The players who have played for both Arsenal & Real Madrid

23 July 2019 10:42

Arsenal and Real Madrid have never been afraid to do business with each other.

There have been no fewer than seven players in history to move directly between the two clubs, on top of a handful of other stars whose careers have seen them pass through London and Madrid at one stage or another.

Those players have all enjoyed varying levels of success in their careers, so let's dive in and see how each player got on.


1. Emmanuel Adebayor

Adebayor was popular at Arsenal initially | Phil Cole/Getty Images

A one-time Arsenal hero, Emmanuel Adebayor bagged 62 goals in 142 appearances for the Gunners between 2006 and 2009 before he was lured away by the riches of Manchester City.

When his move to City didn't work out, Adebayor was loaned out to Real in 2011, where his return of eight goals in 22 appearances flattered him a little bit. He did only score in five matches, with three of his goals coming on the final day of the La Liga season.

Real weren't overly sad to see him return to England, but Arsenal fans were livid as the next time Adebayor kicked a ball, it would be in the white of arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Awkward.

2. Lassana Diarra

Diarra was a solid role player in Spain | Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Lassana Diarra's six-month spell with Arsenal in the first half of the 2007/08 season is often forgotten about, but it's not like there was much worth remembering anyway.

The defensive midfielder managed 12 appearances for the Gunners, eight of which were starts, but he could not hold down a permanent spot in the team and quickly pushed for an exit when he realised regular minutes weren't coming.

A move to Portsmouth followed, but just 12 months later, he somehow swapped Fratton Park for the Santiago Bernabeu, where Diarra actually enjoyed four surprisingly impressive years.

3. Julio Baptista

Baptista struggled in England | CHRIS YOUNG/Getty Images

The Beast.

Real beat Arsenal to Baptista's signature in 2005, but it always looked like an awkward fit. He spent a lot of his debut season playing out of position, so to help him rediscover his mojo, he was loaned to Arsenal in the summer of 2006.

Despite more poor performances than good, Baptista made himself somewhat of a cult hero at Arsenal. Six of his ten goals came in the League Cup, but he ultimately didn't do enough to convince the Gunners to try make his move permanent.

He managed one more solid season at Real, famously scoring the goal to earn them their first win over Barcelona at Camp Nou in 24 years, but it became clear Baptista wasn't part of the long-term plan and he was sold to Roma in 2008.

4. Jose Antonio Reyes

Reyes' goals won Real the title | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

As part of the deal which took Baptista to Arsenal, Reyes moved on his own 12-month loan in the opposite direction.

The Spaniard's departure brought an end to his three-year association with Arsenal, in which he managed 110 appearances, 23 goals, 25 assists and one Premier League title.

Reyes was solid in Madrid, where his crowing achievement was two goals on the final day of the season to win the La Liga title and steal the show on what was David Beckham's final game for Los Blancos.

He spent most of the rest of his career in Spain, but tragically lost his life at the age of just 35 as a result of a car accident in June 2019.

5. Nicolas Anelka

Arsenal turned Anelka into a star | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It was at Arsenal that Nicolas Anelka blossomed into a star. 17 when he arrived in early 1997, the Frenchman bagged six goals in his first full season and upped that to 17 in 1998/99, after which Real came calling.

Sold for a £22m profit, Anelka never settled in Madrid. It took him five months to bag his first goal, and just as he started to get going, Anelka started to clash with the powers-that-be at the Bernabeu. Clearly, this relationship wasn't going anywhere.

Real managed to make most of their money back when they sold Anelka to PSG just 12 months later, with Los Blancos happy to see the back of a player who managed two goals and five assists in 19 La Liga games.

6. Davor Suker

Suker was elite at international level | PATRICK KOVARIK/Getty Images

A real star in Spain, Davor Suker bagged 24 goals in his debut season for Real, after which time started to catch up to him.

After two unspectacular seasons, a 31-year-old Suker was brought in to Arsenal for a whopping £3.5m in 1999, and it was hoped that he would fill the void left behind by Anelka.

Unfortunately for Suker, Thierry Henry managed to do a better job of that. Henry was so good that Arsenal couldn't find a spot for Suker in their squad and offloaded him to West Ham on a free transfer 12 months later.

7. Mesut Ozil

Ozil's Arsenal career ended poorly | Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

It's hard to put into words the kind of excitement Mesut Ozil's move to Arsenal in 2013 generated.

The Gunners had just dropped a cool £43m on a player most accepted to be the best playmaker on the planet. Ozil was La Liga's top assister for three straight years and left Spain with a record of 80 assists in 159 games. Jeeeez.

Was he worth the hype? Well.

Ozil helped Arsenal to three FA Cup trophies between 2013 and 2017, but the narrative was flipped when he was handed a contract worth close to £350,000-a-week in 2017.

The German's career took a nosedive after that and his high wages became too much of a burden, and in 2021, Arsenal were forced to terminate his contract to let Fenerbahce take him on for free.

8. Dani Ceballos

Ceballos struggled for minutes in Madrid | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Real were ecstatic to snap up midfielder Dani Ceballos in 2017. He was one of Spain's most exciting young talents at the time, but the level of competition restricted his game time and it was decided that he would spend the 2019/20 season on loan with Arsenal.

Ceballos mixed flashes of brilliance with a few too many injuries in his debut season, but he still did enough to convince the Gunners to renew his loan for one more season.

However, those flashes of brilliance quickly disappeared, and with them went his spot in the starting lineup.

9. Martin Odegaard

Odegaard joined Arsenal in 2021 | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

With Ceballos failing to bring the creativity expected of him, Arsenal went back to Real and asked them about a loan deal for Norwegian playmaker Martin Odegaard.

The youngster had been starved of game time in Madrid, despite proving himself ready for a spot in the team with an excellent loan spell with Real Sociedad in 2019/20.

Real's loss was Arsenal's gain as Odegaard immediately offered up the kind of artistry they had been missing since Ozil's decline. He needed just a few weeks to cement his place in the hearts of Gunners fans across the world.


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Source: 90min