This Wednesday, two European heavyweights will meet each other in the Champions League once again as Liverpool host Real Madrid in an eagerly anticipated match at Anfield.
Last time they met, five-time winners Liverpool beat 10-time winners and current champions Real Madrid 5-0 over two legs in the 2008/09 round of 16, including a comprehensive 4-0 thrashing at Anfield.
While both clubs are known traditionally as footballing powerhouses, their fortunes in recent years couldn’t be any more different. This season marks the Reds’ long-awaited return to the top of the European footballing tree, while Real have remained the cream of the crop in the European and Spanish elite.
Together, Liverpool and Real Madrid have shared some incredible footballing histories and some exceptional players. Raheem Sterling’s recent links with the Santiago Bernabeu (per The Guardian) notwithstanding, here are the top five players to ever have played for both clubs.
In fifth place comes Fernando Morientes, who left a legacy at Real Madrid due to his goal-scoring prowess in Spain but unfortunately wasn’t able to carry that form to Anfield.
Seventy-two goals in 182 league games for Real Madrid tell their own story, especially during the rise to prominence of one of their all-time legends, Raul. Morientes found his place in the Madrid team under threat in 2002 after the arrival of Ronaldo, and he was then farmed out on loan to AS Monaco.
After Michael Owen provided even further competition to the striking slots at the Bernabeu, Morientes moved to Liverpool, where he scored just eight goals in 41 Premier League appearances.
If the reported £3.5 million fee that Real Madrid paid to bring Alvaro Arbeloa back to the Bernabeu can rightly be regarded as a snip, then the £2.6 million that Liverpool paid to sign him from Deportivo La Coruna (via BBC Sport) should be considered as an absolute bargain.
Liverpool fans will remember Arbeloa most fondly for his arrival from relative obscurity in January 2007 and instantly stopping Lionel Messi as a makeshift left-back at The Nou Camp in the Champions League on his debut.
Two-and-a-half years as a regular starter in Rafael Benitez’s back line, in one of the most iconic and fondly remembered Liverpool teams in recent history, predated a return to the Bernabeu, where he has made more than 130 league appearances since.
It was perhaps the turning point in Michael Owen’s career—arguably for the worse, unfortunately—but his move to Real Madrid on a Bosman free transfer in the summer of 2004 ended his love affair with Liverpool and left a bitter taste in many Reds fans’ mouths.
Regardless, there can be no denying Owen’s impact during his years at Liverpool. Breaking onto the scene as a 17-year-old, Owen went on to score 118 goals in 216 Premier League games for the Reds, becoming one of the hottest young strikers on the planet and earning plaudits for his searing pace and clinical finishing.
A highly respectable record of 18 goals in just 15 starts across all competitions meant that he finished his sole season in La Liga with the highest goals-to-minutes ratio in the league before squad competition prevented him from experiencing the highs for another year, moving back to England with Newcastle United just a year after he signed for Madrid.
Another Liverpool academy graduate who left for the Bernabeu on a Bosman free transfer is ahead of Michael Owen in the pecking order, but Steve McManaman’s record with Real Madrid ensures that he frequently features in lists of best English players to have played abroad.
McManaman’s own Liverpool career only briefly overlapped with Owen’s, but what a career it was. In 272 league appearances, he scored 46 goals, cementing himself as one of the best wingers in world football in the process with his pace, creativity, dribbling and goal-scoring ability.
He enjoyed a very good career in Spain with Madrid, scoring eight times in 94 league appearances and playing a major part in the Champions League final win over Valencia in 2000. His eventual exit was hastened with the arrival of David Beckham, and he ended his career with Manchester City.
Without a doubt, however, the greatest player to have represented both Liverpool and Real Madrid is Xabi Alonso, who is also the most recent player on this list.
Contributing heavily to Liverpool’s most recent two major trophy wins—the 2005 Champions League win and the 2006 FA Cup victory—Alonso commanded the middle of the Anfield pitch with his breathtaking vision and superior passing ability. He was arguably the most important player in the Reds’ title charge in the 2008/09 Premier League season.
A £30 million move to Real Madrid followed, where he would spend another five seasons manning the Madrid midfield and providing the composure, calm and technique that he has become synonymous with. He has won both the La Liga title as well as the Champions League with Madrid.
Now plying his trade at Bayern Munich after a surprise summer move, Alonso continues to go from strength to strength—he recently set the record for most passes in a Bundesliga match—and is still fondly remembered and missed at both clubs.