebrows were raised when Madrid poached Gravesen from an Everton side heading into the top four of the Premier League midway through the 2004-05 campaign.

In truth, tough-tackling no-nonsense midfielders didn’t quite come under the sell of a ‘Galactico’ but it was what Madrid needed given the over abundance of resources they had in attacking areas.

What they didn’t account for was just how madcap the Dane was. While he struggled on the pitch, he soon showed his potential off it at the end of his first full season by nearly tearing a terrified looking Robinho to pieces following a training ground incident in Austria. Unsurprisingly he was sold to Celtic soon after.

Thomas Gravesen's infamous training ground bust up with Robinho in Austria in 2006

Thomas Gravesen's infamous training ground bust up with Robinho in Austria in 2006

Thomas Gravesen’s infamous training ground bust up with Robinho in Austria in 2006

Jose Antonio Reyes

(Arsenal, loan, 2006)

Seven years on from Anelka, Madrid were back to Arsenal trying to pinch more attacking talent and wasted no time in trying to convince young forward Reyes he should return to Spain.

The unsettled forward, at Arsene Wenger’s reluctance, got his wish in a move that saw Julio Baptista head in the opposite direction.

The forward did little of note at the Bernabeu… until the last game of the season when he came off the bench to score twice and help Fabio Capello’s side claim the league title. Then he signed for crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid.

Jose Antonio Reyes in action for Real Madrid during his season on loan from Arsenal

Jose Antonio Reyes in action for Real Madrid during his season on loan from Arsenal

Jose Antonio Reyes in action for Real Madrid during his season on loan from Arsenal

Ruud van Nistelrooy

(Manchester United, £11m, 2006)

The anti-Hazard transfer? Van Nistelrooy was one of Europe’s best strikers having banged in 150 goals in 219 games for Manchester United. So for Real to pick him at just £11m was a real bargain.

So what was the catch? Well, the Dutchman had just hit the age of 30 and it was uncertain if his best days had already passed, having seen his importance slowly fade away at Old Trafford.

Yet he would go on to prove he still had much to give, scoring 33 times in all competitions as he went on to help Real lift the Spanish league title.

Ruud van Nistelrooy netted 33 times to help Real Madrid to the Spanish league title

Ruud van Nistelrooy netted 33 times to help Real Madrid to the Spanish league title

Ruud van Nistelrooy netted 33 times to help Real Madrid to the Spanish league title

Jerzy Dudek

(Liverpool, free, 2007)

Liverpool’s Champions League hero between the sticks in 2005 was too good to turn down on a free transfer a couple of years later.

Yet his move to the Bernabeu was simply to act as cover for Iker Casillas, who was in his prime.

Dudek was already 34 when he arrived and his appearances in his first season were limited to just four Spanish cup games and one LaLiga showing on the penultimate day of he season. 

Despite barely ever playing for Real during his four years there, he was given the guard of honour during his final appearance, in the 2011 Copa del Rey final. 

Jerzy Dudek gives a thumbs-up after moving from Liverpool to Real Madrid in 2007

Jerzy Dudek gives a thumbs-up after moving from Liverpool to Real Madrid in 2007

Jerzy Dudek gives a thumbs-up after moving from Liverpool to Real Madrid in 2007

Gabriel Heinze

(Manchester United, £8m, 2007)

Liverpool and Real Madrid were keen on signing the talented, yet unsettled full-back at Manchester United and with those two options Sir Alex Ferguson was only ever going to sanction one of them.

So to the Bernabeu it was for the Argentina international, who was seen as replacement for Roberto Carlos even if he could not quite hit a free-kick as well.

Despite helping the club retain the Spanish title, he struggled to impose himself in a mixed campaign where he featured 20 times. He was shipped off to Marseille after two seasons.

Gabriel Heinze smiles upon arrival at Real Madrid having not been allowed to join Liverpool

Gabriel Heinze smiles upon arrival at Real Madrid having not been allowed to join Liverpool

Gabriel Heinze smiles upon arrival at Real Madrid having not been allowed to join Liverpool

Arjen Robben

(Chelsea, £24m, 2007) 

Lining up alongside Heinze as an arrival (and with more fanfare) was Robben, who had been a star in a Chelsea side that recently won two Premier League titles.

While he could only muster five goals and assists during his first season, he did feature 28 times across all competitions and did pick up yet another league winner’s medal.

Maybe Madrid supporters could have been forgiven for wanting to see more of his trademark ‘cutting inside from the right and blasting home’ speciality, but his debut year was an overall success.

Still, his face never quite fit at the Bernabeu and he was off to Bayern Munich after two years, becoming a legend in Bavaria. 

