Eden Hazard, Kaka and Real Madrid's worst signings of all time - ranked

Comments (0)
Hazard Kaka Woodgate Real Madrid GFX
With the Belgium forward set to leave the Bernabeu after a forgettable four seasons, GOAL looks back at Los Blancos' other transfer flops

Real Madrid have never been afraid to splash the cash, and in the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema they have signed some of the greatest players in history. However, there are many more who cost Madrid mega money but never even came close to living up to the hype.

One of the more high-profile of those is Eden Hazard, whom it has been announced will be leaving Santiago Bernabeu this summer having agreed to cancel the final year of his contract in the Spanish capital. The Belgium winger has been beset by injuries since arriving from Chelsea, and leaves Madrid as one of the worst value-for-money buys in the club's history.

But where does Hazard rank among the worst Madrid signings of all-time? GOAL takes a look...

  1. DANILO | From Porto | €31.5m | 2015
    Getty Images

    #16 DANILO | From Porto | €31.5m | 2015

    Danilo has openly admitted that it is difficult to deal with the amount of scrutiny players are subjected to by the media in Madrid. "An error, no matter how small, goes viral," he lamented. "A mistake becomes very great even if it is small. But, of course, when you do something good, it is also very great."

    Surprisingly, Danilo is still playing at the very top level - Madrid offloaded him to Manchester City in 2017, before he joined Juventus two years later where he still plays.

  2. JULIEN FAUBERT | From West Ham | Loan | 2009

    #15 JULIEN FAUBERT | From West Ham | Loan | 2009

    Perhaps not the worst transfer in Madrid's history but certainly the strangest. The entire football world was stunned when they took Faubert on loan from West Ham during the January transfer window.

    There was an option to buy but it was never taken up, not least because the Frenchman missed one training session as he mistakenly thought he had the day off, and also appeared to nod off during a game against Villarreal. The right-back denied it – “I didn’t fall asleep on the bench; I prefer beds” – but it adequately summed up the rather dream-like absurdity of his short spell in the Spanish capital.

  3. ROYSTON DRENTHE | From Feyenoord | €14m | 2007

    #14 ROYSTON DRENTHE | From Feyenoord | €14m | 2007

    Whether a character like Drenthe ever had the discipline to succeed at the highest level is open to debate. What we do know is that his hopes of making it at Real Madrid effectively ended the moment he was mercilessly booed by the Bernabeu crowd during a game against Deportivo La Coruna.

    It left him "suffering from anxiety", then manager Juande Ramos revealed, "As his coach I will do all I can to help him because he has a lot of potential." It was never realised, with the former teen star eventually departing for Hercules, where he made further headlines for going on strike. The Dutch winger retired at the age of 29 to focus on his rap career.

  4. ANTONIO CASSANO | From Roma | €5m | 2006

    #13 ANTONIO CASSANO | From Roma | €5m | 2006

    The fee may have been small but Cassano was still a colossal waste of money. His return was dismal - just one goal in seven appearances - his attitude dreadful and his diet even worse.

    "In Madrid, I had a friend who was a hotel waiter," the Italian later revealed. "His job was to bring me three or four pastries after I had sex. He would bring the pastries up the stairs, I would escort the woman to him and we would make an exchange: he would take the girl and I would take the pastries. Sex and then food, a perfect night."

  5. JAVIER SAVIOLA | From Barcelona | Free | 2007

    #12 JAVIER SAVIOLA | From Barcelona | Free | 2007

    "Looking back," Saviola said, reflecting on his time in Spain, "I do wish I'd played more." The Argentine attacker had impressed during his early years at Barcelona, but by the time he joined Madrid, it was clear that he was not going to live up to the hype.

    Madrid's decision to sign Saviola did little more than annoy their Clasico rivals, as 'The Little Rabbit' never looked remotely capable of nailing down a regular starting berth in a side boasting Arjen Robben, Gonzalo Higuain, Raul, Robinho and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    Saviola moved on to Benfica after just five goals for Los Blancos.

