9 players who thrived after leaving Real Madrid
Don't worry if you have to leave Real Madrid, Ronnie.
Despite re-affirming his commitment to Los Merengues by insisting he wants to retire at the Santigo Bernabeu at the ripe old age of 36, Cristiano Ronaldo's statement is the latest round in a series of will-he-or-won't-he-leave stories that have generated intense speculation over his future.
Rumours over a bust-up with manager Rafa Benitez and an uneasy playing relationship with fellow star forward Gareth Bale have prompted suggestions that the forward could make a final mega money move to Paris Saint Germain or even a return to former club Manchester United.
While he is approaching the twilight years of his phenomenal career, the 30-year-old leaving the Spanish giants may not necessarily be the end of the world as some footballers might make it out to be.
As unthinkable as it might seem, there is life after being a Galactico.
Just ask these chaps:
1) LUIS FIGO
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/ALEX MORTON
Left Real: 2005
Ronaldo won't have to look very far for a shining example of life after Real in compatriot Luis Figo, who left the Bernabeu on a free transfer in 2005.
While most had thought he was past it at the age of 33, the 2001 Fifa World Player of the Year had other ideas as he joined Serie A side Inter Milan.
Instead, the legendary Portuguese winger went on to enjoy a trophy-laden final hurrah with the Nerazzurri, winning four Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and four Supercoppa Italiana titles.
Figo announced his retirement from football on May 16, 2009 after Inter secured the Scudetto that year, with the then-36-year-old given the honour of captaining the team in his final match against Atalanta.
2) CLAUDE MAKELELE
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/DARREN WALSH
Left Real: 2003
Angered after Los Blancos rejected his request for an improved contract that would put him on more of a par with his more illustrious colleagues, Claude Makelele traded the Santiago Bernabeu for Stamford Bridge as one of the first signings of the Roman Abramovich era of Chelsea.
While he failed to pick up any silverware under Claudio Ranieri, some bloke named Jose Mourinho then came along and transformed the wannabe Blues into title winners.
At the heart of the Special One's organised and miserly set-up was Makelele, who discharged his defensive midfield duties in such diligent fashion that the role was named after him.
As the Frenchman picked up two Premier League titles, two League Cups and one FA Cup during his five seasons in west London, Real sorely missed his stabilising presence in the engine room and struggled – it took them four years to lift the La Liga title again in 2007.
3) ARJEN ROBBEN
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/JOHN SIBLEY
Left Real: 2009
A victim of the vicious politics that plagues the Bernabeu, Arjen Robben was sold to Bayern Munich in 2009 as returning president Florentino Perez attempted to erase all traces of predecessor Ramon Calderon's reign.
Despite his acrimonious departure from Spain, the flying Dutchman quickly re-built his reputation as one of Europe's more feared attackers, helping the Bavarian giants to four Bundesliga titles since his move to Germany.
In the 2013 Champions League final, Robben was Bayern's hero as he set up Mario Mandzukic for the opener before scoring an 89th-minute winner to seal a 2-1 win over Budesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, picking up the Man of the Match award from Uefa along the way.
Robben might have claimed that he was forced to leave Real against his will, but the benefit of hindsight, the ex-Chelsea man probably harbours fewer regrets these days as his legend at Bayern continues to grow.
4) WESLEY SNEIJDER
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/JASON CAIRNDUFF
Left Real: 2009
Discarded along with his compatriot Robben when Perez came into power, Wesley Sneijder joined Inter Milan for a fee of just 15 million euros ($23.6m) in 2009.
With Mourinho at the helm of the Serie A side, the gifted playmaker quickly established himself in the heart of the Nerazzurri's midfield along with another Real cast-off in Argentine enforcer Esteban Cambiasso.
Sneijder's impact was as astounding as it was immediate as he inspired Inter to become the first Italian team to win a Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble.
