Raphael Varane done: The nine players Man Utd have signed from La Liga

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Manchester United have now announced the signing of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid but they’ve had mixed success with their imports from Spain over the years. 

Varane enjoyed an illustrious 10-year spell with Madrid but wanted a new challenge and agreed to join United in a £34million deal.

We’ve taken a closer look at the nine players they have signed from La Liga in the Premier League era to see how they have generally fared.

Eric Bailly

Bailly was Jose Mourinho’s first signing at Old Trafford in 2016, arriving in a £30million deal from Villarreal.

The eccentric centre-back had a promising debut season at United but a series of injury problems have halted his progress at the club.

He made just 12 Premier League appearances in 2020-21 and has fallen further down the pecking order following Varane’s arrival at Old Trafford.

READ: 15 times Man Utd’s Eric Bailly was the funniest player in the world

Victor Valdes

After rejecting the offer of a new contract at Barcelona, Valdes joined United on a free transfer in January 2015.

The goalkeeper made just two Premier League appearances for the Red Devils before being frozen out by Louis van Gaal for refusing to play in an Under-21 fixture.

He was even denied a dressing room locker at Carrington and joined Middlesbrough on a free transfer in 2016.

Angel Di Maria

Di Maria arrived at Old Trafford with a big reputation, having produced a man-of-the-match performance for Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.

The Argentina international made a great start to his United career – that fabulous chipped goal against Leicester City was a particular highlight – but everything went downhill from there.

He fell out of favour under Van Gaal and was allowed to leave the club for a substantial loss just a year after arriving.

“I only stayed one year. It wasn’t the best period of my career, or they didn’t let me have my best time there,” Di Maria told France Bleu in February 2019.

“There were problems with the coach at the time. But thanks to God, I was able to come to PSG and be myself again.”

Ander Herrera

United tried and failed to sign Herrera from Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2013 but they finally brought him to Old Trafford in 2014.

He won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in 2016-17 and was a surprisingly good shithouse, which always goes down well with the fans.

The midfielder made 189 appearances in all competitions during his five-year stint at United before joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer in 2019.

David de Gea

After starring for Atletico Madrid, De Gea moved to Old Trafford in 2011 as a successor to Edwin van der Sar, but initially he looked like a flop.

The Spain international recovered from his rocky start and went on to establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

He’s won the club’s Player of the Year award a record four times but has also made a series of high profile mistakes in the last three seasons.

READ: Where are they now? The Man Utd Xl from David de Gea’s debut in 2011

Gerard Pique

Pique moved to United from Barcelona as a 17-year-old in 2004 and the defender was tipped for a bright future at Old Trafford.

But he struggled to break up the incredible centre-back partnership between Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, making 23 first-team appearances before returning to the Nou Camp in 2008.

“I grew up a lot there. I am who I am because of the period I had at Manchester United, even though I didn’t play as much as I wanted to,” Pique told the Observer in November 2019.

“But in my position there were two centre-backs who were among the top three in the world at the time.”


United spent £1.5million to sign from Real Valladolid in 2002, in the hope he could provide competition to Fabian Barthez and Roy Carroll.

The goalkeeper marked his only Premier League appearance by conceding a penalty with his first touch before saving the resulting spot-kick in a 3-1 win over Blackburn.

“I remember Barthez got injured so I had to come on for the second half,” Ricardo told us. “There was a long ball and Rio Ferdinand headed it, but the striker got in front of me and I fouled him.

“David Dunn took the penalty to my left and it was a good save and my most incredible moment in Manchester.”

READ: The story of Ricardo’s three years at Man Utd and how it shaped his career

Quinton Fortune

Fortune only made eight La Liga appearances for Atletico Madrid before completing a £1.5million move to United in 1999.

The midfielder played a bit-part role during his seven years at Old Trafford, making 126 first-team appearances and receiving a Premier League winner’s medal in 2002-03.

Jordi Cruyff

Cruyff, son of Dutch legend Johan, joined United from Barcelona in 1996 and scored two goals in the first three Premier League games.

But injury problems plagued his Old Trafford career and the midfielder left the club four years later with 58 appearances to his name.

“I fell from one injury to another and I could never really get a run and show the manager he could count on me,” Cruyff told BBC Sport in August 2019.

“When Ryan Giggs was injured, I was always injured – and that’s my fault. As a coach, you want players who are ready when you need them.”

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