Arjen Robben fitted in well at Madrid during his first year at the club after joining from Chelsea

Arjen Robben fitted in well at Madrid during his first year at the club after joining from Chelsea

Arjen Robben fitted in well at Madrid during his first year at the club after joining from Chelsea

Lassana Diarra

(Portsmouth, £20m, 2009)

Four years on from the Gravesen mis-step, Madrid seemed to have learned their lesson when to bolster the defensive side of their midfield they swooped to land Diarra from a Portsmouth side starting to stare at financial ruin.

Diarra had impressed on the south coast following spells at Arsenal and Chelsea where he had also shown promise.

After an impressive six months he featured often in his first full season and was always a steady pair of hands rather than a superstar. But like many Madrid stars before and after him, he would soon make way for bigger names. The riches of Anzhi Makhachkala beckoned in 2012.

Hard-working defensive midfielder Lassana Diarra proved £20m well spent for Real Madrid

Hard-working defensive midfielder Lassana Diarra proved £20m well spent for Real Madrid

Hard-working defensive midfielder Lassana Diarra proved £20m well spent for Real Madrid

Julien Faubert

(West Ham United, loan, 2009)

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano summed up the full-back’s signing halfway through the 2008-09 season perfectly, and he didn’t even need to say a single word.

His confused face when handing Faubert the No 18 shirt said it all. What was a player who could barely get into the West Ham team going to do at the world’s biggest club?

Not much as it happens, at least on the pitch. No one remembers his 54 minutes in Real Madrid colours, just that time he fell asleep on the bench during a match and the other time he missed training because he thought it was a day off.

Madrid didn’t extend their six-month loan agreement on one of football’s most bizarre transfers.

Alfredo Di Stefano trying to work out who on earth Julien Faubert is back in 2009

Alfredo Di Stefano trying to work out who on earth Julien Faubert is back in 2009

Alfredo Di Stefano trying to work out who on earth Julien Faubert is back in 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo

(Manchester United, £80m, 2009)

After the Faubert nonsense, it’s fair to say Madrid’s swoop on the Premier League six months later was more of a success.

The world-record transfer fee was smashed to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. For the previous three years alongside Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo had been running rings around practically every defence in the Premier League.

Straight away he was a monster at the Bernabeu too, scoring 33 times and laying off 12 assists across just 35 games in all competitions. The only negative was that it still didn’t land him a trophy, although they would soon follow as his influence increased.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world record £80million fee from Manchester United

Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world record £80million fee from Manchester United

Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world record £80million fee from Manchester United

Alvaro Arbeloa

(Liverpool, £5m, 2009)

This is one Premier League swoop Real didn’t have to make considering he came through their ranks and even made two LaLiga appearances before being offloaded to Deportivo La Coruna.

Three years later though he was back at the Bernabeu following solid showings at Liverpool and he slotted in as a reliable fit at right-back during the next seven years at the club.

However his maiden campaign saw him deployed on both flanks, many times on the left as he went on to play 38 times.

Alvaro Arbeloa proved a steady presence in the Madrid defence during his second spell there

Alvaro Arbeloa proved a steady presence in the Madrid defence during his second spell there

Alvaro Arbeloa proved a steady presence in the Madrid defence during his second spell there

Xabi Alonso

(Liverpool, £30m, 2009)

Quite why Liverpool were so willing to allow Xabi Alonso to leave is a mystery but their loss was Madrid’s gain in the second of the Anfield departures for the Bernabeu in 2009.

Alonso had admittedly fallen out with Rafa Benitez at Liverpool but he wasn’t initially keen on moving to Madrid.

But while he was uncertain of a move back to Spain it was no surprise he proved a snug fit in the Madrid midfield once he was there, providing six assists and scoring three goals in his 34 top-flight appearances.

Five years, one LaLiga title and one Champions League win later, he left established as one of the world’s finest midfielders. 

Xabi Alonso fitted effortlessly into the Real Madrid midfield following his arrival from Liverpool

Xabi Alonso fitted effortlessly into the Real Madrid midfield following his arrival from Liverpool

Xabi Alonso fitted effortlessly into the Real Madrid midfield following his arrival from Liverpool

Ricardo Carvalho

(Chelsea, £6.7m, 2010)

Ricardo Carvalho was heading into the autumn of his career at 32 by the time he rocked up at Madrid.

But he was a key man for Jose Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea and his advancing years were not going to deter the Portuguese from signing him again for a cut-price deal from the Blues.

He slotted in as expected at centre-back and impressed enough to make 48 appearances throughout his first season. Before moving to Monaco in 2013 he had won LaLiga, making his move a success.

Ricardo Carvalho jumped at the chance of a reunion with Jose Mourinho at Real in 2010

Ricardo Carvalho jumped at the chance of a reunion with Jose Mourinho at Real in 2010

Ricardo Carvalho jumped at the chance of a reunion with Jose Mourinho at Real in 2010

Emmanuel Adebayor

(Manchester City, loan, 2011)

Adebayor’s career needed a kick-start after his high-profile switch from Arsenal to Manchester City soon fell flat, and that was exactly what he got when he joined Madrid on loan halfway through the 2010-11 season. 