  6. PEDRO LEON | From Getafe | €10m | 2010

    #11 PEDRO LEON | From Getafe | €10m | 2010

    "I felt humiliated at Madrid," Leon admitted in 2011. "I am not aware of doing anything wrong. I did all I could, I was professional, I worked hard." Jose Mourinho disagreed. The Portuguese coach was disgusted by the winger's allegedly poor work ethic and eventually snapped at journalists after repeated questions over his ongoing refusal to give the €10m signing more game time.

    "You talk of Pedro Leon as if he is Zidane or Maradona or Di Stefano. Last year he was playing for Getafe! I don’t have to justify his absence." Unsurprisingly, Leon was sent back to where he came from after just one, controversy-ridden season at the club.

  7. REINIER | From Flamengo | €30m | 2020

    #10 REINIER | From Flamengo | €30m | 2020

    At 21, Reinier still has time on his side to make an impact at Madrid, but all signs point to him not being at the level required to make the grade at the Bernabeu. Dubbed 'The New Kaka' upon his arrival, hopes were high that he would follow compatriots Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo into the first team, but he is still yet to debut for the club.

    Instead, he has spent the past three seasons out on loan, though he has made little impact. He endured two forgettable campaigns with Borussia Dortmund before joining Girona for the 2022-23 campaign. Just five starts in La Liga for a mid-table side suggests he has little chance of breaking through back at Madrid any time soon.

  8. ROBERT PROSINECKI | From Red Star | €15m | 1991

    #9 ROBERT PROSINECKI | From Red Star | €15m | 1991

    Big things had been expected of one of the finest talents ever to come out of the Balkans, a gifted midfielder who had just helped Red Star Belgrade win the European Cup.

    The highlight of his three-year Madrid career was a goal against Barcelona in the Clasico and even that was well and truly overshadowed by the fact that he departed for Catalunya in 1995. That he also flopped there was of little consolation to frustrated fans.

  9. WALTER SAMUEL | From Roma | €25m | 2004

    #8 WALTER SAMUEL | From Roma | €25m | 2004

    At €25m, Samuel looked like an excellent signing for a side crying out for a dominant, ruthless centre-half. However, the Argentine never looked anything remotely like the player who had earned the nickname 'The Wall' during his time at Roma, much to the bemusement of former coach Capello.

    "The fact that he did not make a name for himself at Real Madrid still surprises me," the Italian later admitted. "Perhaps it was the wrong time." It certainly seemed that way because as soon as Samuel returned to Italy in 2005, to join Inter, he went back to being one of the finest defenders on the planet, becoming a legend at San Siro.

  10. NICOLAS ANELKA | From Arsenal | €34.5m | 1999
    Getty Images

    #7 NICOLAS ANELKA | From Arsenal | €34.5m | 1999

    Madrid took a massive gamble when they signed a talented but temperamental French striker who had already earned himself the nickname 'Le Sulk' in the English press. It did not pay off. Anelka lasted just one season in Spain - but it was an eventful campaign.

    His first goal came in the Clasico, while he netted twice in the Champions League semi-finals against Bayern Munich. However, there were just seven goals altogether, not least due to the fact that the forward was suspended for 45 days at one point for refusing to train, with Anelka accusing his Spanish employers of treating him "like a dog".

  11. JAMES RODRIGUEZ | From Monaco | €80m | 2014
    Getty Images

    #6 JAMES RODRIGUEZ | From Monaco | €80m | 2014

    Just like everyone else in the football world, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez fell in love with the fresh-faced, silky-skilled James Rodriguez during Colombia's run to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. Given the attacking midfielder with a keen eye for spectacular goals had long dreamed of moving to the Santiago Bernabeu, a transfer was inevitable, so James became Perez's latest Galactico.

    At times during his first season in Spain, he played like one, ending the 2014-15 campaign with 17 goals in all competitions. However, while Zinedine Zidane's appointment as coach in 2016 proved a crucial turning point in Madrid's modern history, it effectively spelt the end of James' Blancos career. He rarely featured under the Frenchman, who at one point claimed that James had asked to be left out of a game against Athletic Club.

