May 7th 2006 proved an emotional day for Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid fans alike, with the Frenchman legend playing his final game in front of the home fans at the Santiago Bernabeu before retiring after that summer’s World Cup.
Substituted in the dying moments of Real Madrid’s 3-3 draw with Villarreal, Zidane got on the scoresheet that night and was treated to repeated standing ovations and crowd affection following the final whistle. Fans and players alike knew Zidane was unique, a special player, and gave him the send-off he deserved.
“Mid-00s Real Madrid” screams galactico and star power, so let’s take a look back at the side who played around him that day. Where are they now?
Another all-time great of the game, San Iker (Saint Iker) captained Real Madrid until 2015 and would go on to lead Spain to an unprecedented World Cup (2010) and European Championship double (2008 & 2012). In May of 2019, a heart attack brought his time on the pitch to an abrupt end and he now looks to be close to retirement and a move into football governance.
The man described by Liverpool and Real Madrid legend Steve McManaman as “the hardest person in the world” and “a genuine psychopath, even in training” manned the right wing at the Santiago Bernabeu for a decade before leaving the capital in 2009 to finish his career in England with Blackburn Rovers. His post-playing career has seen him run football schools, assistant coaching and hold boardroom roles.
Whatever happened to him? No idea…
One of the few lesser-known names in the team, youth academy product Mejia is now 38 and still playing with Qatari side Al Shahaniya Sports Club, where he’s been playing since 2014. He spent time playing in France, Turkey and Greece along the way.
Perhaps the greatest left-back of all time, Roberto Carlos stayed for just one more season after Zidane’s departure before leaving himself, initiating the breakup of the so-called galacticos team of the mid-00s. The Brazilian became somewhat of a journey man after leaving the Bernabeu, spending time with Fenerbahçe, Corinthians, Anzhi Makhachkala and Delhi Dynamos. He went on to coach the latter two, as well as taking charge at Sivasspor and Akhisar Belediyespor. He’s now returned as an Ambassador at Real Madrid.
The stars keep on coming. Beckham also stayed one more season at Real Madrid, leaving alongside Roberto Carlos in 2007. The Englishman – who assisted Zidane’s goal in that game against Villarreal – went on to play for LA Galaxy, AC Milan and PSG. He has since moved into football ownership and is the most high-profile face of the consortium behind MLS expansion side Inter Miami.
Uruguayan midfielder Pablo García was loaned out by Real Madrid to RC Celta and to Real Murcia in successive seasons before being released by the capital city club in the summer of 2008. It was at that point that he joined Greek side PAOK, where he enjoyed some of the best years of his career. He’s currently a youth coach at the Greek club.
What can we say here? The Frenchman returned home to Real Madrid as an assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti in 2013. A stint in charge of the club’s reserve side preceded taking over the first team in 2016 and what has followed has been nothing short of incredible. One LaLiga title, three Champions Leagues, and two Spanish Super Cups, European Super Cups and World Club Cups apiece. Leg-end.
The talented Brazilian forward went on to play at Arsenal, Malaga, Roma, Cruzeiro and Orlando City before retiring following a single appearance for CFR Cluj in Romania in 2018. Fondly remembered across Spain as one of the greatest LaLiga imports of the early 21st century, he’s now a LaLiga Ambassador.
The mercurial Brazilian is still playing and is currently with Istanbul Başakşehir in Turkey. Robinho helped Real Madrid to back -to-back LaLiga titles in 2006/07 and 2007/08 before making a big money move to Manchester City in the summer of 2008 and continuing his career in England, Italy, Brazil, China and then Turkey.
Raúl remains one of the club’s all-time great players. After leaving Los Blancos four years later with 228 LaLiga goals in 550 games between 1994 and 2010, he went on to play at Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga before winding down his career with Al Sadd in Qatar and New York Cosmos in the USA. Currently the head coach of the club’s reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla.
Coach: Juan Ramón López Caro
Always an uneasy choice among the club’s fans as coach, Lopez Caro was replaced by Fabio Capello later that summer. He continued coaching in Spain with Racing Santander, Levante UD and RC Celta, and also went on to coach Spain’s U21 side. More recently his career has taken him abroad, coaching in Romania, Saudi Arabia, Oman and China.