An almost forgotten part of the famed Galacticos, one unheralded player captured the hearts of the Los Blancos crowd.
Florentino Perez formed a team of stars in a bid to make Real the undisputed big guns of the footballing world. Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Ronaldo formed a star-studded line-up, but snagging Luis Figo away from bitter rivals Barcelona laid down a marker that Perez and company were serious about taking on Europe.
But amidst the influx of players at the club, there was one player who had joined the club at the age of eight and went on to make a staggering 542 appearances for the Bernabeu club. His name was Jose Maria Gutierrez Hernandez – Guti.
Originally a striker, Guti became a fans’ favourite in the Real side during their 'Golden Period'. The reality of the situation was that he always had world class players to contend with up front – Raul Gonzalez, Ronaldo and Fernando Morientes all endeared themselves to the Real faithful with their goalscoring prowess, so Guti had to adapt in a bid to prove his worth.
Guti became more of a playmaker, though even then he encountered Zidane, Figo and Beckham. When Guti did play, he dazzled the fans and it won't be a surprise to hear that Guti's main skills were reminiscent of the current crop of Spanish midfielders – passing, vision and technique. Over long and short distances, Guti's passes were works of art. Whether you're a Real Madrid fan or not, you simply had to appreciate his creativity and his assist for Karim Benzema away at Deportivo La Coruna in 2010 was an exhibition of awareness and technique from one of the best of his generation.
But it was in 2010 that Guti would say goodbye to Madrid to take up a new challenge with Besiktas, who were managed by ex-Real boss Bernd Schuster. It brought an emotional end to Guti's 24-year association Los Merengues, where he won a total of 15 trophies, including five La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns.
“Thank you to everyone. I go knowing that Real Madrid will always be my home. I leave knowing that Real Madrid wants me and that is very important,” said Guti upon leaving.
After two years in Turkey, Guti has finally decided to hang up his boots. There was speculation of a move to West Ham or even a return to Madrid with Getafe, but neither materialised and now he's looking to the future.
“The decision has been made. I have received offers but I've decided to stop. I can now spend more time with my family,” said the 35-year-old in recent days.
“I'm going to train to become a sporting director or a Coach and I'd like to train youngsters. I'd really like to Coach the Real Madrid youth team. That's my dream."
A return to the club he loves might be difficult at the moment after yet another public outburst – something which plagued him in his playing days. Always an outspoken, controversial figure, Guti has been critical of some of the recent dealings by Coach Jose Mourinho.
As Esteban Granero left for Queens Park Rangers and Mourinho was reunited with Michael Essien, Guti let his feelings be known.
“There are some things I can’t understand in football and one of those is that Granero is leaving so that Essien can arrive. Granero is a much better player and he is Spanish,” he cried.
“Right now the best players are Spanish, and what happens is that you spend a lot more money if you buy foreigners, which annoys me greatly.”
He didn't stop there though, as he also criticised Mourinho's move for Luka Modric. “He hasn't even been the key man for Tottenham. I don't think he's done enough to play for Madrid.”
He's had public bust ups, he's been a maverick. There have been plenty of midfielders in and out of the Bernabeu doors, but few will be remembered as fondly as Guti – regardless of his off-field antics.