Elevens – Real Madrid’s Foreign XI

For our second themed Eleven on BTLM we’ve taken a look back at the dozens of exotic and expensive imports to have worn the Real Madrid shirt over the past six decades and created an all-time foreign select from the ones we think are most deserving of selection.

Madrid’s historical preference for acquiring foreign forwards rather than defensive players makes the attacking half of the team a lot tougher to select, but we’re steadfastly not going to adopt the Florentino Pérez approach to team building by squeezing in attacking galácticos to positions they are poorly equipped to play. Instead we favour a more balanced team, even if this means there’s no place for world-class stars like Zidane, Laudrup, Luís Figo or the Brazilian Ronaldo. Pérez would probably approve of Claude Makélelé not making the cut though.

Our team is drawn from eight different nationalities, its players have a combined total of 23 European Cup or Champions League medals and, somewhat oddly for a Foreign XI, earned more than 50 caps for Spain. Back in the 1960s Spain was almost as guilty as Italy for selecting naturalised foreign players in their national team.

Click the image below to enlarge the selection and read more about the players below. Disagree with our selection? Let us know the players you would have chosen instead.

1) Rogelio Domínguez (ARG) (51 appearances / 1957-62 ) The least expensive player in this team by some distance. Signed for just £12,000 from River Plate as goalkeeping cover for Alonso, he took his chance when the Spaniard was injured and was a key player in the 1959 and 1960 European Cup Finals. Santiago Bernabéu declared him the best keeper he had seen since Zamora. Honours: 3 x European Cups, 3 x Spanish titles.

2) Enrique “Quique”Wolff (ARG) (68 appearances 4 goals / 1977-79) One of the best and most underrated right-backs of his generation. Wolff was squat, powerful and hard-working with the requisite amount of violent threat any good Argentinian defender should bring. Originally came to Spain with Las Palmas, then moved to Madrid for a successful 3 year stint. Honours: 2 x Spanish titles

3) Roberto Carlos (BRA) (370 appearances 46 goals / 1996-2007) A left-back, wing-back, midfielder and winger combined in one explosively compact package, Roberto Carlos was an important player at Madrid for over a decade and is the joint longest-serving player in this line-up. Just don’t let him take free-kicks. Honours: 3 x Champions League, 4 x Spanish titles. 

4) Paul Breitner (WGR) (84 appearances 10 goals / 1974-77) Made his name as a World Cup-winning, right footed left-back for Bayern Munich and West Germany, yet excelled for Madrid in a defensive midfield playmaker role. Breaking up attacks, starting forward moves and acting as a minder for his compatriot Günter Netzer – everything asked of Breitner he did in some style. Honours: 2 x Spanish titles, 1 x Copa del Rey.

5) José Santamaría (URU) (226 appearances 2 goals / 1957-66) One of the all-time great central defenders. A fine tackler and reader of the play, his elegance and composure on the ball allowed him to play the game at his own pace. His classy style masked a rugged streak and a win at all costs mentality. Played for Madrid until the age of 36. Honours: 4 x European Cup, 5 x Spanish titles, 1 x Copa del Rey

6) Uli Stielike (WGR) (215 appearances 41 goals / 1977-85) The longest-serving and best-loved of Madrid’s West German signings from the 1970s. Stielike brought great leadership and professionalism to Madrid’s team and was effective whether called upon to play in a defensive midfield role, or in central defence (as selected here). Aside from taking penalties, he was a real goal threat for a nominally defensive player. Honours: 3 x Spanish titles, 2 x Copa del Rey, 1 x UEFA Cup.

7) Raymond Kopa (FRA) (79 appearances 24 goals / 1956-59) Pushed out against his will to play on right-wing by Di Stefano, Kopa was still inspirational with his fantastic dribbling and eye for the killer pass. Honours: 3 x European Cup, 2 x Spanish titles, 1 x Latin Cup

8) Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) (110 appearances 123 goals / 2009- ) The only player from the current Madrid squad to feature thanks to a barely plausible goalscoring rate better than any Madrid player in history. Honours: 2 x Champions League, 1 x Spanish title, 2 x Copa del Rey

9) Hugo Sánchez (MEX) (207 appearances 164 goals / 1985-92) The definitive single-touch striker with a special talent for scoring overhead kicks, Sanchez was a fantastic all-rounder capable of putting away the prosaic and the spectacular with equal ease. Effortlessly consistent source of goals throughout his Madrid career.  Honours: 5 x Spanish title, 1 x Copa del Rey, 1 x UEFA Cup

