Netherlands defender Bert Konterman admitted to rejecting Real Madrid back in 1999 over fear on not being able to learn Spanish.
“That summer, Real Madrid offered 20 million guilder for me,” he told the ‘Talkin Fitbaw’ podcast. “Leo Beenhakker was my coach and he’d been Real Madrid coach. He said ‘Real Madrid want you’. I said ‘You’re joking, I don’t believe you’. He said ‘I want you to stay at Feyenoord, but I can imagine that you want to go to Real Madrid because it’s a fantastic club.'”
That year, he ended up remaining at Feyenoord, before joining Rangers in 2000. He stayed on and watched as Real Madrid won the 1999/2000 Champions League. Yet Konterman did not immediately regret his decision.
“Afterwards, maybe it was a stupid move from myself,” he further admitted. “They were really serious. But I said to Beenhakker that I wanted to stay at Feyenoord. At that time, I had no pain about that decision. But I kept all of the articles in the newspaper about it because nobody believes me otherwise.”
“I think that as a human being, I was not ready at that time to make that move to Real Madrid,” he stated as being his real reason.
Though, at the time, “In my mind, my next move should have been to Germany or Great Britain, because I was speaking German very well and English pretty good. So, Spain was a little bit scary for me because I was a bit nervous for a big move to a club like that and I was a little bit nervous about learning Spanish.”
Few players turn down the opportunity to sign for Real Madrid if it occurs and particularly not because of a fear of learning the Spanish language, but that’s what put Konterman off.