Imagining Real Madrid’s Greatest Starting 11

In the world’s most popular sport, with nearly 3.5 billion fans, Real Madrid stands out among a very few as one of the most elite clubs in the world. A club with almost 122 years of history would make quite the amazing Starting XI.

In this article, we will take a look at the club’s history and see what kind of group of starters we can come up with to represent the history and legacy of this amazing club. With Real Madrid using a 4-3-3 system much of their time lately, that is the format we will use here. We are also only looking at their time in a Real Madrid shirt.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

The owner of a laundry list of Real Madrid records, Iker Casillas served as the club’s goalie from 1999-2015. During this timeframe, Casillas would tally 264 clean sheets, 952 straight minutes without conceding a goal, and the 2009-2012 IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper awards. Nicknamed “San Iker” for his ability to pull out miraculous saves, Casillas is second all-time in Real Madrid appearances with 725. He has also been apart of Real Madrid since the early days of his football career, joining the Real Madrid C team at age 17.

Casillas would don the Real Madrid white until the 2015 season, where he would play until 2020 with FC Porto. Not only is Casillas considered the greatest goalie in Real Madrid history, but is often considered one of the best to ever play football.

Right-back: Miguel Porlán Noguera “Chendo”

It is very rare to spend a full career with one club but Miguel Porlán Noguera did just that. Known in the football world as, “Chendo,” he played in the Real Madrid system from 1979 to 1998. Joining the junior team at the age of 15, Chendo was apart of 29 championship squads. For a near-decade, Chendo was the undisputed right-back for the Real Madrid squad.

Proving to be a warrior 100% on the pitch, Chendo is known for man-marking Maradona in a 1987 matchup. Even on the bench, Chendo was a strong supporter of his teammates, almost a bench captain.

Left-back: Marcelo

Not only one of the best defenders in Real Madrid history, Marcelo is often regarded as one of the best defenders to have ever played the sport. With 386 appearances from 2007 to 2022, Marcelo has own more major trophies with Real Madrid with 25 trophies. A member of France Football’s Team of the 2010s decade and a three-time UEFA Team of the Year selection, Marcelo would rise to be in the 2009 season where he displayed not only his defensive but offensive prowess on the pitch.

The great Mardona even once stated that Marcelo was the third-best player in La Liga in the 2010-2011 season behind only Ronaldo and Messi. Marcelo was just as dynamic offensively. Karim Benzema once said, “he’s a number 9 with the soul of a number 10.”

Center-back: Fabio Cannavaro

The last defender to win the coveted Ballon d’Or trophy given to the world’s best footballer of that year, Fabio Cannavaro won the trophy in the Real Madrid white in 2006. Due to his amazing ability to read the pitch, Cannavaro would make a perfect starting XI center-back for any team. Also during his magical 2006 season, Cannavaro won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, and was named to the 2006 and 2007 FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year.

Center-back: Sergio Ramos

Not only has Sergio Ramos showed tackling skills second to none in his two-decade career, but especially during his time with Real Madrid, showed amazing leadership skills. One of the greatest defenders of all time, Ramos worn the white shirt from 2005 to 2021.

An extremely impressive goalscoring for a defender, Ramos scored over 100 goals in his Real Madrid tenure of 671 appearances, fourth all-time in club appearances. Brazilian star Neymar Jr. once said of Ramos: “It’s hard to say, there are so many top defenders. Mascherano, Pique, Thiago Silva, Sergio Ramos – he’s a great centre back. There’s a lot but Ramos stands out.”

Defensive Midfielder: Uli Stielike

Sporting an extremely high pitch I.Q., Uli Stielike made 215 appearances over a eight-year period for Real Madrid. Four times in a row (1978-1981) Stielike was voted the La Liga Foreign Player of the Year.

The mostly defensive midfielder would go on to score 41 goals during his Real Madrid tenure. His great leadership ability would go on display later in life when he would become the manager of the South Korean team. That squad would go on to win the silver medal in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

Right Winger: Luís Figo

Dangerous with the ball at his feet, Luís Figo could not only put the ball in the back of the net, but could send a devastating curling cross to set up a beautiful assist. One of very few footballers to have a lengthy career with bitter rivals Barcelona F.C. and Real Madrid, his transfer to Real Madrid was the highest at it’s time with a total of €62 million in 2000.

Figo would go on to earn football’s highest honour that first season in Real Madrid white to earn the 2000 Ballon d’Or. Figo both the Barcelona and Madrid shirt that season, sharing the honor among the clubs. This would mark only the second time a Portuguese and third time a Real Madrid player would win the prestigious award.

Throughout his five seasons in white, Figo would not only drum up the fan-base like never before, but would score 164 La Liga goals, two of those times being the league’s leader in goals.

Central Midfielder: Jude Bellingham

No doubt the future of Real Madrid, English star Jude Bellingham has the capability of being in the conversation of the sport’s next top players. Heading into March 2024, Bellingham is the league leader in goals with 16 through 22 appearances.

Currently, Bellingham is in the 97th percentile in pass completed, 95th percentile in progressive passes, and the 99th percentile in blocks compared to other attackers in La Liga this season. The 20-year-old can not only lead England’s international team into the future, but the sport of football worldwide as well.

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo

What else can be said about the great Cristiano Ronaldo that has already not been said? Ronaldo is Real Madrid’s all-time goalscorer leader with 450 goals in 438 matches. Ronaldo is also second all-time in goals scored in La Liga history.

Four of Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or awards (2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017) all came in Madrid white. Adding to his trophy case in Madrid white, Ronaldo also earned three European Golden Shoe awards, given to the footballer with the most goals in Europe’s major divisions. No list would be complete without at least a mention of Ronaldo.

Attacking Midfielder: Alfredo Di Stéfano

308 goals in 396 appearances in the white shirt, Alfredo Di Stéfano is often considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. A two-time Ballon d’Or winner (1957 and 1959), Di Stéfano was voted fourth all-time among Ballon d’Or winners as the Player of the Century.

The voting was done by Ballon d’Or winners themselves. One of the most complete footballers ever, Di Stéfano was often praised from his amazing dribbling. No all-time team is complete without the Argentinian that paved the way for fellow legends like Maradona and Messi.

Left Winger: Paco Gento

The heyday of Paco Gento’s career was quite special. Playing from 1953-1971 in the Madrid white, Gento’s early club days were spent alongside all-time starting XI mate, Alfredo Di Stéfano. With 127 goals in 427 appearances, Gento averaged a Real Madrid goal almost once every three games. The speedy winger won the European Cup a record six times with Real Madrid along with 12 La Liga titles.

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