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Busting the myth: Real Madrid are not a graveyard for talented youngsters 

  • Real Madrid are often labelled as the club that destroys youngsters, but do they really?
Modified 21 Jul 2017, 13:00 IST

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga
The perfect balance of youth and experience

Myths are used as a narrative to capture the minds of the people. They are fascinating in their own way; they allow people to venture into places and scenarios that they won’t find in the real world. However, myths are, ultimately, just fiction. They are far removed from the truth – but sometimes, when you repeat something long enough, even the myth feels like the truth.

Real Madrid are often dubbed as the graveyard for talented youngsters. Their habit of buying star players for extravagant prices and neglecting the youth earned them that infamous tag, now seemingly impossible to rub off.

The likes of Fernando Gago and Pedro Leon are often considered to be the players that Real Madrid ruined, but a closer look will reveal the crevices in those claims.

While it can’t be denied that Real Madrid – Florentino Perez, to be more specific – started the transfer market chaos with flamboyant signings, what is often overlooked is the number of players that have actually developed at the Bernabeu, especially since the turn of the decade.

Let’s have a look at the under-23 players that Real Madrid have signed between 2010 and 2016: Pedro Leon, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Sergio Canales, Nuri Sahin, Raphael Varane, Fabio Coentrao, Asier Illarramendi, Isco, Dani Carvajal, Casemiro, James Rodriguez, Lucas Silva, Marco Asensio, Mateo Kovacic, Danilo, Alvaro Morata and Jesus Vallejo.

The failures

Real Madrid v Sevilla - La Liga
Pedro Leon was the scapegoat of Mourinho's reign

Out of the players that have been mentioned above, only Pedro Leon, Sergio Canales and Asier Illarramendi could be pinpointed as the ones let down by the Whites. Leon became the victim of Jose Mourinho’s personal agenda, who, according to Sid Lowe, told Leon that even if all the players died in a plane crash, he would still not get a spot in the starting XI.

Illarramendi never really made it into Carlo Ancelotti’s preferred midfield trio. To be fair, who would? The trio of Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria became the stronghold on which Real Madrid won their most coveted Decima. Even Sami Khedira, Mourinho’s midfield enforcer at Madrid, had to play second fiddle during that period.

Illarramendi represented a rash and poorly thought-out signing, which in the end hurt the player. Nonetheless, he had a great season with Real Sociedad last time around, prompting Spain manager, Julen Lopetegui, to hand him his first ever game for Spain, against Colombia last month.


And Sergio Canales, well, he is one of Real’s great failings – that’s all there is to it. 

Lucas Silva, meanwhile, spent only six months at Real Madrid, so it would be really harsh to claim that his development as a player was hindered by the Blancos. In his only season in France, he couldn’t grab the opportunity and was mostly a bench player for Marseille. Considering that Casemiro forced his way into the team after a strong year at Porto, one could say that Silva could have done better for himself.

And then there is the case of Nuri Sahin. Sahin came to the Bernabeu with an injury, failing to appear in pre-season and falling way behind his competitors. That really set the tone for his decline and he could never really stamp his authority on the team. It’s not that Jose Mourinho didn’t give him the chances, but he could never really dictate terms in the games that he started – something that he did so well at Dortmund. 

The successes

Getafe v Real Madrid - La Liga
Ozil and di Maria grew at Real Madrid

The rest of them all did just fine. Despite not playing enough, James Rodriguez managed to score or assist every 90 minutes during his 3-year stay at Real and now plies his trade in the best club in Germany – hardly something a youngster in his graveyard could do.

Alvaro Morata has left for Chelsea, but it says a lot that the Blues shattered their transfer record to sign him. Danilo might not have hit his Porto heights with Real Madrid, but the fact that Pep Guardiola wants him signed for €30 million is a big statement in itself.

Mesut Ozil came in as a young and talented attacking midfielder and left a star – so did Angel di Maria. Both the German and the Argentine became the most expensive departures from the club when they left, a testament to their rise in the football fraternity.

Sami Khedira, meanwhile, left on a free transfer after his contract expired, but is now one of Juventus’ most important players – the water carrier that holds the most defensively solid team in Europe together. At one point in time, Fabio Coentrao held Marcelo at bay to stamp his name as the starting left-back.

Indeed he started the 2014 Champions League final – a tournament in which he played a significant role in Real’s triumph – over the Brazilian and if it weren’t for injuries, he might still have been a key player for the Merengues.

The rest that are still at the club – Isco, Varane, Asensio, Carvajal, Kovacic, Casemiro – all played some sort of role in the team’s successes last season. Indeed, the aforementioned names are regarded by Zidane as hugely important to the team's future prospects.

Dani Ceballos’ arrival challenges the place of Kovacic in the team, but could one really say that the Croat hasn’t matured in Spain? The former Inter man’s decision-making has improved a lot during his time with the Galacticos and it will only get better under Zidane’s careful rotation policy.

The old guard

Iker Casillas Presents
The earlier class of success

Even if we go further back, the current backbone of the team – Sergio Ramos and Marcelo – were signed in their younger days and are now two of the best players in their respective positions. Gonzalo Higuain is another name that could be brought up when talking about the youngsters that succeeded with the Whites.

Oh, and how can Karim Benzema be forgotten?

While it’s true that some players didn’t have the best of times with Real Madrid, it is also undeniable that the success rate of grooming youngsters at the club is quite high – especially since 2010. And now, Real Madrid have the best squad in the world, which is filled with supremely talented youngsters. 

So before you claim that Madrid is the place where the youth die, think first, and then don’t say it. 

Published 20 Jul 2017, 13:33 IST
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