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The 4 Best British Players to Play for Real Madrid

Let me set the scene: you’re a British football fan going to Spain this summer and you want to wear a familiar name on your back with a local shirt. Well, do I have news for you!

The Best British Players at Real Madrid

Real Madrid, one of the most prestigious football clubs in the world, has a history of attracting top talent from around the globe. And probably will continue to do so until the end of time.

Among these stars, a select few British players have donned the famous white jersey of Los Blancos, leaving a significant impact during their time in the Spanish capital.

In all honesty, this whole article came about because of Jude Bellingham and what he’s been able to do in his first season as a marquee Real Madrid signing. But of course, he’s far too young to be considered on an historic list like this – despite his almost inevitable rise to that level of aura and status.

So here, we celebrate the four best British players to have played for Real Madrid.

All just my opinion, by the way…

Gareth Bale

Joining from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a then-world record fee, Bale quickly made his mark with his blend of pace, power, and technical prowess. Which he became known for during his latter years at Spurs – having progressed from a full-back to a full-fledged forward.

His debut season was capped with a stunning solo goal in the Copa del Rey Final against Barcelona and a crucial header in the Champions League Final against Atlético Madrid, helping Real secure their long-awaited “La Décima” (10th European title).

But Bale’s contributions didn’t stop there.

Over his tenure, he won five Champions League titles, scoring in two finals, including an unforgettable overhead kick against Liverpool in 2018. Bale also secured three La Liga titles, numerous domestic cups, and multiple individual accolades.

Despite injuries and a complicated relationship with the fans and media towards the end of his spell, Bale’s legacy at Real Madrid is cemented by his critical goals and consistent performances on the biggest stages. Easily one of the best British players to ever don that famous white Madrid kit.

David Beckham

David Beckham’s move to Real Madrid in 2003 was part of the club’s “Galácticos” era, where the aim was to assemble a team of world superstars. Which, in that regard, was quite successful.

Beckham brought his exceptional passing range, set-piece mastery, and unparalleled crossing ability to the Bernabéu. During his four-year stay, Beckham’s work ethic, professionalism, and marketability made him a fan favourite and a global icon.

Although his tenure coincided with a period of relative instability and fewer trophies for the club, Beckham managed to help Real Madrid win the La Liga title in his final season (2006-2007).

His dedication and performances, especially under Fabio Capello, were crucial in clinching that title, ensuring he left the club on a high note.

Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman was one of the first high-profile English players to move to a top European club during the modern era, joining Real Madrid from Liverpool in 1999.

On a Bosman freebee of all things, too!

Known for his dribbling skills and creativity, McManaman quickly became an integral part of the team. His adaptability allowed him to play in various midfield roles, contributing in both directions.

McManaman’s most memorable moment came in the 2000 Champions League final, where he scored a stunning volley to help Real Madrid defeat Valencia 3-0. This victory was the first of his two Champions League titles with the club. He also won two La Liga titles during his tenure.

Laurie Cunningham

A name I wish modern football fans appreciated more.

Laurie Cunningham was a trailblazer in many ways, becoming the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid when he signed from West Bromwich Albion in 1979. That would never happen now, right?

Cunningham’s time in Madrid was marked by his incredible pace, flair, and technical ability. Despite facing challenges, including injuries and the pressure of being a pioneering figure (namely, the unsavoury attention and racism that it came with), Cunningham left a lasting legacy.

Cunningham’s standout season was his first, where he helped Real Madrid win the La Liga and Copa del Rey double in 1979-1980. His performances, especially in the El Clásico against Barcelona, where he received a standing ovation from the opposition fans, remain legendary.

Although his subsequent seasons were marred by injuries, Cunningham’s impact on and off the field as a pioneering black footballer in Spain remains significant.


The contributions of British players like Gareth Bale, David Beckham, Steve McManaman, and Laurie Cunningham to Real Madrid have each been quite varied, yet undeniably profound.

And all for different reasons, really.

Each of these players brought their unique talents to the Bernabéu, making lasting impressions and achieving considerable success. Their stories reflect the rich history of British influence at one of the world’s most storied football clubs, showcasing moments of brilliance, resilience, and pioneering spirit.

Who is the greatest British player ever to play for Real Madrid in your opinion?