Jonathan Woodgate has revealed the home leg of Newcastle's UEFA Cup semi-final against Marseille in 2004 was his 'best ever performance' during his playing career.

And the 40-year-old believes his display at St James' Park led to his summer move to Real Madrid.

Woodgate spent 18 months at Newcastle and despite only enjoying a brief stint on Tyneside, he made a lasting impression.

Despite famous European nights with Leeds, playing with 'the Galacticos' at Real Madrid, playing for his hometown club at Middlesbrough and scoring the winner in the League Cup final for Totenham, Woodgate has admitted played his 'best football' under the guidance of the 'unbelievable' Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle.

Indeed, he is widely regarded as the Magpies' best defender of the 21st century by many Newcastle supporters and one night in particular often sticks out when the Toon Army recall Woodgate's time in the North East.

In 2003/04, Newcastle bounced back from a shock Champions League exit at the qualifying stage to embark on a run to the UEFA Cup semi-final.

Robson's side came up against French giants Marseille, led by their talisman Didier Drogba, who was joint top scorer in the competition that season alongside Alan Shearer, PSV's Mateja Kezman and Villarreal forward Sonny Anderson.

The Ivorian's goals had already knocked Liverpool and Inter Milan out in previous rounds and if Newcastle were to gain any success, his threat would have to be nullified.

He would go on to score a brace in the second leg at the Stade Velodrome to book Marseille's place in the final with Woodgate missing the game through injury.

But in the first leg that ended 0-0, Woodgate didn't give the future Chelsea forward a sniff and he has described it as his career-best performance.

"The best game I have ever played in would be Newcastle against Marseille at St James' Park," Woodgate revealed on Jamie Carragher's Greatest Game podcast.

"It was my best ever performance. I was up against Drogba and it was a hard game but the atmosphere then at St James' Park was terrific.

"52,000 of them in there and they can make a racket, the Geordies.

"It was the best game I have ever played. I man-marked him all game, I dealt with him. You know what it is like as a defender when you have got him. Whatever he did, I took the ball off him.

"I didn't play in the second leg.

"We knew Drogba was their top player at the time and I was playing alongside Titus Bramble at the time with Olivier Bernard and Aaron Hughes as the right-back.

"It was always going to be tough coming up against Drogba but that game I was on form."

That summer, the former England international joined Real Madrid.

Los Blancos had been monitoring Woodgate for years and he believes his performance against Drogba that night convinced the Spanish giants to make their move.

"My agent told me they were watching me when I played in the Champions League with Leeds," Woodgate added.

"They were monitoring my progress and then I moved to Newcastle. Again, they were watching me.

"We had a good run in the UEFA Cup and I came up against Drogba against Marseille.

"I was playing my best football there so I knew I had a chance. Then they bought Walter Samuel from Roma. The big Argentinian rock and I thought that was it done.

"Then my agent rang me and said: 'They are going to bid for you tonight. Real Madrid are going to bid €20million for you tonight. What do you want to do?'

"I said: 'What do you think?'

"You are going to want to play for the best team in the world if you have any ambition."

However, Woodgate's 'dream move' almost fell through after a medical revealed a previously unknown back injury.

"That got done and I was on a private jet to Munich to go and see a specialist to get some injections in my thigh because I had ruptured my thigh at the time," he concluded.

"I landed and then I had to have a flight from Munich to Madrid.

"Funny story, though. I had just agreed to a five-year contract and I was doing my medical and the doctor came over to me and said: 'Jonathan, there's a problem with your scan. Your thigh is all right but it is your back. Basically, you have got a fracture in your back which is moving. It is hyper-mobile and there could be a problem with your medical.'

Woodgate's unveiling at Real Madrid

"Gabriel Milito (the former Argentina, Real Zaragoza and Barcelona defender) failed a medical a couple of seasons earlier and the move never went through. So I was thinking: 'Oh no, my dream is over'.

"He was on the phone to Florentino Perez saying blah blah blah in Spanish. He said: 'I have just told the President that your back is a bit damaged and he said: Don't worry, we will give him four years instead of five!'"

You can listen to Woodgate's full podcast with Carragher here, as he discusses his playing career, working with the Galacticos at Real Madrid and dealing with being sacked as manager of Middlesbrough.