Zinedine Zidane has been handed the thankless task of managing the mighty Real Madrid after the sacking of manager, Rafa Benitez.
The former Ballon d’Or winner starts his tenure on Saturday evening in a home game against Deportivo, and he will no doubt hope his time as manager goes some way to replicating the wonders of his playing career.
The Frenchman played for Madrid during the infamous Galactico era. The Galacticos were expensive, world class football stars who were pursued by Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez, during his first tenure at the club. He announced that each season he would sign one of the world’s best players for the Spanish giants. This invited heavy scrutiny and, perhaps more significantly, involved the smashing of several global transfer records!
This got us thinking…whatever happened to the original Galacticos of the early 2000s?
We’ve hand picked our ultimate XI from the Galactico era!
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
Then: Despite his age, Casillas had proved himself as one of the best keepers in the business. With two Champions League winning medals by the age of 22, Casillas looked destined for legendary status at the Bernabeu.
Now: Now 34, Casillas has more than lived up to his hefty reputation. He has won copious domestic championships, Champions Leagues, the World Cup and the European Championship. However, in more recent times, Casillas has found form hard to come by. He lost his place as Madrid’s number one under Ancelotti, and was lambasted for his performances in Spain’s World Cup horror showing. In the summer of 2015, Casillas left Madrid to join Portuguese giants, Porto. Just months later, he overtook Xavi as the record appearance holder in the Champions League. A true giant of the game.
Right-Back: Michel Salgado
Then: An underrated force, Salgado had been an ever-present in the Madrid line-up since his €11 million move from Celta Vigo in 1999. Known for his aggressive style and stamina, Salgado provided the balance needed to complement the array of stars around him.
Now: After 18 years in the game, Salgado hung up his boots in 2012 following a spell with Blackburn Rovers. Now 40, Salgado has forged a successful career as a magazine analyst and as a football pundit. 53 caps for Spain and over 250 appearances for Real Madrid mean Salgado’s name will long remembered in the Spanish capital.
Cente-Back: Fernando Hierro
Then: Coming towards the end of an illustrious career, Real Madrid captain, Fernando Hierro, had achieved iconic status as a leader of men. Surprisingly, as adept in front of goal as he was at the back, Hierro had won five La Liga’s and three Champions League’s while at the Spanish giants. Remarkably, in the 1991-92 season, Hierro managed to score an impressive 21 goals in La Liga.
Now: Hierro, now 47, was assistant manager of Real Madrid during Ancelotti’s managerial spell. He joined the club in 2014 – coincidentally replacing Zidane – and left the club when Ancelotti was sacked in the summer of 2015. A talented coach, he has been in several positions- for example, director of football at Malaga – since his illustrious career came to an end in 2005 after a surprising spell with Bolton Wanderers.
Centre-Back: Ivan Helguera
Then: Another underrated cog in the Real Madrid machine, Helguera provided the perfect fold for Hierro in central defence. Since his move from Espanyol in 1999, Helguera had been a key member of the Galactico era without ever really stealing the limelight. A classic ball-playing centre-half, his technical ability allowed him to slot into the midfield whenever needed.
Now: Helguera, now 40, is long retired from the game. After eight years at Madrid, Helguera finished off his career with a solitary season at Valencia in 2008. Seemingly pursuing a life outside of football, Helguera is another player of legendary status in Madrid history.
Left-Back: Roberto Carlos
Then: Considered one of the best left-backs in history, Roberto Carlos reconstructed the role of a full-back. In 1997, he was the runner up in the FIFA World Player of the Year and, as of 2003, he had won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Synonymous for his free kicks, Carlos is said to have struck a football at over 105 mph!
Now: Roberto Carlos is currently the player-manager of Indian Super League side, Delhi Dynamos. Before this, he managed in Russia and Turkey. He is said to be the one of the greatest living football players and in 2013 was named in the “best foreign eleven of Real Madrid’s history” by newspaper Marca.
