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Notable Players Who Said ‘No’ to Real Madrid

While not many players decline the chance to play for the most successful side in Europe and become a 'Galactico,' some stars, to the chagrin of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, occasionally reject the move


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Choosing to resist the allure of playing for one of the most illustrious clubs in European football and the prospect of becoming a ‘Galactico’ is a rare decision.

However, certain stars have opted to forego the opportunity, much to the chagrin of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

One of the most recent instances of a player rejecting the iconic white jersey was Kylian Mbappe’s surprising decision in 2022.

Despite the chance to join Real Madrid, the French World Cup winner shocked the football world by renewing his contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

Speculation lingers that Mbappe’s choice might have only delayed an inevitable move to the Bernabeu.

Taking a closer look at other notable players who unequivocally turned down a move to the Spanish capital, these stars made a definitive choice to pursue different paths, resisting the prestigious opportunity to don the Real Madrid colors for good.

Neymar

At the age of 13, Neymar seemed destined for Real Madrid, undergoing a medical and Santiago Bernabeu tour before a last-second change of heart.

Years later, he spurned them again for Barcelona. Neymar reflected, ‘I was 13, it was my first time in Europe.

I didn’t feel comfortable, didn’t see myself happy staying away from Brazil so young.’ A perennial ‘one that got away’ for Perez.

Luis Suarez

In an interview, Suarez revealed his agent was in talks with Real Madrid, with a deal nearly done, but Barcelona’s entry during the World Cup shifted his preference.

The biting incident waned Madrid’s interest, and Suarez chose Barcelona, fulfilling his dream.

Francesco Totti

The legendary one-club man at Roma, Totti, had the opportunity to have a vastly different career, with Real Madrid attempting to sign the Italian on three occasions.

Displaying unwavering loyalty, Totti rejected each move, etching his name into the history books in Rome.

Reflecting on his decisions years later, Totti admitted, ‘Certainly, looking back, thinking about saying no to Real Madrid, a little bit of doubt does remain.’

He acknowledged that an experience with Real Madrid could have been beautiful for him, his family, and everyone involved.

Gianluigi Buffon

In 2006, after Juventus’ relegation due to a match-fixing scandal, Real Madrid expressed interest in Italy’s No.1, Buffon.

Juventus granted Buffon the autonomy to decide, and he exhibited loyalty by staying in Turin.

Buffon pointed to the presence of Iker Casillas in Madrid, stating, ‘It seems to me that the least of Real’s problems is goalkeeping,’ revealing a factor in his decision.

Paul Pogba

In 2016, Pogba made a world-record return to Manchester United from Juventus, turning down an offer from Real Madrid.

Reflecting on his decision, Pogba later expressed, ‘My heart told me to come back here [Manchester], I don’t know why, I didn’t know what was going to happen.’

Despite stating he doesn’t regret his choice, he affirmed, ‘But I did it, and I don’t regret it. I never regret my choice.

David Villa

The Spanish striker, later a Barcelona legend, had the chance for a different career when Real Madrid sought to buy him from Valencia in 2008.

Villa rejected the move, opting to stay at Mestalla, leading Real Madrid manager Bernd Schuster to accuse him of lacking ambition.

Villa responded, ‘Footballing ambition is not about your mouth, it is about your feet.’ He joined Barcelona two seasons later, emphasizing that he simply wasn’t interested enough in Real Madrid to make the move.

Roy Keane

Real Madrid, in need of midfield reinforcements, offered an 18-month deal to the Irish legend, despite nearing the end of his career.

The former Manchester United captain pondered the offer before ultimately turning it down.

In his autobiography, he later admitted regret, stating, ‘With hindsight, I should have said to myself, “Go. Go to Spain, live there for a year and a half, learn a different language, learn the culture. You might end up loving it. You might even stay there.”‘

Santi Cazorla

In the summer of 2008, Real Madrid sought the impressive midfielder, Cazorla, during his second spell at Villarreal.

Despite expectations for a big move, Cazorla surprised everyone by publicly rejecting Madrid and opting to stay at El Madrigal.

Cazorla stated, ‘There are many other things in football besides Real Madrid. It’s clear that it is possible to say “no” to them. I also feel very satisfied and valued at my club.’

The then-23-year-old continued his career with Malaga and Arsenal before returning to Villarreal, becoming a hero at the latter two clubs.

This article was updated 2 months ago

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