James Rodriguez was Real Madrid’s third most expensive signing ever when the La Liga giants snapped him up for €75million from Monaco in 2014.
Yet, fast forward three years later and after a mixed spell, the Colombia playmaker has been shipped out on a two-year loan deal to Bayern Munich with the German side having the option to make the deal permanent for €35million.
It got us thinking about Real’s most expensive players ever as James’ fee is only beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at Madrid’s top-10 most expensive signings (figures supplied from transfermarkt.com) ever and rated each player for their time at the Bernabeu.
1. GARETH BALE (2013-) – €101m
Gareth Bale is untouchable at Madrid because he is the personal project of club president Florentino Perez.
The Welsh wizard arrived from Tottenham in 2013 for a then world-record fee, with the hope he would one day assume the role as club superstar once Cristiano Ronaldo moved on.
But while Bale’s signature has coincided with the refilling of Real’s trophy cabinet, three Champions League titles and a La Liga triumph sit proudly in the Bernabeu, on a personal level there is a sense of unfulfillment.
Fine form has been punctuated by injury issues and it has cast serious doubt as to whether he can succeed Ronaldo as Real’s leading man.
When he’s played, Bale has arguably been Madrid’s best all-round attacker. But the problem is, it’s just not been on a consistent basis.
Having turned 28 this week, Bale is entering a crucial phase in his career and despite rumours he’ll be moved on to accommodate Kylian Mbappe, it’s difficult to see Perez admitting defeat and letting the man he believes can become a club legend depart.
It’s for these reasons he scores a seven, not because of talent but because of his lack of durability. He has time to change that.
2. CRISTIANO RONALDO (2009-) – €94m
There’s a sense of unease in dishing out perfect 10s, but Cristiano Ronaldo is about as close as you can get.
The €94million fee paid to Manchester United in 2009 looked an exorbitant price at the time. Yet, he’s been worth every penny.
Save for the odd falling out, it’s been a marriage made in heaven as Ronaldo has gone on to become Real’s highest ever goalscorer with a ludicrous 406 goals scored in 394 appearances.
Chief among the Portuguese’s many accomplishments are two La Liga winner’s medals, three Champions League titles and three Ballon d’Ors.
At 32, he remains a physical phenom and enjoyed one of his most prolific and potent seasons yet with a record-equalling Ballon d’Or potentially coming his way this year.
3. JAMES RODRIGUEZ (2014-2017) – €75m
James was Europe’s hottest property after his stunning World Cup exploits with Colombia but after three years with Madrid, he’s cooled off significantly.
Bayern Munich have brought him back out of the cold with a two-year loan spell offering him the opportunity to dispell the frustration which formed the narrative of his time with Madrid.
Indeed, his Real career has been one of highs and lows with his lack of mobility often cited as the reason for his lack of game time.
He frustrates because his technical gifts and wand of a left foot more than make up his perceived lack of effort. James is worth building a team around and could still one day justify the €75million fee, albeit in Bavaria and for more than half that price tag.
The fact he will be reunited with Carlo Ancelotti, the manager he enjoyed his best spell at the Bernabeu with, should mean we see the very best of a player who possesses that rare quality – unpredictability.
4. ZINEDINE ZIDANE (2001-2006) – €73.5m
There’s a generation of Real Madrid fans who will identify better with Zidane the manager, rather than Zidane the player.
On the touchline, the Frenchman has a legitimate claim to being the world’s best coach. But on the pitch, there’s no doubt that title has already been achieved.
Zidane considers Cristiano Ronaldo to be the best player in the club’s history, but he won’t sit too far behind the Portuguese.
His €73.5million acquisition from Juventus was a then world-record fee as he headed up the Galacticos era. Yet for his grace and technical brilliance alone, Zidane warrants his 9/10.
His individual artistry offset a lack of collective success as only one La Liga and Champions League title was captured, as well as the Copa del Rey and European Super Cup.
Immortalised by his silky first touch, Zidane’s sumptuous winner against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2001/02 Champions League final has come to hallmark his legendary Real career.
5. KAKA (2009-2013) – €65m
Kaka was another Florentino Perez project but an enterprise which failed miserably.
For a brief period, the Brazilian was the second most expensive player after he switch from AC Milan but he went from heroic figure back in his homeland to benchwarmer in the Spanish capital.
Injuries ultimately decimated his Bernabeu career as surgery on a long-standing knee injury kept him out for eight months in 2010 before other problems hampered his first two years.
