The Santiago Bernabeu is a dream destination for almost every footballer, but a former Super Eagles star rejected the Los Blancos for another Spanish rival
George Finidi has revealed that Real Madrid were not as attractive to players two and a half decades ago when he decided to go to Real Betis, who showed more efforts to secure his signature.
Finidi’s profile had shot past the roof in the summer of 1996 after leading Ajax to three consecutive Eredivisie titles and two successive UEFA Champions League finals, winning one.
Despite scoring 24 goals and providing 27 assists in 122 games for the Dutch side, Finidi knew it was time to seek fresh challenges after a fall-out with then-Ajax manager, Luis van Gaal.
Real Madrid were one of the suitors interested in the Nigerian winger, but Los Merengues were not the continental giants they once were or presently are.
Los Blancos had won just one La Liga crown in the six years before the summer of 1996 and had not won a single Champions League title in the previous 30 years.
And when Betis splashed 7 million pounds on a player that only cost Ajax 3,000 pounds, it was straight to Seville for the 1994 AFCON winner.
“I had a meeting with one of the managers of Real Madrid through my representatives at the end of the 95-96 season,” Finidi told Radio Marca Sevilla as per DiariodeSevilla.
“Madrid was interested, but I don’t know what happened, Madrid today is not like 25 years ago.
“Then (then-Real Betis president Manuel Ruiz de) Lopera came in, and I wanted to get out of there (Ajax), it was an opportunity to change the air.
“Betis made a great effort to sign me, I adapted very quickly and did my job, and the love of the people was spectacular.”
Finidi went on to become one of the best players who ever wore the Green and White shirt, playing 152 official games and scoring 44 goals.
Although he lifted no trophy with Betis – losing to Barcelona in the 1997 Copa del Rey final – he won the hearts of millions of Spanish fans, who still adore him to date.