Where are they? The Real Madrid squad from Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut
Cristiano Ronaldo is inextricably linked with contemporary Real Madrid, but the team prior to his debut on July 20, 2009 appears to be from an entirely different era.
Ronaldo made his final appearance for Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final, but he made his debut against Shamrock Rovers in somewhat different circumstances.
Madrid won the game 1-0 due to a late goal by Karim Benzema, who also made his debut on that day. Here is a look back at the team that day.
Jerzy Dudek Dudek made just 12 competitive appearances for Real Madrid over four years, serving primarily as Iker Casillas’ backup. The goalkeeper received a procession of honor from his teammates during his final appearance for the club, despite his limited impact.
After his retirement in 2014, he pursued a career in auto racing, competing in the Volkswagen Castrol Cup.
RB: Miguel Torres (Michel Salgado ’45)
Torres was a member of Real Madrid’s youth program and achieved two league titles with his hometown club. Shortly after Ronaldo’s arrival, he transferred to Getafe before spending a season with Olympiacos.
The fullback departed from Malaga after five years in 2019.
Salgado was released by Madrid in August 2009, and later that summer he joined Blackburn Rovers. During the 2011-12 season, he was not included in matchday squads for Rovers because they could not afford to offer him a new contract.
In 2016, at age 40, he came out of retirement to join the Indian futsal team Kochi 5s. In February 2021, Salgado was appointed director of football for Cypriot First Division club Pafos FC.
CB: Pepe (Gabriel Heinze ’45)
Pepe played for Madrid for a decade and won three league titles and three Champions Leagues.
In addition to being a bloody excellent defender, he will also be remembered for his aggressive style – he was once suspended for 10 games with Real after punching and kicking a player and then verbally abusing a referee.
He departed Madrid in 2017 and spent a year with Besiktas before rejoining Porto in 2019 and guiding them to the Champions League quarterfinals in 2021. Pepe is still with the Portuguese club at age 40.
His replacement departed Madrid in 2009 for Marseille and also played for Roma and Newell’s Old Boys before retiring in 2014.
The former Manchester United player has since become a highly distinguished manager in Argentina with Godoy Cruz and Argentinos Juniors, and he led Velez Sarsfield for three years before resigning at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
Heinze is the manager of Newell’s Old Boys at present.
CB: Christoph Metzelder (Ezequiel Garay ’45)
After joining Madrid in 2007 from Borussia Dortmund, the defender was never able to establish himself. When his contract expired in 2010, the German joined Schalke, where he played until his retirement in 2013 due to injuries.
A German court imposed a 10-month suspended prison sentence on Metzelder in April 2021 after he was found guilty of distributing child pornography.
Garay was never a mainstay for Madrid and left in 2011 to join Benfica. Later, he transferred to Zenit Saint Petersburg, but Valencia brought him back to La Liga. The defender later announced that he will retire in 2021.
Marcelo (Royston Drenthe ’45) at LB.
Marcelo departed Madrid in 2022 as the club’s most decorated player. He now plays for Fluminense in his native Brazil.
Drenthe has a diverse resume, having played for Everton, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Alania Vladikavkaz, and Kayseri Erciyesspor, among others.
Stop that Marcelo. pic.twitter.com/U5JZL0Pg4d— Stop That Football (@stopthatfooty) July 17, 2023
Still only 36 years old, his last team was Kozakken Boys. Away from football, he opened a clothing store in 2017 and retired momentarily to release a rap song.
CM: Fernando Gago (Dani Parejo ’45)
Gago made more than 100 appearances for Real Madrid, but injuries have defined his career.
The midfielder spent time with Roma and Valencia before returning to his former club Boca Juniors in 2013, but his contract was terminated in February 2019.
Daniel Angelici, president of Boca, stated, “He is a player who came up through our youth system, and we say this with a heavy heart, but due to repeated injuries, he has decided to step aside.” Gago later joined Velez Sarsfield before retiring in 2020.
In 2011, Parejo moved from Madrid to Getafe, where he never had an opportunity. Then, he became a regular at Valencia before moving to Villarreal, where he won the Europa League two years ago. He also has four appearances for Spain.
CM: Lassana Diarra (Marcos Tebar ’63)
Diarra joined Real Madrid on the same day as Cristiano Ronaldo, but he did not have quite the same impact. After four years at the club, he fell out of favor and was transferred to the Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala. He later played for Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille, and Al Jazira.
In 2018, Diarra made an unexpected move to PSG, but 13 months later, he proclaimed his retirement and the two parties mutually terminated his contract.
Tebar made a single appearance for Madrid’s first team, and he has since played for multiple Spanish organizations.
In 2014, he played briefly for Brentford and most recently for Odisha FC in the Indian Super League.
RW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Wesley Sneijder ’45)
Ronaldo apparently performed well at Real Madrid. Unknown what he has done since.
Sneijder was sold to Inter Milan after being regarded surplus to requirements at Real Madrid following Ronaldo’s arrival. In his first season in Italy, the midfielder won the Treble, and he has since played for Galatasaray and Nice.
In 2018, Sneijder joined the Qatari club Al-Gharafa before retiring the following year.
CAM: Guti (Rafael van der Vaart ’45)
Guti, a product of Madrid’s youth academy, earned a reputation as a gifted playmaker capable of generating brilliant moments. During his 15 years at Real Madrid, he won five La Liga and three Champions League titles.
The midfielder played for Besiktas for one season before retiring in 2012. He coached the under-19 squad for Real Madrid before returning to Besiktas as an assistant manager.
Then, he became the first-team manager at Almeria, where he subsequently offered to resign and return his salary if rumors that he had attended a nightclub with his players after a loss were confirmed. A few months later, in June 2020, he was fired from his position.
In his two years at White Hart Lane, Van Der Vaart quickly became a fan favorite following his 2010 transfer to Tottenham. Before retiring in 2018, he played for Hamburg, Real Betis, FC Midtjylland, and Esbjerg fB.
In 2019, he debuted professionally at the Denmark Open after joining the British Darts Organisation circuit.
LW: Gonzalo Higuain (Alvaro Negredo ’45)
Between 2007 and 2013, the forward scored 122 goals for Real Madrid before joining Napoli in 2013 and then making a controversial move to rivals Juventus in 2016.
Only five goals were scored during his unsuccessful loan tenure with Chelsea in the second half of the 2018-19 season. Unsurprisingly, the Blues declined to extend the Argentine’s contract. He will retire in 2022.
Negredo never featured for Madrid’s first team due to the availability of other forwards, but he made a name for himself at Sevilla. His performance subsequently gained him a transfer to Manchester City prior to his return to Spain with Valencia.
Since then, he has played for Middlesbrough, Besiktas, and Al-Nasr Dubai SC before returning to Spain in 2020 to play for newly-promoted Cadiz and assisting them in avoiding relegation.
ST: Raul (Karim Benzema ’45)
Raul’s career at Real Madrid was nearing its conclusion in 2009, and he departed the club in 2010 to join Schalke before signing with Al Sadd two years later. The striker retired in 2014 before rejoining the New York Cosmos for two seasons.
In 2018, he became a junior coach at Real Madrid, and in June of 2019, he was named manager of Real Madrid Castilla.
Benzema has just left Madrid to travel to Saudi Arabia. He made 648 appearances for Los Blancos and scored 354 goals.
Where are they? The Real Madrid squad from Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut