Players that swapped Madrid for the Premier League- Hit/Miss?

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Mesut Ozil is set to make his Premier League debut on Saturday following his sensational £42.2million move to Arsenal, but he's not the first man to swap Real Madrid for England's top flight.

Over the years, several high-profile players have swapped the famous all-white of the Bernabeu for the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.

Some may have rocked up at the top end of the table, Claude Makelele swapping the sun of Madrid for the glamour of West London, but others have been less fortunate, departing Spain's capital city for Bolton and Middlesbrough.

GiveMeSport takes a look at some of those who made the transition and offers a verdict on whether their switch was a successful trip or a waste of valuable air-miles. 

Davor Suker

Croatian hot-shot Suker is the first name on our list, quite simply because he was the first one to make the transition when he joined Arsenal in the summer of 1999. Despite winning the Golden Boot at the 1998 World Cup, Suker was allowed to leave Madrid on a free and Arsene Wenger wasted no time snapping him up.

Despite playing alongside the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, Suker only managed to find the back of the net 11 times for the Gunners and, having struggled to hold down a first team spot, was allowed to join West Ham after just one season at Highbury. Things didn't get any better at Upton Park, and after just three more goals in English football, Suker said addios to the Premier League

Verdict - Miss

Michel Salgado

One of the more recent exports, Michel Salgado's decorated career saw him pick up two Champions League winners medals, as well as four La Liga titles. Quite why he decided Blackburn Rovers was the next logical step is anyone's guess. 

Despite the drastic change in surroundings, Salgado adapted to life in the Premier League quickly, and established himself as Rovers first choice right-back in his first two seasons at the club. Although well in to his 30's upon his arrival, Salgado's trademark long locks could be seen gliding up and down the Ewood Park right with all the enthusiasm of a man half his age. 

Things turned sour for Salgado when he was left out half way through his third season due to a contract dispute. Blackburn would be relegated but Salgado's time in Lancashire wasn't all bad on an individual note.

Verdict - Hit

Antonio Nunez

Nunez was best known, or should that be "only known", for being a make-weight in the deal that took Michael Owen to Real Madrid from Liverpool. With the impossible job of replacing a fans-favourite, the winger had an immediate set-back when a knee injury sidelined him for three months before he'd even kicked a ball in a red shirt. 

Three months after his arrival, Liverpool fans finally got to see their Spanish star in action, although they're probably still waiting to see if they get their money's worth, nine years later.

Despite inconsistent performances down Liverpool's right hand side, Nunez managed to get on the score sheet in the 2005 Carling Cup final, his only goal for the club, and was an unused substitute in that years Champions League victory. European champion or not, Liverpool will perhaps wish they'd held out for more money and let Nunez stay at home.

Verdict - Miss

Rafael van der Vaart

On transfer deadline day in the summer of 2010, Tottenham pulled off a major coup when they convinced Rafael van der Vaart to move to north London from Real Madrid for £8million. Spurs were about to embark on their first foray into the Champions League and Redknapp had pinpointed the talented Dutchman as the man to lead his team onto the next level.

Featuring from the left-hand side of midfield or in a free role behind a striker, Van der Vaart netted 15 goals in all competitions in his maiden season at White Heart Lane, endearing himself to the Spurs faithful.

Although Tottenham failed to make the Champions League for a second consecutive season, Van der Vaart stuck around and continued to torment Premier League defenders for a second season with his clever movement and quick feet. He'd grabbed 13 goals in all competitions in his second season at the Lane but, despite being a firm fans favourite, would be on the move on deadline day again as he left for Hamburg exactly two years after signing for Spurs.

Verdict - Hit

Fernando Morientes

Another man to swap Madrid for Merseyside, Fernando Morientes arrived in Liverpool with a reputation as one of the most consistent goal-scorers in European football. Unfortunately for Liverpool fans, he failed to keep up the impressive scoring record he'd produced at Real Madrid, Monaco and for the Spanish national team.

A season and a half at Anfield would only produce 12 goals, only eight of them in the league, as Liverpool continued their search for a striker who could deliver them a long-awaited 19th league title. Capable of touches of class, and lethal finishing, Morientes form at Liverpool was patchy at best, much to the frustration of the Kop.

Having originally signed him for just over £6million, the Reds cut their losses and sent Morientes back to Spain in 2006, allowing him to sign for Valencia for just £3million.

Verdict - Miss

Ivan Campo

Sporting a Maroune Fellaini wig before the big Belgian had even touched down in England, Ivan Campo was an unmistakable figure during his time with Bolton. Playing alongside Salgado, Campo was part of the Madrid team that tasted Champions League success in 2000 and 2002.

After that second success, Campo was surprisingly sent to the Reebok stadium on a years loan just months later, and even more surprisingly, enjoyed it so much he signed a three-year deal to stay at the club. His time at Bolton was a successful one and he clocked up over 100 appearances for the Lancashire outfit as they regularly challenged for a European spot. 

Campo eventually left the club in 2008 to spend a less spectacular year with Championship side Ipswich, but his committed displays in a white shirt will be fondly remembered by the Bolton faithful.