Mesut Ozil was signed after his exploits with Germany at the 2010 World Cup and Kaka was no longer considered first choice.
When he played, the mounting pressure from an expectant Madrid crowd saw Kaka crumble and the media distraction surrounding his future clouded his career.
He rejoined Milan on a free transfer four years after costing Madrid €65million and in truth, he was never the same player again.
6. LUIS FIGO (2000-2005) – €60m
Luis Figo arrived in 2000 as the best player in the world and in the eyes of the club he just departed, Barcelona, the most hated.
The Camp Nou faithful became enamoured with the Portuguese winger during a glittering five-year stay and it made his acrimonious departure to rivals Real all the more bitter.
Figo had signed a pre-contract agreement with Madrid and when details of the deal was leaked, he responded by reassuring fans he would play his football with Barca for the 2000/01 season.
Of course, he did not stay true to his word and left in a world-record move to mark the beginning of Florentino Perez’s Galactico dynasty. But while the tinge of discontent still remains, so too does Figo’s legendary status among Los Blancos fans.
He went on to win La Liga twice and the crowning moment came in 2002 with the Champions League triumph.
7. VINICIUS JUNIOR (2017-) – €45m
Only 11 days after making his professional debut for Brazilian club Flamengo, Vinicius Junior entered Real Madrid’s top-1o most expensive players ever.
For obvious reasons he doesn’t receive a rating but the 16-year-old has pressure weighing heavy on his shoulders. Fortunately, he won’t join Real until he’s 18 so it will allow the furor surrounding the exponential fee to calm down.
Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus, PSG, Liverpool, Chelsea and Barcelona were all interested in paying his release clause but Madrid convinced him a move to the Bernabeu was the right choice, despite his idol being Neymar.
Patience will be the name of the game, but those who have watched the Brazilian say he has every tool needed to be a big success.
8. RONALDO (2002-2007) – €45m
The original Ronaldo and the standout Galactico, the Brazilian was a rare marriage of mercurial talent and physical dominance, a striker who ran like a winger but was as strong centre-half.
He signed from Internazionale for €45million in 2002 following a World Cup campaign best remembered in equal measure for his adroit performances and ludicrous hair cut.
Ronaldo was rising again after a heartbreaking spell in Italy was ravaged by injury but he repaid the faith and fee parted by Real Madrid by scoring a ridiculous 104 goals in 177 games in all competitions.
Alongside Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo elevated his superstardom to new heights but the reason he receives an eight is because he never quite produced the consistent excellence in the ilk of his namesake Portuguese icon.
He did, though, forever alter what it meant to be a centre-forward, immortalising the No9 role and deserving a place among the game’s very best.
9. DAVID BECKHAM (2003-2007) – €37.5m
In 2003 David Beckham became just the third Englishman ever to sign for Madrid after he swapped the red of Manchester United for the white of Real in a deal worth €37.5m.
He played 155 games for Los Blancos and scored 20 goals with his crowning achievement, and only trophy at the Bernabeu, coming in his final season in Spain when they won La Liga.
A marketable glamour signing off the pitch, on it, Beckham was the hard-working Galactico who provided balance alongside Figo and Zidane.
Beckham was a popular figure with fans and players in an era marked by failure and while he was arguably signed for his ability to sell shirts rather than his production in one, the midfielder was largely a success story.
He impressed with his tenacity and work rate, a delightful contradiction to the pretty boy image many had anticipated and while he lacked the talent of Zidane and Ronaldo, his dignified morality saw him endeared by Madrid fans.
A good footballer, if not a star, and he deserved his title success when he left in 2007 after four seasons in the Spanish capital.
10. ARJEN ROBBEN (2007-2009) – €36m
Our last man on the list is Arjen Robben who was bought from Chelsea in 2007 for €36million and given the success he’s enjoyed with Bayern Munich since leaving Madrid, the flying Dutchman is perhaps the one that got away.
Robben didn’t truly hit his best form until 2012 as he matured from an often wasteful winger into an industrious team player. Though Real recognised his skill, his individualism, unforced errors and inability to track back made him an easy target of discontent.
A Ramon Calderon purchase, the 2009 presidency change saw Florentino Perez return for a second term and €250million project saw the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karima Benzema and Xabi Alonso brought in.
In a bid to balance the books, Robben was sold to Bayern and the rest, as they say, is history.