7 former Real Madrid players we can’t believe are still playing in 2022

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Real Madrid's Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates scoring in their UEFA Champions League victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain, April 2011.

As befits their status as current European champions, Real Madrid have been represented by some of the greatest players in the world and have an army of ex-players across the football world – including some that are soldiering on in the deep autumn of their careers.

While some such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos are well-known, others have taken a path away from the limelight – whether that be playing for Spanish teams with a lower profile or winding down their careers with their hometown clubs.

We’ve picked out seven former Madrid stars it’s hard to believe are still playing football in a professional capacity in 2022.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Yes, we couldn’t believe it either.

Adebayor was a reliable gun-for-hire for English sides chasing Champions League football in the late 2000s, starring for Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham during that era – and let’s not forget that celebration.

But the Togo striker also spent half a season at Madrid in 2011, scoring eight goals in 22 appearances, and demolishing Spurs in a Champions League quarter-final.

After playing in weird and wonderful places – Paraguay, Turkey, Croydon – in the decade since, 38-year-old Adebayor is back in his native Togo with Semassi.

They’ve won the Togolese Championnat National on 10 occasions but in 2021-22 they finished a disappointing seventh out of eight teams in B group (don’t ask).

Roberto Soldado

Soldado won La Liga with Madrid right at the outset of his long career and has scored bucketloads of La Liga goals for Getafe and Valencia, while also helping Granada reach the Europa League quarters in 2021.

Now aged 37, the striker is currently playing for Levante who were relegated from the Spanish top flight last season.

The less said about his spell at Tottenham, the better.

Raul Bravo

Very few active players participated at Euro 2004 but Bravo would feature on a list that’d also include Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gianluigi Buffon.

The defender played for Madrid between 2001 and 2004, with a loan spell at Terry Venables’ Leeds thrown in for good measure, before leaving for Olympiacos.

And now, following spells across Spain and beyond, Bravo plays for Valencia-based side UD Beniopa – a club so obscure they don’t have a Wikipedia page.

But, at the age of 41, we should applaud Bravo for his sheer longevity; he’s played competitive football alongside Fernando Hierro, David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane.

Diego Lopez

Back in 2013, Lopez was the man in the middle of the quarrel between Jose Mourinho and Iker Casillas.

Having returned to his first club in 2013, Lopez was given the gloves while Casillas was out and kept the shirt once the World Cup winner was fit. This went down as well as you’d expect in the Madrid-leaning media.

It was the decision to persist with Lopez that eventually saw Mourinho booted out of the Bernabeu but Carlo Ancelotti also kept faith with the goalkeeper during the following La Liga campaign.

After departing for AC Milan in 2014, Lopez spent three years in Italy before helping Espanyol back into the top flight in 2021. He moved to Rayo Vallecano this summer at the age of 40 but is yet to play for his new club.

Royston Drenthe

English fans probably remember Drenthe as one of Everton’s many failed transfer punts but the winger was once considered one of Europe’s most exciting young players.

After an outstanding European Under-21 Championships with the Netherlands in 2007, Drenthe was snapped up by Madrid in a €14million deal and joined compatriots Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben at the Bernabeu.

But he never lived up to those high expectations and has spent his career in exotic locations like Abu Dhabi, Reading and Vladikavkaz.

Now in his mid-30s, Drenthe relocated to south-eastern Spain and has played for two sides in Murcia; Racing and Real. And it’s the latter who have the privilege of witnessing the forward in action throughout 2022-23.

Ruud van Nistelrooy for Real Madrid v Bayern Munich, Santiago Bernabeu 20 February 2007.

READ: Los Oranje: Remembering when Real Madrid went Dutch mad in the late ’00s

Pedro Leon

Having joined Drenthe at Real Murcia this summer, a club languishing in their third tier of Spanish football, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Leon ever played for Real Madrid.

After impressing at Getafe, Madrid splashed out €10million for his signature and proceeded not to play him much. And, worse than that, he became a sacrificial lamb in Jose Mourinho’s political manoeuvring.

After dropping Leon for a Champions League tie with Auxerre, Mourinho was asked why by the Spanish press and replied: “You talk of Pedro Leon as if he was [Zinedine] Zidane, [Diego] Maradona or [Alfredo] Di Stefano. I don’t have to justify his absence.”

Crikey. We’re starting to think Luke Shaw got off pretty lightly…

Alvaro Negredo

Negredo came through the ranks at Rayo Vallecano before moving across the Spanish capital to join Real Madrid Castilla in 2005.

He stayed there for two years, impressing Fabio Capello enough – which isn’t the easiest task in football – to be called up to the senior squad for a few Copa del Rey games.

But Negredo never got on the pitch and moved to Almeria in 2007. He’s probably best remembered for his prolific spell at Sevilla and less for his brief, if also quite underrated, spell at Manchester City in the mid-2010s.

After spells at Middlesbrough and in the UAE and Turkey, the 37-year-old striker is now plying his trade for La Liga basement dwellers Cadiz.

READ MORE: Ranking every Real Madrid captain since 1993 from worst to best