Fiorentina midfielder Borja Valero says being with Real Madrid in his younger days was like being on the ‘X Factor’.
The 29-year-old began his career with Los Blancos and made over 70 appearances for the B side before moves to Real Mallorca, West Bromwich Albion and Villarreal.
However, in an interview with Marca he reveals that it was not all sweetness and light at the Santiago Bernabeu in his early days.
“For me the game was fun but it stopped being like that when I joined Real Madrid’s training facility aged 11,” said Valero, who joined Fiorentina from Villarreal in August 2012.
“If I had not made it as a professional footballer then my analysis would have been far worse.
“As a youngster I lived with 300 other boys and 85 per cent of them did not make it. All of them sacrificed their adolescence for nothing. There was no loyalty.
“Those that were discarded you could see going off with their backpacks. It was stressful because it didn’t just depend on what you did on the pitch but on the opinion of the coaches.
“It resembled the ‘X Factor', only there was no public there to save you,” he quipped.
Valero believes that the most promising players at Madrid are given too much too soon and do not grow up in the real world.
“At Real they give you the best salary, a house, a car and a luxury watch. You live on another planet, at the top, but it’s not real football,” he said, although he insists he is now happy in Florence.
“I had other offers but none gave me the opportunity to live in such a nice place. At first when the game was over I just walked out of the stadium and nobody recognised me.
“Maybe people appreciate me because I do my shopping in the local supermarket, tidy my children’s room, or go round the city like any other tourist.
“I’m privileged. There are people working 12-hour days and we train for three.
“We must stop treating players like stars and take away this myth surrounding our work,” declared Valero.