Injury problems might have sent Sneijder into a downward spiral and led him to depart for Turkish giants Galatasaray in 2013, but the midfield maestro clearly made his presence felt at the San Siro as he etched his place in their history books.
5) XABI ALONSO
Left Real: 2014
While Real might have done the sensible thing to sell an ageing Xabi Alonso last summer when Bayern Munich came calling, it could be a move that they could come to regret.
The Spanish midfielder played a key role in helping Los Blancos achieve La Decima – their 10th European title – last year and continued his winning habit in Bavaria by helping Bayern win the Bundesliga in his first season.
Even though he was tipped to be a back-up for Pep Guardiola's fearsome array of midfielders, Alonso has been consistently selected for Bayern this season and looks set for yet another successful season in Germany.
It's hard to believe that the ex-Liverpool man is already 33 and fast approaching the tail-end of his career – after all, he doesn't seem to be losing his class even as he gets older.
6) CLARENCE SEEDORF
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/MICHAEL REGAN
Left Real: 1999
What is it with Dutchmen and leaving Real Madrid?
Clarence Seedorf was just 20 when he joined Real in 1996 and quickly cemented his place in the first team there for three seasons.
When he lost his place in 1999, the Dutchman traded La Liga for Serie A, joining Inter Milan for an unremarkable two-year spell before moving onto city rivals AC Milan in 2002.
There, Seedorf found his spiritual home with the Rossoneri and spent a glorious decade with them, winning two Scudettos, two Champions League titles, two Uefa Super Cups, one Fifa Club World Cup, one Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana titles.
7) SAMUEL ETO'O
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/VICTOR FRAILE
Left Real: 2000
What's worse than seeing a former player do well? Watching the one that got away win trophies at your expense for your most hated rivals, that's what.
Samuel Eto'o joined Real as a youngster but never quite made the grade at the Bernabeu before he was shipped off to Mallorca in a co-ownership deal following a series of loan spells.
There, the Cameroonian hitman made a name for himself and scored 54 goals in four seasons, prompting Barcelona to come knocking.
While the move prompted a Real to consider bringing him back, Los Blancos relented and sold Eto'o to Barca for 24 million euros.
The decision came back to haunt Real as Eto'o's goals fired Barca to three La Liga wins, two Champions League titles and one Copa del Rey. Ouch.
Eto'o later left Barca but enjoyed similar success as part of Inter Milan's treble-winning team in 2010 alongside Sneijder.
8) MICHAEL OWEN
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/CARL RECINE
Left Real: 2005
Admittedly, Michael Owen never reached the lofty heights he achieved with Liverpool during and after his time at Real Madrid, who he left to join Newcastle United in 2005.
But somehow, the former England striker still managed to find the success – Liverpool fans might wish to skip the next few paragraphs.
When his contract expired in 2009 after the Magpies were relegated, Owen was picked up by Manchester United on a free transfer and was handed the No. 7 shirt by Sir Alex Ferguson.
While his infamous injury problems limited his appearances for the Red Devils, the former Liverpool star famously scored a last-gasp winner in injury time for United in the Manchester derby to instantly earn him hero status as he picked up a League Cup winner's medal that season.
In the following season, Owen somehow made just enough appearances – 11 to be precise – to warrant a Premier League winner's medal.
SPECIAL MENTION: ALVARO ARBELOA
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/CARL RECINE
Left Real: 2006
Re-joined Real: 2009
Some say you should never, ever go back.
But in a strange way, Alvaro Arbeloa is proof that there is a possibility of life after Real – back at Real.
The defender was sold to Deportivo La Coruna in 2006 before he was snapped up by Liverpool barely six months later.
Although he helped the Reds challenge Man United for the Premier League title and finish second in the 2008/09 season, Arbeloa ultimately ended his spell on Merseyside trophyless before Real came knocking.
Since then, Arbeloa has helped Los Blancos to some of their recent successes, including one La Liga title, two Copa del Reys, one Champions League title, one Uefa Super Cup and one Fifa Club World Cup.
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