Ranking the 75 best players in Real Madrid history

Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) /

With 35 league titles and 14 Champions League crowns, Real Madrid have a more storied history than any other club. They have more fans than anyone else, too, as the accolades and consistent success of Los Blancos have attracted so many people to a club whose mission statement is excellence itself.

As such, Real Madrid have boasted a long list of great players. They have so many great players that I originally planned on creating a top 50 list, but there were too many stars who would have been omitted without extending the list to 75. And I just could not let these players go unhonored.

So here it is, the best 75 Real Madrid players of all time, updated through the 2021/22 season. Yes, that means this list is liable to change in the future, adapting as the club does and as new legends rise.

Who will be next to make the top 75? Which current stars are in it?

And who is No. 1? It was not an easy battle at the top between two titans of the game.

75. Ruud van Nistelrooy

While Ruud van Nistelrooy only managed two quality seasons with the Merengue club due to injury, the 14 million euro superstar striker from Manchester United showed enough quality in those two seasons to make this list.

At a club like Real, quality matters first and foremost, and van Nistelrooy was an important source of (great) goals and technical class at a time when the Merengues were struggling in the Champions League. Van Nistelrooy’s goals were vital in Real claiming LaLiga in back-to-back seasons in 2006/07 and 2007/08. He won the Pichichi in the first of those campaigns, finding the back of the net a whopping 25 times.

It is a shame injuries prevented him from being higher on this list.

74. Manuel Velázquez

Manuel Velázquez played for Real Madrid from 1962 to 1977 after being a youth academy product. Though he spent some seasons on loan with Rayo Vallecano and Malaga, Velazquez was a Madridista for nearly two decades, including his youth career, logging 301 appearances and 48 goals for the club.

73. Ángel Di María

Although it may seem like Ángel Di María is a little low on this list, it is really an honor for him to be on this list at all, even above someone with over 300 appearances like Velázquez. Nowadays, some fans do not like Di María for comments he has made about Florentino Pérez, but many Madridistas understand his aggrievements.

In any case, Di María has an important legacy at Real Madrid as a world-class winger who helped the team return to the top of European football, playing an instrumental role in the Champions League Final that would be La Decima. He had at least nine assists in LaLiga in each of his four seasons with the club, including a whopping 17 in his final campaign.

72. Gonzalo Higuaín

True football fans understand that Gonzalo Higuaín is one of the best strikers of his generation, particularly his work in Serie A. It is only the fools who scapegoat him for a bad game or two in the World Cup. Higuaín was a fantastic all-around striker, and it is an honor that his first steps to greatness in Europe occurred at Real Madrid.

Higuaín scored 107 goals in 190 matches, meaning he had more goals and more appearances in Madrid than anywhere else. His connection with the other forwards under José Mourinho was devastating, as he was part of literally the most prolific attack in LaLiga history.

A three-time LaLiga champion, Higuaín had three seasons with at least 22 goals despite sharing the spotlight with so many stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

71. Paul Breitner

In between two stints with Bayern Munich, Paul Breitner spent three years in LaLiga with Real Madrid. Breitner is overshadowed in the history books by the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, but he is an all-time great in his own right and certainly one of the best German players ever.

At Real Madrid, Breitner was a star in his brief time there, helping Los Merengues capture two league crowns and the Copa del Rey. Back when Real cared about the cup.