The Underrated Academy Of Real Madrid

14 04 2011

At the end of the January transfer window, out of the 20 teams in the Primera Division, only four –  Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Zaragoza – did not contain one player in their squad who had graduated from Real Madrid’s cantera. It’s quite an astonishing accomplishment to see 16 teams containing at least one player instilled with Los Blancos philosophy, and apart from Zaragoza, the other three have known beliefs of developing their own talent. Yet talk across Europe the talk is that Barcelona’s La Masia is the greatest academy, but with these numbers of players in Spain alone, can Real have an argument that there’s is just as good?

Real Madrid have a history of great players from Ferenc Puskas to Hugo Sanchez, yet some of the most important have been graduates from their academy such as the famous La Quinta del Buitre, translated as “The Vultures Squad”, who were five homegrown players that were key to Madrid’s dominance in the 1980’s; which won five La Liga’s, two UEFA Cup’s and a Copa Del Rey in that decade.

Butragueno Is One Of The Greatest To Emerge From The Academy

The nickname derives from Emilio Butragueno, the legendary forward who scored 217 goals in 463 games, who was nicknamed “The Vulture”. The other four players were Manolo Sanchis, Martin Vazquez, Michel and Miguel Pardeza; who enjoyed more success at Zaragoza. The group was famous for their strong influence as well as ability, and the likes of Sanchis and Michel were controversial figures that fell out with the likes of John Toshack and Javier Clemente.

In the last few years Iker Casillas, Guti Hernandez and Raul Gonzalez (although some credit goes to Atletico, who he played for until 1992 but moved to arch rivals Real after controversial chairman Jesus Gil disbanded the academy) have been the latest stars to play the majority of their careers for Los Merengues. The homegrown Madridistas are generally the fans favourite, and with the playmaker in Guti, the incredible goalscorer in Raul and one of the best keepers in the last 20 years in Casillas, Real have had symbolic figures to drive them to victory.

Other famous Spaniards like Jose Antonio Camacho in the 70’s/80’s and Santiago Bernabeu, who was one of the earliest stars and later president, were pioneers for the club, with Francisco Gento, Fernando Hierro and Amancio playing the majority of their careers also for the team, but joining from their other respected clubs. There has been a continual trend of great Spanish players who have ran out in front of 80,000 fans in Chamartín over the years, knowing how special it means to play for the club because they joined at an early age.

There have also been plenty of players who failed to make the grade at Real, but went on to become successful and International players elsewhere like Ismael Urzaiz, Santiago Canizares, Mista and Luis Garcia, showing the depth of talent the academy actually has produced over the past twenty years.

The importance of nurturing players from La Fabrica was signified when Florentino Perez became President in 2000. Although he will be remembered for his “Galacticos” scheme, he also expressed the importance of homegrown players and created a strategy called Zidanes y Pavones, meaning the canteranos brought up supporting the club and played in the ‘style’ would then implement that in a team alongside the superstars such as Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham. In hindsight the scheme failed to work, and the likes of Oscar Minambres, Alvaro Mejia and Francisco Pavon failed to develop into the hoped superstars, but the principles of the scheme were opportunistic and could have been the perfect formula for dominance.

Pavon Did Not Quite Live Up To His Potential

The current crop of home-grown players produced by Barcelona recently however are on another level to Real’s. If you look at the Spanish squad which won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, 10 are graduates from La Masia, while Real only had three in Juan Mata, Casillas and Alvaro Arbeloa. So although the team from the Capital might be churning out more players, the quality seems to be coming from the Catalans, something which has not been played down in Catalonia.

However a promising sign in recent times has been the prospects from the Castilla team in the past five years that have emerged as Spanish internationals. Strikers Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo and midfielder Ruben De La Red have all played for La Roja since leaving the club. Then there are the likes of Esteban Granero, Miguel Torres, Daniel Parejo, Borja Valero, Javi Garcia and Diego Lopez who have also emerged as solid players with realistic prospects of representing the national team. This group of ex-Real players shows the club can produce not only quantity but also quality, it is just a shame the majority do not get a chance to show that at the Bernabeu.

The trend is these players have only fulfilled or are starting to fulfil their potential now since leaving Real. Getafe have acted as a feeder club over the past few seasons, and since the appointment of former Castilla manager Michel, have helped the likes of Soldado, Granero and De La Red to get the game time they could not get for Los Blancos. Michel helped use his contacts with his former club, and actually managed Granero and the now retired De La Red in the 06/07 seasons when Castilla were in the Liga Adelante. Current star Parejo could be returning to Real in the summer, following the same route as Granero two years ago, but the fans will hope he sees more minutes than El Pirata.

Raul Symbolised Real Madrids Beliefs

As ever there are emerging prospects such as Alvaro Morata and Pablo Sarabia, who are talented individuals, but the likelihood for the Madridistas is they will fulfil their promise elsewhere or be sold like Marcos Alonso and Rodrigo were last summer. It is an annoying tendency, but with the demands of needing to challenge with Barcelona, perhaps the management think the youngsters are better off learning elsewhere rather than being propelled into the senior squad in demanding circumstances.

So perhaps Real are not quite on the same level as their rivals as Barca in terms of the standard produced, but Los Blancos have used their facilities to develop promising players in their academy, and although not every Javier Portillo will conclude into a Raul, they are at least helping to produce new players for the National Team, and will as time shows, produce legends who will lead them to success.

Current former Real Madrid graduates in La Liga:

Almeria – Corona, Atletico – Juanfran, Deportivo – Riki, Espanyol – Jose Callejon,  Getafe – Borja, Jordi Codina, Daniel Parejo, Pedro Mosquera, Miguel Torres, Hercules – Javier Portillo, Levante – Valdo, Malaga – Fernando, Mallorca – Ruben, Osasuna – Aranda, Racing – Adrian, Sevilla – Alvaro Negredo, Sporting – Diego Barral, Alvaro Rivera, Valencia – Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado, Villarreal – Diego Lopez, Borja Valero.

Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona & Zaragoza – N/A




6 responses

14 04 2011

A very informative article about a subject that doesn’t get enough publicity. I am a Barcelona fan through and through and know La Masia fairly well however I knew nothing about La Fabrica. I agree with your conclusion, they may be good at developing players but they lack the key step in bringing them from being talented youngsters to bona-fide world class players (which can be a criticism of most of the graduates you listed as well).

Juan Mata is the name that sticks out and he will be a top class player for a long time, Madrid would do better to keep some of their young players and go back to the Zidane Y Pavon strategy if they need to keep signing superstars at all.

14 04 2011
Hoss Delgado.

But can this not partly be attributed to the shear amount of players who pass through the Real Madrid academy? Madrid, like many big teams, will have hundreds of players on their books at different age groups and chances are they’ll go through hundreds of players every season, releasing some, resigning others and signing new ones.

Inevitably some of these players will go on to play top flight football, but that number will be a very small percentage compared to the amount of players who arrive at Real Madrid and receive a Real Madrid education and go on to do next to nothing.

14 04 2011

Yes they will have a huge group of players every season, but the success rate as top tier footballers is freakishly high. Although you can then counter that with for every five of them, Barca will produce an Iniesta.

6 06 2011
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8 06 2011
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20 04 2014
Tekena Douglas

Hi! Am a real madrid fan from nigeria and I wish to register for the academy, how do I go about it?

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