Real Madrid have always had the privilege of acquiring some of the most respectable and promising names in the business. Thanks to their constant and ever-expanding revenue stream, they’ve almost, always found a way to reinforce their side, even when they weren’t necessarily desperate for it.
Los Blancos’ knack for reinforcing their bench has often led to unfulfilled potential and disappointing performances.
Today, we’ll take a look at five such sorry players, who either never got the chance to spread their wings or never managed to earn their coach’s trust.
Considering the current circumstances, it’s not unexpected to expect Gareth Bale on this list. However, despite his recent slump, it’s almost impossible to put the Welshman on this list, to forget his decisive moments.
He played a crucial role in three of four Champions League triumphs — scored in two finals, assisted the only goal in another — and, of course, scored the evergreen Copa del Rey final goal against Barcelona in 2013-14.
On that note, here’s a list of five players who failed to make the impact everyone anticipated at Real Madrid.
#5 Nuri Sahin
Any footballer lover who prides themselves to be a Real Madrid fan must remember the dreaded transfer of Nuri Sahin in 2011. There was a lot of anticipation ahead of the move, as the Santiago Bernabeu faithful were keen on seeing a budding Turkey midfielder in full flight.
Sahin, too, was eager to make a mark for the greatest club in the world, hoping his Borussia Dortmund days would only serve as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Sadly, the midfielder failed to impress then-coach, Jose Mourinho, in training and was kept on the bench for the majority of the season. He also suffered an injury at the very beginning of the 2011-12 campaign, which, of course, didn’t help his case.
After making only 10 appearances in his debut season at Real Madrid, he was loaned out to Liverpool and later Dortmund. He moved back to BVB, permanently in the summer of 2014.
#4 Alvaro Morata
A proud graduate of the Real Madrid’s Cantera academy system, Alvaro Morata was expected to be Real Madrid’s knight in shining armour — the excellent goalscorer they desperately needed.
Between 2010 and 2014, Morata spent most of his time on the bench, only sporadically appearing in matches. So, to nurture his talent and help him grow, Real Madrid sold the player to Serie A winners, Juventus.
Still hoping for redemption, Real Madrid inserted a buyback clause. In 2016, Los Blancos exercised the clause and brought him back to the Spanish capital.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t manage to break into Real Madrid’s team of elites and served mostly as an option in “unimportant” matches. Despite his lack of exposure, he ended the season with 20 goals across all competitions.
However, the inability to dethrone Karim Benzema stuck with him, and Zinedine Zidane’s side decided to offload him to Chelsea in the summer of 2017.
#3 Asier Illaramendi
The Spanish international was enrolled in Real Madrid’s books in the summer of 2013. Los Blancos were desperate to land ‘La Decima’ — their 10th Champions League title — and didn’t leave any stone unturned to get there.
Real Madrid spent a whopping €32.2 million to secure his services — highest they’d paid for a Spanish international — and hoped for him to be a capable backup for Xabi Alonso.
Sadly, the then 23-year-old failed to live up to the billing and looked out of his depth in the club of stars.
Then-coach, Carlo Ancelotti, gave him his fair share of chances, but the midfielder couldn’t force his way into the first team. After two unimpressive seasons, he returned to Real Sociedad.
At Porto, an ambitious right-back was starting to make quite a name for himself. He was quick, he could score, and he never seemed to run out of steam.
Desperate to give Dani Carvajal some competition down the right, Real Madrid lapped up the player for €31.5 million, tying him down to a six-year contract.
In the Spanish capital, Danilo looked like a shadow of his former self. He ran, but without direction. He scored, but on the wrong end. He never ran out of steam because he was always an afterthought to Dani Carvajal.
After two trophy-laden years — two Champions Leagues and a La Liga title — he joined Manchester City in 2017.
#1 James Rodriguez
Signed right after an explosive World Cup campaign in 2014, James Rodriguez was meant to be Real Madrid’s latest and one of the greatest Galacticos.
The Colombian was signed for £63 million from Monaco, which made him the third most expensive Galactico at the time. He had the quality to make it big at the Santiago Bernabeu, and his first season will always remain a testament to that belief.
He pitched in with 17 goals and 18 assists in all competitions, emerging as one of the most prolific players of the team. Sadly, the dream turned into a nightmare soon after Zinedine Zidane’s arrival.
The player didn’t manage to impress his coach and was reduced to sporadic appearances. In the 2019/20 season, he only made 14 appearances across all competitions — a disappointing return for a player of his calibre.
As per reports, Real Madrid are in talks with Everton over a possible transfer, and the move could be finalised any day now.