Since the turn of the century Real Madrid’s transfer policy has been to buy the best and the brightest footballing stars in the world. This is highlighted by the so-called “Galactico” era which Madrid went through in the early part of the century. Further evidence can be found in the fact that Real Madrid have signed one of the leading stars following each of the World Cups held since the turn of the century.
For example, after the 2002 World Cup Real signed the Golden boot winner, Ronaldo, after the 2006 tournament they signed the winning captain, Cannavaro, in 2010 they signed the then rising star Mesut Ozil. Finally, after this year’s tournament they again signed the Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez for a fee of £71m. The transfer fee paid for Rodriguez indicates that money is not a problem for Real when they have set their sights on the latest star.
As a footballing fan I have looked at the Madrid line-up in awe throughout the last decade. However, what I have noticed is that Madrid’s transfer policy has had a very negative impact on their academy in terms of integrating their own talented young players into the first eleven.
From the start of the century to date Iker Casillas is the only Madrid player to have played consistently for Madrid since making his step up from their academy.
Whereas their arch-rivals Barcelona have had seven academy players playing consistently for their first team over the same period. Madrid academy players such as Avaro Arbeloa, Daniel Carvajal and Diego Lopez had to go and play their football elsewhere in the early part of their career before returning to Madrid.
Other talented players produced by Real have been let go because they couldn’t be integrated into a first eleven packed with world class players acquired through the transfer market. Examples from this group are Juan Mata, Roberto Solardo, Bojan Valero, Javi Garcia, Dani Parejo and Jose Callejon.
These players have gone on to be successful at their respective clubs since leaving Real. It can be argued that they may not have had the quality required to hold a place in Madrid’s first eleven, but they could have been useful squad players during the turbulent patches Madrid have been through over the last decade.
For example, since signing for Real Madrid in 2009 there have been periods in Karim Benzema’s Madrid career when he has struggled to score goals for them. Meanwhile Roberto Solardo has been scoring freely at Valencia. Even Avaro Negredo, who played for Madrid’s Castilla team and left when Benzema arrived and since then has been a reliable goal scorer for Seville.
I am not arguing that Madrid should not have signed Benzema, but perhaps they should have been more patient with them as the turned out to be better players than their early careers suggested. Also, between the departure of Claude Makelele and the arrival of Xabi Alonso Real struggled to have a suitable holding midfielder to balance their attacking capabilities.
Javi Garcia has not set the footballing world alight with his ability but since leaving Madrid he has gone on to have good success at Benfica where he played as the holding midfielder. Once again he could have proven to be more useful to Madrid than they originally thought possible. With the right training and nurturing at Madrid, they could have developed Garcia’s ability more.
Other former Madrid academy players who have gone on to enjoy success in their careers are Juan Mata and Bojan Valero. Mata was a terrific player for Valencia before his transfer to Chelsea. In his two and a half year stay at Chelsea he was voted their player of the season two years in succession.
As for Valero, he came to recognition at Real Majorca and he is now regarded as one of the best passers of the ball in Serie-A at Fiorentina. Overall perhaps, Madrid should have been more cautious and patient when off-loading academy players.
Success in football is made sweeter when the team has developed their players through their academy system. For examples look at Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona. Madrid could have had a team like those for themselves if they were not so rash in transferring academy players.
Another weak area for Madrid is that as well as not being able to blend in young Spanish players from their academy, they have not had great success in blending into the team young Spanish players acquired by transfer. In 2010 Madrid signed Sergio Canales and Pedro Leon on the back of their successful seasons in La Liga.
These two were only given one season to prove themselves at the Bernabeau which is not enough time at all. Eventually they were sent out on loan before Canales signed for Valencia and Leon signed for Getafe. Overall they were not given enough time to impose themselves at Madrid. Fast forward to the present day and there is a feeling of de-ja-vu with Isco and Asen Ilarramendi. Both of these had successful 2012/13 seasons and Madrid again proved money to be no object when they splashed out to sign the duo, paying £25m for Ilarramendi.
However, after being allowed just one season to prove themselves, their future at the club looks bleak because Madrid have now signed Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez on the back of their star performances at the World Cup. Both of these play in similar positions to Isco and Ilarramendi. Due to these transfers and the transfer window staying open until September 1st, both Isco and Ilarramendi could suffer the same fate as Canales and Pedro Leon.
To conclude, in the past decade it appears that Real Madrid’s policy of buying star players has limited their ability to incorporate academy players into their first team. The academy players have been given insufficient time to prove themselves. Having star footballers in their line-up has been a main factor in earning worldwide revenues for the club.
It would be disappointing for Madrid to continue in this vein without more emphasis on the incorporation of academy players into permanent roles in their first team. However, with the club recently selling the talented 21 year old academy graduate Avaro Morata to Juventus, change does not appear to be on the horizon. Also, if the rumours are to be believed and Falcao, one of the most prolific strikers in Europe, signs to take Morata’s first team place then Madrid’s transfer cycle will be completed yet again.