Verdict - Hit

Raul Bravo

Another man to come to the Premier League on a loan deal, Raul Bravo had understandably had a tough time trying to wrestle the left-back sport from Roberto Carlos during his Real Madrid days. The tough-tackling defender spent considerably less time on these shores than Campo after his January 2003 move to Leeds United.

Bravo featured just six times for the Yorkshire outfit and, despite the similar all-white kit, he never looked at home at Elland Road. A year after his sixth-month stint in the Premier League, Bravo shocked Leeds fans with some unrecognisable performances in Spain's Euro 2004 campaign.

His shaved head and menacing scowl meant the Spaniard would have looked much more at home on the terraces than he ever did on a Premier League pitch.

Verdict - Miss

Christian Karembeu

Yet another Champions League winner on the list, Karembeu moved to Middlesbrough having also won the World Cup and European Championships with France. His unmistakable dreadlocks were part of a Boro team that mixed European flair in the form of Karembeu and Alen Boksic with gritty English determination, provided by Robbie Mustoe and Dean Gordon.

Often lining up alongside former England captain Paul Ince, Karembeu was a regular in his one year on Tee-side and luckily for the Boro faithful, so was his model wife Adriana Sklenarikova (Google her, you won't regret it).

His exciting performances perhaps deserved more than the four goal return he offered in his one season at the club before he returned to the continent in a £2million switch to Olympiakos. 

Verdict - Hit


Another man who swapped Madrid for Middlesbrough, Geremi came to these shores on an initial one-year loan, and a highly successful one at that. Devastating set piece deliveries and seemingly endless energy saw the Cameroon international grab seven league goals and a League Cup winners medal as Boro claimed the first piece of silverware in their history.

That form prompted Chelsea to make him one of the first signings of the Roman Abramovich era when they splashed out £7million on the versatile African. His first season looked promising if not spectacular as he featuring in 25 league games. As time went by, Geremi would feature less and less for the Stamford Bridge outfit as the arrival of better players, coupled with a dip in form and confidence saw him used sparingly.

A move to Newcastle would follow in 2007 and an indifferent first season would be followed up by a disastrous second in which Geremi's form dipped so much he couldn't force his way into a team that were relegated from the Premier League.

Verdict - Miss 

Julio Baptista

When Arsenal announced the loan signing of 'The Beast' in a deal which saw Jose Antonio Reyes go the other way, Premier League defenders surely feared for their life. Big, strong and deceptively quick, well that's the Julio Baptista we saw in La Liga anyway.

Capable of firing four past Liverpool in a Carling Cup game, Baptista struggled massively in the Premier League. The burly Brazilian was used in an array of different positions, featuring up front, out wide and in an attacking midfield role but never once looked like securing a regular starting role. 

At the end of his loan spell he was allowed to return to Madrid with Arsenal showing next to no interest in making the deal permanent. Frustratingly for the north London side, Baptista would impress on his return to the Spanish capital, leaving them scratching their heads as to who had been turning out in their number nine shirt for a season.

Verdict - Miss


On the day the 2008 summer transfer window slammed shut, Manchester City were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group, who immediately set about splashing out £32.5million on Brazilian superstar Robinho from Real Madrid. 

City fans were understandably ecstatic and early signs were promising with a debut goal in a 3-1 defeat against Chelsea. Despite struggling in away games, Robinho would regularly dazzle the Etihad stadium with moments of genius and typical South American flair, ending his first season at the club with 15 goals. 

His second season would turn out to be almost as bad as his first was good. He failed to find the net until an FA Cup game against lower league side Scunthorpe in January and would leave the club to return home to Santos on loan having scored once in twelve appearances. When his time on loan at Santos came to an end Robinho was shipped off to Milan, having never fully justified his hefty price-tag.

Verdict - Miss

Claude Makelele 

Real Madrid's love of Galactico football meant Claude Makelele was never likely to grab the headlines at the Bernabeu, and Chelsea fans will be eternally grateful for that.

Signed by Claudio Ranieri for £16.6million in the summer of 2003, the Frenchman really began to show his quality upon the arrival of Jose Mourinho the following summer. Sitting in front of the back four, breaking up play and giving the ball to other, more talented players such as Frank Lampard, Makelele was so good as what he did, pundits in England began to refer to the anchor-man role as "The Makelele role".

Makelele was adored by his team mates, who insisted Makelele step up when they were awarded a penalty against Charlton on the day the 2004/2005 Premier League title was to be presented to the team. Having failed to score since his arrival at the club, the plan was for Makelele was to crown the end of his season at Stamford Bridge with his first goal. However, the Charlton goalkeeper hadn't read the script and saved the spot-kick, although Makelele did fire home the rebound.

An indispensable part of the Chelsea side that won back to back league titles in 2005 and 2006, Makelele eventually left on a free in 2008 to return to his homeland, playing for Paris St Germain for three years before retiring in 2011.

Verdict - Hit 

Disagree with any of our verdicts? Think we may have missed someone out? Feel free to leave a comment below and give your opinion on the players who paved the way for Mesut Ozil's stunning transfer.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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