Real Madrid debuts

As Gareth Bale prepares to become the sixth British player to represent Real Madrid, Sky Sports looks at the dramatic highs and lows of previous debuts

Real Madrid debuts

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Gareth Bale is set to make his Real Madrid debut against Villarreal on Saturday evening in front of the Sky Sports cameras. It's an exciting time for the Welsh winger following his record breaking move from Tottenham but he could be forgiven for feeling nervous as he prepares to line up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and his new team-mates. Perhaps Bale can take inspiration from his fellow Brits who have made the move in the past. Four debuts to remember and one to forget...

Laurie Cunningham, 1979

After becoming the first black footballer to represent England at any level, Cunningham made the move from West Brom to become the first British player to play for Real Madrid. The winger enjoyed instant success as he scored twice on his sensational debut, setting up the other, as Real ran out 3-1 winners against Valencia. The club won the league and cup double that season - a feat they have repeated just once since. Cunningham stayed until 1983 before joining fellow La Liga side Sporting Gijon via a loan spell at Manchester United.

Steve McManaman, 1999

McManaman became the first high-profile British player to move under the new Bosman ruling when he joined Real from Liverpool. The England international made a superb start by putting Fernando Morientes through on goal to score an injury-time winner in a 2-1 victory against Real Mallorca. It kicked off a dream season for McManaman culminating in a man of the match winning performance in Real's Champions League victory in May. He remained at the club for four seasons before returning to the Premier League with Manchester City.

David Beckham, 2003

The world's most famous footballer left Manchester United for the Spanish capital amid a combination of hysteria and scepticism. But Beckham soon went about winning over new team-mates frustrated by the sale of Claude Makelele by converting a Ronaldo cross within minutes of his La Liga debut in a 2-1 win over Real Betis. Beckham had to wait until 2007 to earn a major honour with Real, playing his part in a title-winning campaign before completing his move to Los Angeles Galaxy.

Michael Owen, 2004

Owen joined Beckham in Madrid when he made an £8million from Liverpool and made his debut off the bench in a 1-0 win over Real Mallorca. The England striker made his reputation as a goal-poacher but his contribution on debut came in the form of a jinky run down the right channel before lofting over a cross for Ronaldo to chest home at the far post. Owen went on to score 16 goals that season but with his starting opportunities limited and family unsettled in Spain, he returned to England with Newcastle in 2005.

Jonathan Woodgate, 2005

When you have to wait a year for your debut, there is even more pressure to make an impact and Woodgate certainly managed that. After spending a season on the sidelines due to injury following his 2004 move from Newcastle, the England defender endured a horror debut against Athletic Bilbao - scoring an own goal before being sent off for a second yellow card. Woodgate made just eight further appearances in La Liga before returning to the Premier League with his hometown club Middlesbrough.

Which British player impressed the most at Real Madrid?

  • Laurie Cunningham
  • Steve McManaman
  • David Beckham
  • Michael Owen
  • Jonathan Woodgate