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Laurie Cunningham - first British footballer to sign with Real Madrid

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Laurence Paul Cunningham (8 March 1956 – 15 July 1989) was an English professional footballer. A left winger, who started his football career as a schoolboy at Arsenal in 1970 but whose career didn’t take off until he joined West Bromwich Albion in 1977.

Two years later, he became the first British footballer signed by Real Madrid. He was there for five years, winning La Liga once and the Copa del Rey twice. After a spell in France with Marseille, he returned to England with Leicester City in 1985, followed by a return to Spain with Rayo Vallecano.

Cunningham signed with Wimbledon in 1988, helping them win the FA Cup in 1988 for the final trophy of his career.

Cunningham received his first international call-up to the England U21 side in 1977 while playing for West Bromwich Albion, becoming the first Black footballer to represent an England international team organised by the Football Association.

He later earned six caps for the full national team between 1979 and 1980, becoming one of the first ever black England internationals.

While playing for Rayo Vallecano, Cunningham was killed in a car crash in Madrid on the morning of 15 July 1989, at the age of 33.

His football achievements have been commemorated with a blue plaque at his former home at 73 Lancaster Road in Stroud Green, London.


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