Real Madrid is arguably the biggest club in world football and, as such, its supporters are accustomed to glory, silverware and superstar signings.
The "galácticos" policy was employed by club president Florentino Pérez when he purchased at least one marquee name each summer. Real Madrid's modern history is now largely defined by this approach in the transfer market, although it has evolved over the years since its inception in the early 2000s.
The first era of galácticos stars arguably didn't live up to the massive expectations of them. The club won the Champions League final in 2002 but Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane were the only Galacticos that had been drafted into the project to date. Between 2003 and 2013, Los Blancos endured an agonizing decade-long drought before they became kings of Europe again in 2014.
Although it took that long for the fabled "La Decima" dream to become a reality for the adoring fans, the early 2000s saw some stellar superstars who lived up to their status as "galácticos" in a big way.
🇵🇹 Luis Figo
$66m from Barcelona in 2000
Call it brave, maybe call it foolish but in 2000, Luis Figo crossed the divide from Barcelona to Real Madrid for a then-world record fee. His big-money switch was the catalyst for the whole galácticos policy and it's something for which Barcelona fans will never forgive him. On his return to the Camp Nou, a pig's head was thrown from the crowd as a statement of dissatisfaction aimed at someone who they saw as a "traitor". Real Madrid's statement was clear - they wanted to sign the best players in the world, even if they happened to play for the club's archrivals.
🇫🇷 Zinedine Zidane
$85m from Juventus in 2001
It's a rarity to see a man win the Champions League both as a player and a manager, and Zinedine Zidane is the sort of once-in-a-lifetime footballing personality that belongs in that category. No-one will ever forget his stunning left-footed volley in the 2002 Champions League final at Hampden Park. Although he was the wrong side of 30 when he struck that superb winner, Zidane remained a key figure in Real Madrid's rebuilding phase in the early 2000s. The Frenchman is now rightly worshipped at the Bernabéu.
$49.5m from Inter in 2002
El Fenomeno arrived with a massive reputation and price-tag to boot. There were glimpses of undeniable brilliance during his time at Real Madrid, including a spectacular Champions League hat-trick at Old Trafford against David Beckham's Man United, but injuries deprived Ronaldo and the Real Madrid fans of the Brazilian's best. Despite all of that, he arrived at Real Madrid as a World Cup winner with Brazil and the holder of the Ballon d'Or. This was the best footballer on the planet at the time and this was the area of the market where Real Madrid intended to operate. The great man is now the majority owner of LaLiga club Real Valladolid.
🏴 David Beckham
$41.2m from Man United in 2003
Becks was pretty much the poster boy of the whole project. Signing in 2003 from Manchester United, the glamorous Englishman reinvented himself into a tough-tackling central midfielder after his days playing exclusively as a winger at Old Trafford.
We'll be back soon with a look at the more modern galacticos that have written a new chapter in this great football club.