It can be said without a shadow of doubt that between that between Real Madrid and Chelsea, two European giants, Real Madrid undoubtedly have the upper hand in possessing the more illustrious history of the two. That said, one cannot understate the quality of world-class, talented footballers that have graced both the blue and white jerseys.
The Champions League this season has pitted them against each other in a rare encounter. Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid won the last friendly between the two in the International Champions Cup in 2013.
But the last time these two faced each other in a competitive match (before last week’s first leg) was in the 1998 UEFA Super Cup final, 23 years back, when Chelsea beat Real Madrid 1-0 thanks to a 83rd minute goal by Gus Poyet.
Here we look at the modern best XI players to have graced both the clubs, with their almost evenly matched counterparts mentioned next to them.
Carvajal (Ivanovic) – Terry (Varane) – Ramos (Carvalho) – Marcelo (Cole)
Zidane (Kante) – Lampard (Kroos) – Modric (Makelele)
Drogba (Hazard) – Raul (Benzema) – Cristiano Ronaldo (Zola)
Iker Casillas (Petr Cech)
Iker Casillas’ legacy in the white shirt for over quarter of a decade has taken him to the pedestal of world football, conquering every possible title there is to win: FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro Championships, UEFA Champions League and what not. Probably the only title missing from his cabinet is the UEFA Europa League. Casillas led Los Blancos and La Roja to glory like no other goalkeeper in Spain’s history.
As captain for both club and country, he marshalled the defensive line with great authority. He will forever be remembered as one of Real Madrid’s greatest players, not only of the modern era, but of all time.
RB: Dani Carvajal (Branislav Ivanovic)
Having returned to Real Madrid after impressing in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen, Carvajal headed back home with a point to prove. As astute player defending the backline and equally effective going forward, he played a key role in Madrid’s three-peat of Champions League grandeur. The youth academy product has been consistent for almost a decade now, registering regular key passes and assists just like his wingback compatriot Marcelo.
Carvajal has won 16 trophies with Los Blancos in his eight years at the right back position, averaging two trophies each year.
CB: John Terry (Raphael Varane)
The first ever player to captain a team to the Premier League title on five occasions, John Terry’s Chelsea legacy is hardly comparable to any English top-flight player, let alone his club mates. The now-assistant head coach at Aston Villa was known for his no-nonsense style of defending.
Terry’s reputation as a generational stopper was reflected by his opponents on field. Ronaldinho once said: “The toughest opponents for me are the defenders who are tough in the way they play, where you can’t see a way through. Paolo Maldini and John Terry are two of the toughest men I have met on the field.”
CB: Sergio Ramos (Ricardo Carvalho)
Captain. Leader. Legend. Stamford Bridge is famous for the banner that says so for John Terry. But, it is no exaggeration to mention Sergio Ramos in the same context. Starting off as a right-back in his career, Ramos was destined for greatness from his initial playing days for Sevilla. His hunger to win coupled with his leadership skills and consistency at the highest levels has turned him into a living legend for Los Blancos.
Carlo Ancelotti, after Ramos’ 92:48 UCL winning contribution in 2014 said: “He has everything that Maldini had – personality, technical quality and the ability to be a leader on and off the pitch. I have never compared anyone to Maldini.”
LB: Marcelo (Ashley Cole)
Marcelo has long been considered Brazil legend Roberto Carlos’ successor, owing to his inclination to function as an attack-minded defender. However, it could be said that the shaggy haired Brazilian has just done one better than his legendary bald-headed national mate – with the latter having commented in 2012: “Marcelo possesses a better technical ability than me.”
Marcelo’s attacking flair proved to be extremely vital in Real Madrid’s success as a free-scoring team in the 2010’s. With more than 500 appearances in the white shirt and a host of trophies, one can hardly disregard Marcelo’s stature as an all-time legend.
RCM: Zinedine Zidane (N’Golo Kante)
Zinedine Zidane was an elegant, once-in-a-lifetime talent whose vision, close control and creativity poised him to dismantle opposition midfield and defensive lines with just a couple of touches. Perhaps his greatest strength was his versatility to operate in various positions –- from a deep lying playmaker to a second striker, although he shone the most as a classic No.10.
Roberto Carlos once stated that supporters would flock way before kick-off into the Santiago Bernabeu just to see Zidane warm-up, such was his reputation as a world-class crowd magnet. The feats achieved by him as a manager at the Bernabeu now is arguably more remarkable than what he achieved on-field, but Zidane as a player was truly something else.
CM: Frank Lampard (Toni Kroos)
Technically gifted, tactically masterful, and fantastically creative, the former English central midfielder established himself as a prolific goalscorer during his time at Stamford Bridge – with 211 goals in 13 years – between 2001 and 2014. As the only midfielder in the Premier League’s history to score more than 150 goals, Lampard’s versatility allowed him to function anywhere in midfield.
Lampard was known for putting in consistent performances with his vision and playmaking skills, gracing the blue shirt for over a decade. His partnership with John Terry was extremely significant in leading Chelsea to an era of unprecedented glory.
LCM: Luka Modric (Claude Makelele)
If a player, a deep-lying midfielder, has the ability to break the Messi-Ronaldo decade-old Balon D’Or duopoly, you know he is gifted. Luka Modric is everything an aspiring youngster hopes to be – dynamic, agile, intelligent and creative. Real Madrid’s run of four Champions League titles in five years began with Modric’s 93rd minute corner assist for Sergio Ramos in the 2014 UCL final against Atletico Madrid.
As someone whose childhood depended on football to escape the reality of war and destruction, Modric’s story from a refugee to football greatness cannot be overstated. The Croatian veteran has etched himself as a true great white, after his initial days of being shunned by none other than Jose Mourinho.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Gianfranco Zola)
Not much can be said of someone who has more goals than appearances. Ronaldo revolutionized the concept of goalscoring during his time in Madrid. The Portuguese marksman scored an astounding 450 goals in 438 games – a nine-year feat that will go down in history as arguably the greatest scoring stint of any player for any club.
A terrorizing presence for defenders to take on, he started his career as an enigmatic winger but ended up as a true penalty box monster who relentlessly scored goals for fun.
ST: Raul (Benzema)
Raul Gonzalez Blanco, it’s in the name. A Blanco from birth, Raul spent sixteen seasons in the white shirt, going on to achieve an indivisible status in the club’s history. The Spanish striker was a highly effective forward capable of being utterly devastating in his prime – a composed finisher who was primarily deployed as a second striker and centre-forward.
Teammate and fellow club legend Fernando Hierro nicknamed Raul ‘El Ferrari’ due to his flair and elegance on the pitch.
RW: Didier Drogba (Eden Hazard)
Twice African Footballer of the Year, Didier Drogba was a high-pedigree player during his prime. The Ivorian’s sheer power, dynamism and hunger to score goals allowed him to knock in 150+ for Chelsea from 2004 to 2012 – with his final season being the cherry on the cake as he led the Blues to a magnificent comeback victory in the 2012 heartbreak for Bayern Munich at home, first equalizing in the 88th minute and then scoring the winning penalty in the shootout.
Drogba will forever be known as a true Chelsea great because of his formidable robustness to single handedly win games. “In the dressing room before a big game, it was a different Didier, he was like an animal. His preparation, the intensity in his eyes, and then he always produced," said Frank Lampard.