As LaLiga take you back in time, this week’s anniversaries include the unveiling of Real Madrid legends Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema, Joao Felix’s presentation last summer and an emotional goodbye from Iker Casillas.
6th July: Ronaldo presented as Madrid’s latest galactico (2009)
The Santiago Bernabeu was full to its 81,044 capacity, with many more thousands outside watching on specially erected big screens, to witness Cristiano Ronaldo being presented as Real Madrid’s latest new superstar on this day in 2009.
Arriving from Manchester United as already a global star and reigning Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano delighted his new team’s fans with a shout of ‘one, two, three, Hala Madrid!’ as he was accompanied in the scorching summer sunlight by club president Florentino Perez and honorary president Alfredo Di Stefano.
The following nine seasons in a Real Madrid shirt saw Cristiano become the club’s all-time record goalscorer with an incredible 311 goals in 292 LaLiga games and win 16 trophies including two LaLiga titles, as well as a host of individual awards including four Ballon d’Ors. The hype and hopes at the presentation had not been misplaced.
8th July: Joao Felix presented as Atletico’s new ‘pure talent’ (2019)
Another Portuguese star was the focus of attention at another unveiling in the Spanish capital almost exactly a decade later, on 8 July 2019, when Atletico de Madrid presented ‘pure talent’ Joao Felix at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The former Benfica starlet was compared at the event to young painters, artists, writers who had also showed the talent and personality to become acknowledged as greats at a young age. Atletico club president Enrique Cerezo welcomed him to the club, calling his team’s new number seven a “prodigy” who can become a “legend.”
A first season with Atletico has seen Joao Felix score six goals in his first 25 LaLiga games, while leaving many dazzling examples of his special talent and strong character. Rojiblancos supporters all around the world are hoping to enjoy his talents for many more seasons to come.
9th July: Zidane presented as Madrid’s latest galactico (2001)
Going further back in time, and back to the Bernabeu, we reach the 9 July 2001, the day another galactico was presented to adoring Real Madrid fans by Perez and Di Stefano. Zinedine Zidane was at the peak of his powers when he landed in LaLiga from Juventus, having led France to the previous World Cup and European Championships trophies. The following season saw Zizou hit a stunning winning goal in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen. He was also consistently brilliant for Real Madrid in LaLiga, providing 37 goals and 51 assists in 155 games over the next five seasons, winning the 2002-03 title, while his elegance and vision thrilled many supporters around the world. He is of course now back at the club in a second spell as coach and could well guide the team to his second LaLiga title as a manager in the coming weeks.
9th July: Benzema takes the stage (2009)
Continuing the zigzag through the years, we land back at the Bernabeu on the 9 July 2009, as another Frenchman is being presented at the stadium, just two days after Ronaldo’s big event.
Not quite as many supporters attended, but there was another big crowd to welcome Karim Benzema, just 21 years old but already established as a winner at first club Lyon. For many years his unselfish play from centre-forward allowed his colleague Cristiano Ronaldo to take centre stage, but the last two seasons have seen Benzema really come into his own as the team’s key attacker, whether scoring himself or assisting a teammate.
Now close to completing his 11th season with Real Madrid, Benzema’s name in Bernabeu history is assured, with his 165 LaLiga goals putting him fifth in the club’s all-time scorers list.
His 17 strikes so far in 2019-20 have brought Madrid close to a third career LaLiga title, while his recent back-heel assist for midfielder Casemiro to score against Espanyol will also find a place in club folklore.
15th July: Iker says goodbye, for now (2015)
Each summer transfer window brings exits as well as entrances, and this day back in 2015 was a sad occasion for all involved: Iker Casillas was making his last public appearance as a Real Madrid player.
Locally born Casillas entered the Real Madrid first team as a teenager back in the last months of the last century, and went on to keep 177 clean sheets in 510 LaLiga games, while winning 19 trophies including five LaLiga championships, many of them as captain.
‘San Iker’ also skippered the Spain national team to unprecedented triumph, including the Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 titles. Not the biggest keeper, Casillas’ success was due to his sharp reflexes, keen intuition and laser focus in the most important moments.
Having hung up his gloves after finishing his career with Porto, many around Real Madrid hope to see him back at the Bernabeu in some role sooner rather than later.
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