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Analysis: Which nationalities have contributed the most to Real Madrid?

Real Madrid’s line-up vs Villarreal was the first XI to include 11 foreign players

Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Jose Miguel Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Saturday’s defeat to Villarreal saw Carlo Ancelotti make the historic decision to field a line-up which did not include a single Spanish player. By selecting an XI that featured 11 players from abroad, it ended a 121-year streak which dates back across 4,436 matches.

Over that spell, 182 different foreign players have made an appearance for Real Madrid, stretching across 43 different nationalities. They have made a total of 15,125 appearances bewand scored 3,133 goals.

Here, we’ll turn to the numbers to break down which countries and nationalities have contributed the most to Real Madrid, including some of the most iconic figures ever to take to the field of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

1. Brazil - 2,940 appearances

The nation with the most players at 30 registered and 26 to play in a Los Blancos shirt, Brazil and Real Madrid have long had a link. With almost 3,000 appearances by Brazilians, including the current contingent of Vinícius Júnior, Éder Militão and Rodrygo Goes, that figure is set to climb even further after the signing of Endrick.

The first Brazilian to play for the club was Fernando Giudicelli, who made just one appearance. In terms of the most appearances, ironically, the two to lead the way share a position - Marcelo on 546 and Roberto Carlos on 527.

Joining them are a talented bunch of players from Ronaldo Nazário to Kaká, though it must be said that the only Brazilian to take to the dugout, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, was less successful than his compatriots on the field.

2. France - 2,084 appearances

Led by Karim Benzema and his over 600 appearances, French players have a rich history. The forward is not only the leading force in terms of goals with 332, but also one of only four non-Spanish captains to wear the armband on a regular basis for the club. He followed in the footsteps of Arthur Johnson (1901-02), Federico Revuelto (1903-04) and Marcelo (2021-22).

That immediately puts him in the history books alongside another legend, Raymond Kopa (pictured below), who won three European Cup titles in a row from 1957 to 1959 as he made 101 appearances for the club.


Other French stars include the likes of Zinédine Zidane, who was even more decorated as a coach than he was as a player, Raphaël Varane, Claude Makelélé and any of the four players in Carlo Ancelotti’s current squad.

3. Argentina - 1,932 appearances

Only Brazil have had more different players wear the Real Madrid shirt than Argentina, with 25 different men doing so. Despite that, very few have gone down in history in the same way as their South American rivals.

Fernando Redondo and Santiago Solari are among the most memorable, racking up 436 appearances between them between 1994 and 2005, despite never playing together. Ángel Di María and Gonzalo Higuain join them in having made over 190 and 264 appearances respectively. Jorge Valdano is also a recognisable figure, though perhaps even more for his time in the offices of Valdebebas than on the field.

Despite all that heritage, there are no current Argentine players on the Real Madrid books even in the wake of their World Cup victory in Qatar. The last Argentine to play for Los Blancos was Franchu in a Copa del Rey tie against Fuenlabrada in 2017, with the winger now on loan at Cartagena from Eibar in Segunda.

4. Germany - 1,437 appearances

For many modern Real Madrid fans, thinking of Germans to wear the white shirt brings forth images of Toni Kroos. The midfield dynamo leads the way with 385 appearances and 26 goals, forming a pivotal part of the club’s golden era, but he’s not the only one.

Antonio Rüdiger is also in the 2023 Real Madrid squad and is only of only three Germans to have played for the club less than 100 times, alongside Christoph Metzelder and Bernd Schuster, who has the incredible feat of joining Real Madrid from Barcelona and leaving for Atlético Madrid.

Soccer - European Cup - Final - Liverpool v Real Madrid - Parc des Princes, Paris Photo by Peter Robinson - PA Images via Getty Images

There are seven players to have made over 100 appearances, including Toni Kroos, Uli Steilike (pictured above), Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira. Steilike is an oft-forgotten figure who spent eight years with the club between 1977 and 1985, winning the LaLiga title three times.

5. Portugal - 1,418 appearances

No nation has scored more goals for Real Madrid than Portugal, thanks in large part to Cristiano Ronaldo’s contribution who counts for 85.56% of all Portuguese-scored goals for the club. Few players of any nationality can rival his stats with 450 goals in 438 games for the club.

The first Portuguese player to play for Real Madrid did not join until 1996 in the form of Secretário, who had a one-year stint in between moves to and from Porto. The next player to play for Los Blancos from across the Iberian border was Luis Figo, the very first Galáctico.

All other Portuguese players actually coincided with Ronaldo during his nine-year stint at the Bernabéu, and they were all defenders, including Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão and Pedro Mendes.

The best of the rest

Other leading nations include Croatia (5 players making 784 appearances), Netherlands (8, 616), Uruguay (9, 515), England (5, 438), Mexico (4, 399), Belgium (4, 274), Hungary (5, 262), Wales (1, 258), Italy (3, 243), Denmark (3, 214), Chile (1, 173), Costa Rica (1, 162) and Serbia (5, 150).

Villarreal v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

With less than 150 appearances, there are also Colombia (3 players making 146 appearances), Mali (1, 126), Montenegro (1, 118), Romania (1, 84), Cameroon (2, 83), Dominican Republic (3, 82), Paraguay (3, 76), Austria (2, 70), Slovakia (1, 45), Ghana (1, 35) Togo (1, 22), Turkey (2, 22), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1, 19), Morocco (1, 17), Equatorial Guinea (1, 15), Poland (1, 12), Ukraine (1, 12), Norway (1, 11), Czech Republic (1, 10), Russia (1, 7), Guatemala (1, 4) Cape Verde (1, 4), Sweden (1, 3), Martinique (1, 2) and Puerto Rico (1, 1).

For those wondering, Eduardo Ordóñez was the Puerto Rican midfielder who made one appearance, a 4-2 defeat to Racing Santander in March 1933.

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