The Belgium international had seven seasons at Chelsea, winning six major trophies, including the Europa League and the Premier League twice, the FA Cup and the League Cup, before deciding on a move to Madrid.
Here, we take a look at six former Premier League players who have made the switch.
Steve McManaman (1999-2003)
The Bootle-born player was also the first English footballer to move from the Premier League when he traded Liverpool for Madrid. McManaman scored eight goals in a four-year spell which yielded two La Liga titles and the Champions League, scoring a spectacular volley in the 3-0 final win over Valencia in 2000.
David Beckham (2003-2007)
Beckham left Manchester United for £25million in the summer of 2003, signing a four-year contract to become Madrid’s latest Galactico. The midfielder won 19 major trophies in his 20-year playing career, but his four-year spell at Real was not especially successful. Beckham won the Spanish Super Cup in his first season, scoring in a 3-0 win over Mallorca, and also secured a league title in his final season, before he departed for LA Galaxy.
Michael Owen (2004-2005)
The prolific England international was signed at the peak of his career for £8million. However, as with Beckham, Owen’s time as a Galactico was not without frustration. The striker made the majority of his appearances from the bench in his solitary season at Madrid, where he managed to score a respectable 13 goals from his 36 appearances.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2006-2010)
Holland international striker Van Nistelrooy joined former Manchester United team-mate Beckham when he moved to the Bernabeu for £14million. Unfortunately for Van Nistelrooy, his four-year spell was blighted by several injuries, including a partially torn meniscus in his right knee and a thigh issue. He did however manage to win the Pichichi award for scoring the most goals in his first season at the club, as well as going on to win two domestic titles.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2009-2018)
Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer and five-time Ballon d’Or winner was another to trade Manchester for Madrid, when he left United for Real for a world record £80million in 2009. In total he won 15 major trophies including two league titles, two Copa del Reys, four Champions Leagues, two Super Cups and three Club World Cups. After 438 games and more than 450 goals, he joined Juventus in 2018.
Gareth Bale (2013-)
The Wales talisman became the most expensive player in history when he signed from Tottenham for a reported £85.3million in September 2013. Bale played an integral role in his first season with the Spanish giants, scoring decisive goals in the final of both the 2014 Champions League and Copa del Rey. Although recent times at the Bernabeu have not been so successful, with injuries disrupting his momentum, Bale is still averaging around a goal every two games.
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