    In the end, after a couple of years on loan at Bayern Munich, and a dire final season in which he made just eight appearances, the €80m (£68m/$86m) signing left for nothing – the perfect illustration of just how far his stock had fallen since winning the Golden Boot in Brazil.

  12. ELVIR BALJIC | From Fenerbahce | €26m | 1999

    #5 ELVIR BALJIC | From Fenerbahce | €26m | 1999

    John Toshack had been impressed by the Bosnian during his time working in Turkey and persuaded Madrid to pay a shockingly large fee for the forward. Baljic's hopes of making an impact in Spain were hardly helped by a knee injury shortly after his arrival, but even when fit, he did not look like he belonged at the highest level and he was loaned back to Fenerbahce after just one season, and one goal, in La Liga.

    He later mused: "It doesn't hurt me to see media listing me among Real's biggest flops; I don't see myself that way." The club's fans will disagree.

  13. KAKA | From AC Milan | €65m | 2009

    #4 KAKA | From AC Milan | €65m | 2009

    It's easy to understand why Real Madrid broke the transfer world record to sign Kaka. When he joined from AC Milan, he was 27 and at the peak of his powers, a Ballon d'Or winner. At the time, there was no better sight in football than the Brazilian trequartista with the ball at his feet: he didn't run; he glided.

    Unfortunately, he was grounded for the majority of his time in Spain. Injuries ruined what should have been a sensational partnership with Ronaldo, while the arrivals of Mourinho and Mesut Ozil also hindered his hopes of playing regular football.

    There were highlights, not to mention a Liga title, but as he admitted, "I lost the joy of playing football a bit [in Madrid]."

  14. JONATHAN WOODGATE | From Newcastle | €18.3m | 2004

    #3 JONATHAN WOODGATE | From Newcastle | €18.3m | 2004

    The worst debut in history? It's hard to look past Woodgate's first game for Madrid - even though it was extremely tough to watch. The centre-half had joined in 2004 but a spent a year out injured with a thigh problem that doctors had failed to detect. "I thought, 'Right, you're back. Show them what you can do," he later recalled of his appearance against Athletic Club.

    He scored an own goal and was sent off. A forgiving Santiago Bernabeu gave him a standing ovation, but nobody complained when Woodgate was sent back to England in 2006 after just eight further league matches.

  15. LUKA JOVIC | From Eintracht Frankfurt | €66m | 2019
    Getty Images

    #2 LUKA JOVIC | From Eintracht Frankfurt | €66m | 2019

    In 2018-19, Jovic looked like the next big striking star of Europe. He scored 10 goals in 14 Europa League games for Frankfurt, and also impressed in the Bundesliga. This persuaded Madrid to pay an extortionate amount for a player who had been on loan at Eintracht from Benfica, resulting in a complex double transfer for Jovic as he made a permanent switch to Germany before signing for Madrid the very next day.

    Jovic certainly didn't prove to be worth the trouble, and the Serbian now joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2022 after just three goals in 51 games for Los Blancos.

  16. EDEN HAZARD | From Chelsea | €120m | 2019

    #1 EDEN HAZARD | From Chelsea | €120m | 2019

    A transfer 10 years in the making, Eden Hazard's move to Real Madrid appeared doomed from the moment the winger turned up overweight for pre-season training.

    In fairness to Hazard, he was desperately unfortunate with injuries, having had an almost clean bill of health for the duration of his time at Chelsea. However, even when he has managed to get a run of games together in Spain, he has looked a very cheap imitation of the player who had illuminated the Premier League for seven years.

    Hazard has got his hands on some important trophies, including the Champions League, but he played about as much part in Madrid's 2021-22 triumph as the almost-permanently absent Gareth Bale – and it wasn't for the want of trying on the Belgian's part, which probably makes the whole situation even sadder.

    He leaves having scored just seven goals in 76 appearances. Given the price paid, it's difficult not to conclude that he is Madrid's worst-ever signing.