The recent La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Celta de Vigo was largely a forgettable affair. Although one thing which the Madrid support were looking forward to seeing was a first La Liga start for Jose Ignacio Fernandez Iglesias, aka Nacho Fernandez, due to injuries sustained by the entire full-back department in Madrid. That did not happen as Jose Mourinho chose to play on-loan Michael Essien as a make-shift left-back instead.
One would wonder, if he would not get to start in Madrid colors against a newly-promoted team with the usual starters out injured, would Mourinho start him against Dortmund? Well clearly not. Now Essien in his prime might have tackled any threat (he wasn’t called The Bison for no reason), even when played out of position, but that is no longer the case. He was troubled throughout, and had Reus been anywhere near his usual sensational form, the makeshift arrangement could’ve turned worse. A solid performance against a newly-promoted team, with all due respect, should not have been the biggest advert. Just another day in Madrid then, choosing to ignore a talented youngster?
Actually, no. Anyone who has kept an eye on Madrid knows that the Real Madrid Castilla has produced the best of talents throughout the course of Spanish Football’s history. Before FC Barcelona chose to stamp their domination with their own gifted crop of players, it was Real Madrid who showed the way in producing home-grown talent and bringing them to the fore. Madrid were, incidentally, the first team to win the European Cup with a team of eleven Spanish home-grown players. The Legend of La Quinta del Buitre or “The Vulture’s Cohort” is well-known among the Madrid faithful. Emilio Butragueño (El Buitre) was the most prominent of the group of five home-grown players who won La Liga consecutively for five times among several other domestic honors between 1985 and 1990 and formed the core of that team. The other four were Manolo Sanchis, Martin Vazquez, Michel and Miguel Pardeza.
Raul Gonzalez needs no introduction, so he won’t be given one. Iker Casillas and Guti Hernandez came through the ranks during his time and established their places in the team. It was the arrival of the Galacticos Era that ultimately doomed the tradition of getting the best of both worlds, a good mix of both young talented players brought through the ranks, and bringing in the best of players from elsewhere. It was not meant to be that way of course, with the policy being laid out termed as ‘Zidanes y Pavones’ as a reference to Zidane and Francisco Pavon, first being a major signing and other a player coming through the ranks. But Francisco Pavon could not become the players he was expected to be along with the others such as Alvaro Mejia and Oscar Minambres. And that was the nail in the coffin.
In the subsequent years, several RM Castilla graduates with the potential of becoming world-class players were shipped out. Like La Masia, the Castilla too produced its own generation of talented players who came through together. Unfortunately, the signs were far too clear and they either never turned out in Madrid colors or gradually, but inevitably, left the club waiting for their chance to come. It’s an enviable list to say the least, with the likes of Juan Mata, Borja Valero, Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado, Dani Parejo, Javi Garcia, Diego Lopez and several other talented players. Alavaro Arbeloa left too, but he was brought back after he established himself at Liverpool. While at first sight it does not look as imperious as the current crop of La Masia, but who is to say they would not have gone on to become great players, while playing alongside other greats. If only, one wonders.
Jose Callejon, returned to Madrid after a spell of three years with Espanyol and played a major role in Madrid’s Liga Campaign. He stepped up to the plate when Di Maria suffered a remarkable dip in form and banged in crucial goals throughout. He has been on the bench in recent games, with Di Maria again making the right flank his own. Nothing to worry there, as he will get his chance again.
However, the same could not be said of the other talented youngsters coming through. Nacho Fernandez was promoted to the first team on the 2nd of September of this year, alongside Alvaro Morata and Jesus Collado. Notably, Morata was selected by Spain to the squad that appeared in the 2011 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship in Romania, helping the national team win the tournament with six goals, the highest in the competition. Will he get his chance at Madrid? In the absence of three reliable defenders in Marcelo, Arbeloa and Coentrao, it would have been a good chance to blood in the youngster against Celta and then hand him a start against Dortmund. His speed would have been an asset against the quick Germans. He may yet get his chance, but when exactly is anybody’s guess. Next game, perhaps?
It is nothing but a testament to the quality of Real Madrid’s Youth Academy that all but four teams in La Liga did not have any Castilla graduate in their first team. Two of those four teams are not very well-known for their Pro-Castilian leanings. But as it stands, it is a stark and ironic reality that La Masia contributes more to Spanish National team while Real Madrid Cantera contributes more to Spanish Primera Division. The sad part is that this is not down to the quality, but the lack of faith and trust being shown in these players.
A great man (The Joker) once said “Madness is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little push.” Trust tends to take a similar path. Somebody at Real Madrid needs to reaffirm their trust in the academy. Who does it and, more importantly, when that happens only time would tell.