A cursory glance across Europe reads like a who’s who of the Real Madrid academy. Javi Garcia, Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata ply their trade in Manchester as stars of their respective Premier League teams. Roberto Soldado’s exploits over the years for Valencia earned him a big money move to Tottenham while the likes of Dani Parejo and Pablo Sarabia have been successful in La Liga.
But something happened in the last five seasons. While Barcelona moved from strength to strength capturing the hearts of Europe with their impressive play, trophy haul and home-grown talent, Madrid drifted further and further away, garnering a reputation as a club that simply throws money at their problems.
Madrid’s youngsters have recently found it increasingly hard to break through to the first team. Over in Catalonia the members of La Masia are buoyed by the Barcelona system. It’s an overarching ideology of how they should play, ingrained in them from a young age.
Madrid on the other hand do not appear to have a set footballing philosophy. Therefore when youngsters are put into the limelight, they must act on their own accord and are unable to fall back upon anything for stability.
Thus we’ve seen many players succumb to the pressure of Santiago Bernabeu, where the light shines brightest. Development takes a backseat to results and Madrid have struggled to bridge this gap in recent years.
However, this season Madrid have seen four of their youth products make very compelling arguments for starring roles in the future. From Jese Rodriguez to Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Morata and Nacho Fernandez, it appears that Madrid’s cantera may finally be making a comeback – at home in the capital, not abroad at other clubs.
Perhaps President Florentino Perez has finally realized the importance of the youth set up. He was lambasted in the mid-2000s as the Galacticos project fell apart due amid the infamous ‘Zidanes and Pavons’ policy.
The philosophy led to immense pressure on some of Madrid’s youngsters, including Raul Bravo, Pavon and the aforementioned duo of Soldado and Garcia. Fitting in and being comfortable in the side became an elusive goal.
Perez now stands by his players, or perhaps more likely he’s listening to his coaches more attentively than before, with assistant coach and Madrid legend Zinedine Zidance in his ear. Perez was adamant that Jese would not be sold or loaned at the beginning of the season despite the arrival of Gareth Bale and Isco. Jese proved him right and looked like the next star of Madrid before his knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Carvajal, who plied his trade for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, last year has found himself as a starter this season and has developed tremendously as a result. And even Alvaro Morata and Nacho Fernandez have seen their stock grow, the latter earning a call-up to the Spain national team earlier in the season.
The Madrid academy has long been lauded as one of the best, and it’s good to see them finally proving it at home. The future of Morata, linked to a move away, aside, these players should be integral parts of the squad going forward.
That would be music to the ears of the Bernabeu faithful, who’ve been clamouring for a home-grown star to follow in the footsteps of club legends Raul and Iker Casillas.