Real Madrid had an unexpected boost at the weekend when 18-year-old Alvaro Rodriguez made a large impact on their win against Osasuna, depsite coming on just two minutes before the end of the match. Rodriguez set up Vinicius Junior for the second, which was disallowed, before doing he same for Marco Asensio after Rodriguez won the ball back from the defender.
It appears to have won him a spot in Carlo Ancelotti’s good graces, as he is taking the young striker to their away tie against Liverpool, despite the fact Karim Benzema has now recovered from injury. Also included in the squad are Mario Martin and Sergio Arribas.
They have come from ‘La Fabrica’ as it is known, or the factory, and have all been contributing to the Real Madrid Castilla side that currently sit top of their third division group under Raul Gonzalez.
As is often highlighted, no academy in Europe contributes more players to Spanish football, or indeed the top five European leagues than Real Madrid’s, but there are normally curious few in the first team itself. Ancelotti has highlighted that he values the academy highly, but as a general rule, he has rarely used them.
The latest Castilla talent to make his way into the headlines is Rafael Marin. At 20 years old, he is likely reaching the age where he will either graduate from the Castilla side into the first team or move on. According to Todofichajes, Chelsea are interested in being his landing spot. Marin’s contract is up in 2024, and if Los Blancos want to retain some value from him, they will either have to offer him a new contract or sell him this summer.
Marin has been picked out for some time as one of the more promising names at La Fabrica and for Raul this season, he has been an ever-present, starting all but two games so far. A tall, physical central defender, Marin has the physique and the technique to make it as a modern central defender.
Meanwhile Arribas has been one of the most creative players in the same league for some time, and is definitely ready to jump up to a higher level. Rodriguez impact shows that he too has the talent to at least not look out of place.
In the past, the point has been made that the level at Real Madrid is remarkably high, and forcing your way into the side is remarkably difficult – which is true.
That does operate on the assumption that all of their stars are working at capacity though. As the statistic went round on Saturday evening, Rodriguez has now contributed to more goals than Eden Hazard and Mariano Diaz put together.
This Real Madrid side are not blessed with large amounts of depth, and particularly up front, and in the full-back positions, there have been large gaps at times.
Certainly in the case of Benzema, it is fair to wonder what might have happened if Ancelotti had trusted the academy a little more during his absences, even just as an alternative off the bench.
The fact that these youngsters have taken their opportunities with so little time on the pitch, the fact that other top teams are interested in their best youth players, suggest that perhaps there can be a use for the youngsters coming out of La Fabrica. Making them a central part of the side is a different matter, but in specific instances, there they can actually have a positive impact.