In July, 2007, former England centre-back Jonathan Woodgate was voted the worst signing of the twenty-first century by readers of Spanish sports newspaper Diario Marca, or Marca, for short. Despite nursing a torn thigh muscle, which caused him to miss Euro 2004, Woodgate passed a medical examination at Real Madrid in August, 2004, and joined Los Blancos on a four-year contract for a fee of £13.4 million. Woodgate had been described by Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson as the ‘best central defender in England’ but, in truth, his best days were already behind him.
Woodgate’s arrival in the Spanish capital was greeted with complete astonishment and, to make matters worse, injury prevented him making his debut for Real Madrid until September, 2005. When he did, in a La Liga match against Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu, he scored an own goal with a diving header after 25 minutes and was sent off after 66 minutes. All told, Woodgate made just 14 appearances for Real Madrid before joining Middlesbrough, initially on loan in 2006 and permanently, for a fee of £7 million, the following year. Woodgate subsequently played for Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke and Middlesbrough, again, before retiring in 2006, but never hit the heights that seemed likely early in his career.
A graduate from the Leeds United academy, Woodgate broke into the Whites’ first team in 1997 and quickly established himself as one of the best central defenders in the Premier League. However, he failed to win any silverware with Leeds and his career at Elland Road came to an end when financial constraints forced his sale to Newwcastle United for £9 million in 2003.
Internationally, Woodgate made a total of eight, sporadic appearances for the England national team, under Kevin Keegan, Sven-Göran Eriksson, Steve McLaren and Fabio Capello, between 1999 and 2008, but a succession of injuries and an incident in Leeds town centre in January, 2000, which led to a conviction for affray, limited his opportunities.