Here in the UK we’ve grown used, over the past decade or so, to seeing talented Spanish players making their way to the Premier League and becoming superstars for their respective clubs; Torres, Fabregas, Arteta, Alonso or Costa, names which spring readily to mind. However, let us not forget that it’s not always been one way traffic; that there have been some significant examples of players from these fair isles making the move in the opposite direction to stamp their mark upon Spain’s top flight.
Here are but a few examples.
Gary Lineker (Barcelona 1986-1989)
England’s deadly marksman throughout the 80s rolled up to Camp Nou in 1986 on the back of a golden boot performance at Mexico ’86 (scorer of 6 goals en route to the quarter finals) as well as two seasons of devastating goalscoring for Everton in the England’s Division One. Lineker would soon become a favourite at Barcelona, bagging 21 goals in his 41 appearances during his debut season. Of course, what really endured him to the Catalonians was his stunning hat-trick in that seasons El Clasico match, helping his team to a 3-2 win. Lineker remained at Camp Nou until 1989, winning a Spanish Cup and the European Cup Winner’s Cup along the way.
Steve McManaman (Real Madrid 1999 – 2003)
Scouser Mcmanaman joined Los Blancos in a high profile and somewhat prolonged transfer from hometown club Liverpool. The mercurial winger’s place in Madrid folklore was cemented in his very first, and arguably best, season at the Bernabeu. With the club in a degree of turmoil with changes at managerial and boardroom level, as well as financial problems, McManaman still became a fan favourite with some stellar man of the match performances at home and in the Champions League, helping his team past Manchester United and Bayern Munich on the way to the final against fellow Spaniards Valencia. He turned in a magnificent performance in the final, scoring a stunning volley in Real’s 3-0 victory, becoming the first Englishman to win a European Cup with a foreign club.
David Beckham (2003-2007)
One of the most recognisable names in world football of his generation, Beckham’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid was one of the most high profile transfers in the modern game. This was the era of the Galacticos and Beckham was another huge global name to slot into a team consisting of Figo, Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Raul and Ronaldo. It was a mixed time for the Madrid giants, the dominance of recent seasons was on the wane as the likes of Valencia, Deportivo and Barcelona challenged their supremacy. Nevertheless Beckham’s star and profile remained sky high throughout, claiming a league title in his final season at the club before another high profile move to LA Galaxy in the MLS.
Steve Archibald (Barcelona 1984-88)
Former Spurs and Scotland striker joined Barcelona in the summer of 1984 and became a popular figure at the club, notching 24 goals in his 55 appearances. His goals helped Barcelona end an 11 year drought with a league title win on 1985 and followed up the next year with a march to the European Cup Final, only to lose on penalties to Steaua Bucharest.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid 2013-Present)
The source of constant speculation during the 2012-13 season, due to his devastating form for Spurs on the Premier League, the Wales international final signed for Real in the summer of 2013 for a world record fee of £85m. His beginnings were hampered by injury and he missed almost half of Real’s opening third of the season. Once back to full fitness however, Bale began to repay the huge transfer fee. Forming a deadly union with Christiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Bale would help Real to the final of the Copa Del Rey, scoring a sensational solo goal to seal victory over Barcelona. A few weeks later and Bale was a part of the Real side who would play city rivals Atletico in the final of the Champions League. With the score locked at 1-1 in extra-time, the Welsh marksman popped up with a header to put Real into the lead, a goal that would help seal a famous 10th victory in Europe’s premier competition.