Jonathan Woodgate endured a disastrous Real Madrid debut as he scored an own goal and got himself sent off, however Brazilian legend Ronaldo was on hand to offer up some encouragement
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Brazilian legend Ronaldo was the first to console Jonathan Woodgate and offer up words of encouragement after the former England center-back’s Real Madrid debut from hell.
Eyebrows were certainly raised when the Spanish giants splashed out £ 13.4million on Newcastle defender Woodgate back in the summer of 2003. Despite showing signs of early promise, the center-back had seen his career crippled by injury and even arrived in the Spanish capital wounded. .
The then 24-year-old would have to wait a year to make his first-team bow, but when the opportunity eventually came around, it took a disastrous turn. Woodgate scored a spectacular own goal before being sent off in a 3-1 La Liga win for Real Madrid over Athletic Bilbao. However, in the immediate aftermath of his agonizing debut, help was on hand in the form of the legendary Ronaldo.
“I waited a year for my debut and then scored an own goal and got sent off,” Woodgate revealed while speaking on the Original Penguin X Campaign Against Living Miserably Under The Surface podcast. “But the whole stadium clapped me!”
“Because they’d seen me give interviews, they knew I’d been learning the language and doing everything I could, which they appreciated. But it could have gone a bit better…”
“The debut was difficult but afterwards I was talking to one of the physios, and Ronaldo came over and asked ‘how are you?’ I told him I was gutted but he said ‘you’re back fit, do not worry about it’.
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“He had his injury problems at Inter and AC Milan so he knew how important it was. He knew what I was going through as he saw me putting the work in to get back fit every day.”
Sadly for Woodgate, his second season with the Spanish side was scarcely better than the first as injuries continued to blight his career. The defender managed a mere 14 appearances for Los Blancos before sealing a return to English football with boyhood club Middlesbrough.
Reflecting on his short spell in Spain, Woodgate admitted he considers his Real Madrid stint a “failure”. He confessed: “Failure is the one word I’d use about Madrid.
“When you sign for the biggest team in the world, you want to go there and make a difference, but I did not. Didn’t win any trophies there and I hardly played, so that’s why I’d put it down as a failure.
“When I look back at my career, that gets to me. More than anything. Because you’re on the biggest stage. And my body let me down.”
To add insult to injury, Real Madrid clinched the La Liga crown soon after the defender’s departure. He added: “The year I left they won La Liga, and I’m not gonna lie, I was absolutely devastated because I wasn’t there.
“But I got back fit playing for Boro and back in the England squad, and the one thing about me as a player was that I would never give up, always kept on going and tried to find something within.”
Though Ronaldo was the Galactico who offered up encouragement in the wake of his disastrous debut, Woodgate also named a different superstar when opening up on the greatest player he played with at Real Madrid. “Zidane,” the defender declared.
“On the training pitch you could not get the ball off him, he was just so graceful in his movement, he was just the ultimate player but a good man as well – humble, really down to earth and just a nice person.”