In his few months at the Bernabeu he still showed he could cut it at the top level, scoring eight times, including a brace against Tottenham Hotspur to help eliminate them from the Champions League quarter-finals.

It wasn’t enough to earn a full-time deal at Madrid though, or even stay at City. However Spurs soon went with the policy ‘if you can’t beat them, sign them.’ 

Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates scoring against Tottenham in a 4-0 win for Real in 2011

Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates scoring against Tottenham in a 4-0 win for Real in 2011

Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates scoring against Tottenham in a 4-0 win for Real in 2011

Luka Modric

(Tottenham Hotspur, £33m, 2012)

While Adebayor was sinking Spurs in the quarter-finals, Madrid were busy keeping their eye on the opposition.

Modric was a key part of Tottenham’s attack that brought them to the table of Europe’s elite at the start of the last decade and his performances convinced Madrid that he was the playmaker to lead their first team.

He featured prominently in a wide range of midfield positions in his first season but rarely did he look unsettled and he has only improved in his following seven years at the club. His four Champions League wins make Modric arguably one of Real’s best ever signings.

Luka Modric instantly flourished as a playmaker in the Real Madrid side where he still features

Luka Modric instantly flourished as a playmaker in the Real Madrid side where he still features

Luka Modric instantly flourished as a playmaker in the Real Madrid side where he still features

Michael Essien

(Chelsea, loan, 2012)

Following the successful Carvalho experiment, Jose Mourinho once again returned to Chelsea to pick up some former favourites as he looked to bolster his midfield with Essien. 

The Ghanaian had fallen out of favour following an impressive seven years at Stamford Bridge but things got off to an awkward start at Madrid when he referred to Mourinho as ‘daddy’ at his unveiling after the Portuguese had called the midfielder ‘his son’.

Fortunately his on-pitch showings were less questionable.  A solid year at the Bernabeu followed but at 30-years-old he was not the future and so returned to Stamford Bridge at the end of his loan. 

Michael Essien (right) enjoyed a productive season on loan under Jose Mourinho

Michael Essien (right) enjoyed a productive season on loan under Jose Mourinho

Michael Essien (right) enjoyed a productive season on loan under Jose Mourinho

Gareth Bale

(Tottenham Hotspur, £85.3m, 2013)

Tottenham had been in what they described as a ‘special relationship’ with Madrid following Modric’s sale, but that marketing ploy was soon dropped when the Spanish side pinched their most prized asset Bale the following summer.

Bale’s pace was frighting at this point of his career, nevertheless it took him a couple of months to find his feet in Spain before his world-record fee started to have more of a shine than a smear to it.

Fears of him and Cristiano Ronaldo clashing were soon eased as he struck 22 goals in 44 games with 19 assists, including netting in the Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid. 

His ongoing spat with boss Zinedine Zidane can never take away from his four Champions League wins, and THAT overhead kick against Liverpool in the 2018 final.

After a slow start Gareth Bale soon got up to speed to help Real win the Champions League

After a slow start Gareth Bale soon got up to speed to help Real win the Champions League

After a slow start Gareth Bale soon got up to speed to help Real win the Champions League

Javier Hernandez

(Manchester United, loan, 2014)

After his incredible first season at Manchester United, Javier Hernandez’s stock gradually declined at Old Trafford and Louis van Gaal was only too happy to allow him to join Madrid on loan for the season.

It was a chance for ‘Chicharito’ to get his career back on track, but just nine goals in 33 matches followed and the Spanish giants soon lost interest over making the deal a permanent one.

It was not a complete waste of time though and he did win some favour among the Real support after scoring against rivals Atletico to seal a semi-final spot in the Champions League.

Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

Javier Hernandez celebrates scoring against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League

Thibaut Courtois

(Chelsea, £35m, 2018)

Courtois left Chelsea on a pretty sour note having forced his way out of the Blues to join Madrid as their new No 1 goalkeeper.

However his arrival at the age of 26 marked him out as a long-term No 1 at the club and while his first year was far from a disaster he did not look the same safe pair of hands he did at Stamford Bridge.

He did enough to earn a second season between the sticks, but with Alphonse Areola also now hanging around the club, he is already watching his back. 

Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois moved to Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2018

Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois moved to Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2018

Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois moved to Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2018

Brahim Diaz

(Manchester City, £15.5m, 2019)

Diaz only joined Real Madrid last year having grown frustrated with the lack of first-team chances offered at Manchester City.

Not much has changed for the 20-year-old attacking midfielder over a year on. He has just 23 minutes of LaLiga action under his belt this term.

It appears if first-team football is his desire, he might have to move on again.

Brahim Diaz, signed from Manchester City for first-team football but has barely featured

Brahim Diaz, signed from Manchester City for first-team football but has barely featured

Brahim Diaz, signed from Manchester City for first-team football but has barely featured

 

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