10) Alfredo Di Stéfano (ARG) (302 appearances 246 goals / 1953-64) The ultimate player and leader who could perform any outfield role on the pitch to a world-class level. We’ve picked him in a withdrawn role to help out in midfield, but with obvious licence to roam forward and support the attack. Our team captain. Honours: 5 x European Cup, 8 x Spanish titles, 1 x Copa del Rey, 2 x Latin Cup

11) Ferenc Puskás (HUN) (262 appearances 242 goals / 1958-66) There have been few strikers as clinical, or as technically skilled in  history as The Galloping Major. He never looked like an athlete, but he didn’t need to with that wonderful left foot that could shoot with great power and incredible precision. Honours: 3 x European Cup, 5 x Spanish titles, 1 x Copa del Rey  


4 thoughts on “Elevens – Real Madrid’s Foreign XI

  1. Of course that is a strong eleven, but I thought there’s one player you’ve overlooked. His name is Fernando Redondo and for me he is a starter in any Real Madrid team, let alone one only with foreign players.

    He is the rare combination of being a Madrid legend, a defensive midfielder capable of being the only defensive midfielder in a team and a creative force.

    I’d propably go for Breitner as right-back. He was such a versatile player that he could play either full-back position.

    In defensive midfield I’d play both Redondo and Makelele. Playing Makelele gives Redondo more freedom to link up in the attacking play.

    As a playmaker I’d love to play Zidane. But given the fact that playing both Zidane and Di Stefano wouldn’t work and because Di Stefano is the greater Madrid legend, Di Stefano is my playmaker.

    Cristiano features as a winger. Most often he features on the right side, because Roberto Carlos has the left wing already covered.

    In a assymetrical formation there is no left winger and both Puskas and Sanchez play upfront. Puskas playing as a rather playmaking striker in order to get out of Sanchez’s way.

  2. And anyway, it remains to be seen if you’re Real Madrid Foreign Classic Eleven can beat my foreign historic Barcelona side in the “Ultimate Foreign Clasico”!

    I’d play a 4-3-3 featuring the following players:

    Goalkeeper: Ruud Hesp. By far the worst player in my team. Post-war Barcelona had few genuine world-class keepers and even fewer foreign ones.

    Right-back: Dani Alves. I guess there’s no need for an introduction.

    First Centre-back: Ronald Koeman. Wasn’t the most agile of players but a commanding presence nevertheless. Plus a free-kick expert. Is at times allowed to go forward because there is someone covering him…

    Second Centre-back: Rafael Marquez. Although he is no football legend, he is a quite rounded centre-back. His long passing is excellent, so is Koeman’s. That gives the team the option to play quick counter attacks.

    Left-back: Eric Abidal. At first glance he seems to be the most ordinary player in Guardiola’s Barca. But a second look reveals that Abidal is an extraordinary defensive full-back. Tactically astute, physically strong and excellent short-passing.

    Defensive Midfield: Johan Neeskens. “Johan the Second” is one of the most versatile players in the history of the game. Due to his fighting spirit and tackling ability I play him at the bottom of midfield. His passing is great too.

    “Xavi-role”: Bernd Schuster. Known as the “blond angel”, Schuster was Barca’s playmaker in the 80’s. He really is more of a No. 10 but in central-midfield his accurate passing will help to control the game. His long passes behind the defense will be a worry for every opponent.

    “Iniesta-role”: Michael Laudrup. Iniesta’s childhood hero. Laudrup’s playing style really is very similar to that of Iniesta. A player for small spaces. Always able to find enough room to create havoc.

    Left winger: Ronaldinho. What can you say? A technical genuis. A dribbler, a passer, an artist. In his pomp he was unplayable.

    False-nine: Laszlo Kubala. In a way Kubala was the Ronaldinho of the 50’s. An artist on the field. Capable of individual actions of great brilliance. But Kubala was more than just a show-man. He scored quite a lot and was able to create goals for others too.

    Right winger: Lionel Messi. 26 years old and a candidate for being the best of all time.

    There is at least one Barcelona icon missing and that’s Johan Cruyff. He’s in the team but not on the field. He’s the manager.

    There are of course some brilliant players missing. Some miss the team because they are football legends, rather than Barcelona legends. Maradona, Ronaldo, Thuram and Romario for example.

    Some sit on the bench, like Kocsis, Stoitschkow, Rivaldo, Eto’o and Deco.

    I would say that this Barcelona side is, at least, not considerably weaker than the foreign Madrid team.

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