Right Midfield: Steve McManaman
Then: Many people forget that, before Beckham, McManaman flew the British flag in the Spanish capital. A tricky winger, McManaman forged a successful career for Liverpool before a money spinning move to Madrid in 1999. Despite winning two Champions League titles at Madrid, McManaman couldn’t force his way into the 2002 English World Cup squad.
Now: After his spell with Madrid, McManaman moved back to the Premier League to finish off a largely successful career at Manchester City. Now a pundit with BT Sport, McManaman is widely accepted as one of the greatest British players to play abroad.
Central Midfield: Zinedine Zidane
Then: Perhaps the greatest player on the planet in 2003, Zidane summed up what it was to be a Galactico. After a world-record transfer to Madrid in 2001, Zidane soon made his mark as he inspired the club to a historic Champions League victory.
Now: After a wonderful career at the top of the game, Zidane bowed out of professional football in the most dramatic manner possible. Playing in the 2006 World Cup final, Zidane lost his head (literally) as he head-butted Italian opponent, Marco Materazzi. However, this is not to diminish Zidane’s achievements as a player. He won the FIFA World Player of the Year three times in his career and captained his country, France, to both the European and World Cup titles. A legend by right, Zidane managed Real Madrid Castilla until he was thrown into the main hot-seat earlier this week.
Defensive Midfield: Claude Makelele
Then: After a successful spell at Celta Vigo, Makelele made the move to Real Madrid in 2000 for a fee of €14 million. Known for his destructive prowess just in front of the back four, Makelele revolutionised what would be known as the ‘defensive midfielder.’ Selfless energy and teamwork meant Makelele would become an irremovable force in the Madrid engine room.
Now: After a largely successful spell at Madrid, Makelele moved to Premier League side, Chelsea, where he would become one of the most appreciated midfielders in the world. He played a major role in Jose Mourinho’s title-winning side and would star for France in the 2006 World Cup campaign. He has most recently become the manager of French first division side Bastia in 2014. However, his tenure lasted just six months before he was sacked.
Central Midfield: Guti
Then: A player who specialised in a position behind the striker, Guti had all the ability in the world. Perhaps occasionally lamented for his work ethic, Guti – like Raul – demonstrated the ability of Real Madrid to produce homegrown talent.
Now: After 25 years service for Real Madrid, Guti left the club in 2010 for a spell with Turkish side, Besiktas. After a season with the club, Guti announced his retirement from the game and began earning his coaching credentials. In 2012, he stated that he would be interested in returning to Madrid in a coaching capacity at some point in the future.
Left Midfield: Luis Figo
Then: A man who had done the unthinkable. He had crossed the divide between Barcelona and Real Madrid. His transfer for a mouth-watering £37 million in 2000 proved to be one of the most controversial moves in recent history. However, it seemed to pay off as he starred in Real Madrid’s European campaign just two years later. A winger by trade, Luis Figo had won the Ballon d’Or in 2000 and was considered on a level with Zidane as one of the best players in world football.
Now: Figo is long retired from the game. After a successful spell with Madrid, Figo moved on to finish his career with Italian giants, Inter Milan. Now the owner of a successful bar, Figo has pursued several entrepreneurial fronts since hanging up his boots. In particular, he is the founder of Network90, a private members’ networking site for the Professional Football Industry. In 2015, he announced his intention to run for FIFA presidency. However, he removed his name months later citing corruption as the main reason.
Then: The original Ronaldo. Considered one of the best strikers to ever grace the football field, Ronaldo had just steered Brazil to victory in the 2002 World Cup. Adored by Madrid fans worldwide, the striker had the pressure of a €46 million price tag to deal with…not that it was much of a problem for the prolific Brazilian.
Now: Ronaldo retired from professional football in 2011 after a series of injury and weight issues blighted his late career. Infamously caught up in a call girl scandal, Ronaldo has seen his profile dip in recent years. However, he is one of only three men to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times or more and will be forever remembered for this. In January 2013, he was named one of the six Ambassadors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In 2014, he became minority owner of an American soccer franchise, Fort Lauderdale Strikers.