7 modern day Real Madrid heroes who left for nothing: Benzema, Ramos…

The sign of a well-run football club is knowing when to wave goodbye to your big name players, even if it might hurt to do so – Real Madrid have developed a knack for getting that right.

Los Blancos are one of the most successful yet ruthless sides in world football. Not afraid to spend big to build super teams, it leaves them at risk of being unable to move on players, or becoming too attached to those who forge a legacy and earn hero status at the club. Karim Benzema is the latest to walk out of the exit door, leaving the club for nothing to sign for Saudi side Al-Ittihad, after 14 years and 24 trophies, in a stint that saw the Frenchman become the club’s second all-time top scorer.

But he isn’t the first big name to leave for free and he won’t be the last. Let’s take a look at who Benzema has followed in the footsteps of.

Marco Asensio

Also leaving for nothing in the summer of 2023 is Asensio, whose contract will expire and has not been renewed.

It’s been a rollercoaster for the Palma-born midfielder, who burst onto the scene in 2016 and cut his teeth as Real’s next big star, but was constantly disrupted by injuries and subsequently inconsistent form.

However, in the last few years, the Spaniard has been back to his best. Versatile, willing to run and tactically astute, he’s played a key part in their revival during Carlo Ancelotti’s second spell, but will join Paris Saint-German for free ahead of the 2023-24 season in search of a new challenge.

Iker Casillas

After 25 years as a Madridista, Casillas called time on a truly legendary stint at perhaps the biggest club in world football in 2015.

He left Real having left his mark as one of football’s greatest ever goalkeepers, winning all major club honours during his time with Los Blancos. He left for free to sign for Portuguese side Porto, but unfortunately not without controversy, with his parents suggesting he was forced out of the club by Florentino Perez.

Since retirement, though, he has returned to the club in ambassadorial roles, working with the CEO of the Real Madrid Foundation.

Gareth Bale

A blistering start to life in Madrid following his world-record transfer from Tottenham in 2013, Bale cut a polarising figure for the rest of the 2010s.

While forming one third of a truly iconic frontline alongside Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale always felt like the odd one out. The man that wasn’t quite as loved and adored like the others.

That tension would begin to rear its head in his later years, with tensions growing between himself and Real supporters. They would question his commitment to the club, and as injuries took their toll in his final few seasons, alongside being frozen out of the plans, it resulted in a sad ending to an otherwise terrific tenure.

Bale left for free to sign for LAFC in 2022, upon the expiry of his contract, but remained a polarising figure among Real fans, hated and adored in pretty equal measures, by the end of his time.

Mestalla, Valencia, Spain. 16th Apr, 2014. Copa Del Rey Cup final. Barcelona versus Real Madrid. Celebrations for the goal making it 1-2 from scorer Gareth Bale

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Sami Khedira

The German midfielder can often be overlooked, but was a key cog in the machine for Real during the early 2010s.

Khedira could do it all, and while not perhaps the most flashy, was vitally important to Los Blancos. It made Real’s decision to let him leave for free in 2015 a confusing one, with Juventus snapping up the German on a free transfer and signing him to a four-year deal.

An early injury was unfortunate, but after a two-month absence, he was a near instant hit in Turin, oozing class and experience. Khedira couldn’t help them to the Champions League, but did leave having won five Scudetti and three Coppa Italia.


An incredible servant, it’s hard to believe a player of Marcelo’s quality would leave Real for free, but it proved to be the right decision.

Los Blancos paid just $8million to Fluminense for the Brazilian in 2009, and helped him blossom into one of football’s most gifted full-backs. Marcelo became one of the most important players at the club, a leader around the place and left in 2022 as the club’s most decorated player.

But by the time of his departure in 2022, the Brazilian looked past his sell-by date. Real did their best to keep him around for experience reasons for as long as possible, but it was the right time to move him on.

Sergio Ramos

For how exceptional he was at Real, Ramos flirting with the idea of leaving the club for a new challenge wasn’t exactly uncommon.

The defender used the ploy in 2015 before going on to sign a new contract with the club, and was continually linked with an exit in the later years of his tenure in the capital. But after 16 years with the club, winning four Champions League titles and undoubtedly earning legend status, he left for free in 2021, finally embarking on a new challenge in the form of Paris Saint-Germain.

His first season was an injury-hit disaster, and while the second was better, PSG’s experiment with Ramos ultimately failed as he left in 2023 having not helped them to the Champions League crown.


Even Raul – Mr. Real Madrid – left the club for nothing. Insane.

For a club that has been home to so many star players, they’re not all that keen on selling them at their highest value.

Born in Madrid, Raul blossoming into Real’s all-time appearance maker and third-top scorer during an illustrious 16-year stay was the perfect story. No transfer fee was worth interrupting that. He finally said goodbye to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, enjoying a two-year spell with Schalke before eventually retiring in 2015.

He’s now back at the club earning his stripes as a manager with their Castilla side.

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