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Ranking Real Madrid’s top 10 Galactico signings: David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid have always had that extra allure when it comes to star signings and the Spanish giants are expected to exercise that again this summer when they complete the protracted arrival of Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain. Carlo Ancelotti’s side could also be celebrating a 15th UEFA Champions League title by then with Borussia Dortmund standing in their way at Wembley Stadium in London so a busy summer at Santiago Bernabeu could be in store.

As the term suggests, the Galacticos are Real’s “galactic” signings from over the years — transfers from another planet and often at astronomic prices but always among the biggest names in world soccer which is exactly in line with Mbappe’s anticipated arrival in Madrid. The French superstar will be expected to join the list of most successful Galacticos but there is rude competition for that title with a number of top players having joined before him and a long way to go to equal let alone surpass some of the best.

We take a look at the top 10 and rank them:

Honorable mention: Milan’s Kaka for $72 million (2009)

The Brazilian is often forgotten as part of the Real Galacticos as he found it hard to live up to his sublime Milan form everywhere he went afterward but his 2007 Ballon d’Or was well earned and reflected that he was — at that time — arguably the best player on the planet. Exactly what Florentino Perez likes to hear, so this one was a no-brainer for Los Merengues — even if it did not quite pan out as planned.

10: Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham for $144 million (2023)

Our first entry given that this is only his debut season with Real could swiftly move up the ranks if he adds a UCL title to his La Liga crown. The England international has been superb since joining from Dortmund and he is expected to star at this summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany as well. Although he and Mbappe together could form the new star tandem at Santiago Bernabeu, he will have a head start on the France captain — if Real beat his former employers in London. The prospect of Mbappe joining Bellingham and Vini Jr. in white next season is tantalizing for any soccer fan.

9: Spurs’ Gareth Bale for $109 million (2013)

A then world-record transfer fee, the former Wales international was one of the biggest splashes made by Perez over the years. Real fans might not consider him a true club legend but his acquisition did help to secure four Champions League wins between 2014-2018. It’s incredible when you consider his regular injuries and indifference towards soccer by the end of his career and certainly his time in Madrid when he made it painfully clear that the Welsh national team was more of a priority for him. Some unforgettable moments, though, make him a vital presence on this list.

8: Inter’s Ronaldo for $50 million (2002)

The “original” Ronaldo would eventually be surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo but for a period, Real had one of the greatest to ever play the game in their ranks. A pity then that the Brazilian legend’s return on his then world-record fee (notice the theme?) was actually quite low. Despite playing alongside greats such as Raul, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, Ronaldo’s main successes in Madrid were the La Liga title of 2003 and an impressive goal-scoring record despite some awful injured spells along the way during his four years there.

7: United’s David Beckham for $40.5 million (2003)

One year later, arguably the most galactic of soccer superstars joined Ronaldo at Santiago Bernabeu yet only enjoyed marginally greater success in the famous white jersey. The English legend and global fashion icon ticked every box as a high-profile addition yet it was only toward the end of his time in Spain before joining Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy that Real started to see the best of Beckham. Like Ronaldo, a La Liga title was not quite what was expected upon his arrival from Manchester.

6: Barca’s Luis Figo for $65 million (2000)

One of the all-time coups over bitter rivals Barcelona was pinching star man Luis Figo from the Catalan giants and then going on to win La Liga twice as well as the UCL in 2002 against this year’s Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen. Barca fans despise him to this day but few moments stick in the memory more than the infamous pig head when he first lined up against Barca after crossing the most passionate of divides. Figo later left for Inter but goes down as one of their best signings of the true Galactico era — not the modern-day version where all transfers have been inflated beyond proportion.

5: Spurs’ Luka Modric for $34.5 million (2012)

In terms of value for money, it is hard to beat the evergreen Croatia international on this list given the sheer amount of silverware to his name. A whopping five Champions League titles could become six and then there are the four La Liga crowns and two Copa del Rey just to name a few. A Ballon d’Or in 2018 adds to his legend and he will depart Madrid as a genuine Galactico of which the likes might not be seen again for some time — regardless of Mbappe.

4: Lyon’s Karim Benzema for $38 million (2009)

Some of the smartest money ever spent by Perez was the transfer of the French prodigy from Olympique Lyonnais but it did not always look like it would work out. It took years but Benzema eventually lived up to his billing and won five UCL titles with four La Liga and three Copa del Rey among others. A Ballon d’Or at his absolute peak as he enjoyed a deserved period in the sun as Real’s main man, Benzema must go down as one of the greats.

3: Juve’s Zinedine Zidane for $84 million (2001)

The transfer of the French superstar is arguably the most apt benchmark for Mbappe to look at before his arrival in Madrid. One of the biggest names and in the best form at the time of his move following his Ballon d’Or success, Zidane not only led Real to the 2002 UCL success with one of the greatest goals of all time but also then went on to coach the team to great success – notably the three straight Champions League titles from 2016-18.

2: Sevilla’s Sergio Ramos for $29 million (2005)

A 16-year association, many as captain, makes Sergio Ramos an essential addition to this list despite the relatively low price tag. Four UCLs, five La Ligas, two Copa del Reys and major international success while at Santigao Bernabeu means that Ramos goes down as a true legendary figure for Merengues fans and one who saw the highs and lows in Madrid but was always an indispensable figure for all Real bosses during this time.

1: United’s Cristiano Ronaldo for $102 million (2009)

To little or no surprise, though, Real’s undoubted top Galactico is the Portuguese superstar. One of the all-time top transfers in soccer history — let alone Real’s — and it is an example of why the top players cost the big bucks. Champions League domination with four titles and two La Liga and Copa del Rey wins in the same time as Lionel Messi created a legendary rivalry which also saw Ronaldo claim five Ballon d’Or wins, there is no doubt — CR7 is the best Galactico Real ever had. A staggering 450 goals from 438 games will likely stand the test of time although Mbappe will no doubt try to emulate his former idol and the task facing the Frenchman to even get close is enormous. 

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