Sergio Ramos, one of the most successful defenders in the history of Real Madrid, announced his departure from the club in the summer of 2021. Safe to say, by then a lot had changed at the Bernabeu from the time he arrived from Sevilla back in 2005.
“I cannot express with words the gratitude and pride I feel when I look back on this journey that has lasted 16 years. I leave with 22 titles engraved in my memory in the form of irrepealable and indescribable emotions,” Ramos said in a press conference as he announced his departure for PSG.
Every other player in Madrid’s team when the defender made his debut – coming off the bench at half-time in a 3-2 La Liga defeat to Celta Vigo on September 10, 2005 – has since retired. Here’s where they are today.
One of only three men to have made more appearances for Real Madrid than Ramos, Casillas remained at his boyhood club until 2015, staying on for one last year after La Decima, in which he regained his place from Diego Lopez.
After 16 seasons at Madrid, a 34-year-old Casillas looked to a new challenge; he signed for Porto and continued to play regularly for another four seasons before a heart attack in May 2019 brought an end to his playing career.
The legendary former goalkeeper briefly considered running for president of the Spanish FA in the summer of 2020 before withdrawing his candidacy. He’s currently Real Madrid Foundation CEO and reportedly works as an adviser to club president Florentino Perez.
The former Spain international left Madrid in 2009, having been increasingly pushed to the periphery following the arrival of Ramos – a right-back in his younger years – back in 2005.
After a decade in the Spanish capital, the veteran defender joined Blackburn in 2009 and became something of a cult hero across his three seasons at Ewood Park. He came out of retirement at the age of 40 to play futsal in India, and again to play one match for Panamanian side Independiente in April 2018.
Salgado is married to Malula Sanz, the daughter of former Real president Marcelo Sanz, and has followed in his sadly departed father-in-law’s footsteps into the boardroom: he currently serves as Cypriot side Pafos FC’s director of football.
Francisco Pavon (Sergio Ramos, ’45)
Most remembered for Perez’s famous ‘Zidanes y Pavones’ statement, in which the star Galactico signings would be supplemented by less glamorous academy graduates such as Pavon.
So there’s a certain irony that he was brought off for €27million signing Ramos, which was a record fee for a Spanish defender back in 2005.
Pavon made 106 appearances for Madrid, but only a handful of those came after Ramos’ signing. Come 2007, he was tipped to join the likes of Ivan Campo at Bolton but ended up staying in Spain with Real Zaragoza instead.
He saw out his career playing for French minnows Arles-Avignon, who finished bottom of Ligue 1 in his final season, 2010-11. Details are scarce on his post-playing career.
Ramos, meanwhile, turned out to be decent value for €27million, all told.
I never thought this day would come, but everything has a beginning and an end. pic.twitter.com/B4IlwQ4pBJ
— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) June 17, 2021
Former Spanish international centre-back Helguera looked to be on his way out during the 2005-06 season but made 23 appearances as Fabio Capello’s Real wrestled the La Liga title back from Barcelona in 2006-07.
After eight years with Madrid, he spent a final season with Ronald Koeman’s Valencia, helping them win the Copa del Rey in 2008.
He began the 2020-21 season in charge of Spanish lower league minnows Las Rozas CF but left after guiding them to one point from his first four matches in charge and hasn’t managed since.
Even after 11 years and over 500 appearances for Real, the Brazilian left-back had time to turn out for Fenerbahce, Corinthians and Anzhi Makhachkala – where he also served as a coach – after leaving the Bernabeu in 2007.
His final few professional appearances came for Indian Super League club Delhi Dynamos, where he was player-manager. But his time in the dugout wasn’t particularly successful, following short stints at Turkish clubs Sivasspor and Akhisarspor.
In 2022, however, he made a long-awaited playing comeback, turning out for a pub team in Shropshire. Seriously, we were there…
The second greatest backheeler the game has ever seen hung up his boots in 2011, having spent his final year with Besiktas after the rest of his career with his beloved Madrid.
Guti served as a youth coach with Real’s Under-19s between 2013 and 2018 before returning to Besiktas to serve as Senol Gunes’ assistant in the 2018-19 season, making the step-up to head coach of Segunda Division side Almeria in 2019-20 – he took charge of 22 matches, registering nine wins, five draws and eight losses, and was eventually sacked.
On this day in 2006, Guti decided to really take the piss with his assist for Zinedine Zidane in Real Madrid's 4-2 win over Sevilla…pic.twitter.com/FFG9o5CEHv
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) January 15, 2020
Thomas Gravesen (Raul, ’68)
One of the great mismatches, Gravesen actually made 49 appearances during his 18 months at the Bernabeu and has since become a byword for the club’s mid-noughties low-point, in which the Galacticos project stalled and they fell some way behind Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona.
The hotheaded Dane subsequently turned out for Celtic and retired after a brief spell back at Everton on loan in 2008. He is currently living the high life in Las Vegas but denied rumours that he’d made £100million in investments.
You’d think that being Madrid’s all-time appearance-maker and goalscorer (at least until Cristiano Ronaldo arrived) would have been satisfaction enough for Raul, but he still had enough in the tank to become a Schalke hero before a stint at Al Sadd, eventually seeing out his final year with a decidedly retro season with New York Cosmos.
Currently in charge of Madrid’s Castilla, his name is never far away when the top job becomes available.
David Beckham (Pablo Garcia, ’80)
The jewel of Real Madrid’s midfield and one of the original Galacticos, Garcia played just 26 times in all competitions for Los Blancos before spending the next two campaigns out on loan, ending both seasons with the ignominy of relegation.
Garcia then spent five years at Greek outfit PAOK, followed by another five years working up the ranks as a coach in their youth teams before earning the top job in October 2020. Despite ending the season beating Olympiakos in the cup final and finishing second in the league, he was demoted to manage the reserves. Ouch.
Little-known English midfielder Beckham, meanwhile, is currently discovering the folly of appointing Phil Neville as manager at Inter Miami.
Big things were expected of Baptista after he shone at Sevilla, scoring 47 goals in 79 appearances. But that was the best we saw of the Brazilian in Europe, and he never recorded another double-figure campaign for goals in a league season after moving to the Bernabeu.
After a nomadic end to his career in which Baptista hopped from England to Italy to Spain to Brazil to the US and, finally, to Romania, he is now working as Under-19s coach at Real Valladolid.
The 2005-06 season was the final time Ronaldo hit double figures in a single campaign in a European league.
Despite his struggles with his fitness and weight beginning to take their toll, he still managed to hit 15 goals in 27 appearances in all competitions and ended the season by becoming the World Cup’s record goalscorer.
Spells at Milan and Corinthians brought his career to an end in 2011. Since then he has successfully turned his hand to a number of business enterprises and is now the majority owner of Real Valladolid, where he employs his former team-mate Julio Baptista.