Despite the intense fixation their rivals have with youth, Real Madrid continue to produce players capable of rivalling their Barcelona counterparts. Francisco Pavon, Iker Casillas and Raul are just a few of the big names to emerge from the Real Madrid Castilla. Here are our top ten Real Madrid youth players currently under contract with Los Blancos.
10. LUCAS VAZQUEZ
Having arrived at the youth academy in 2007 aged 16, Lucas has done well to fill the void left by Jese Rodriguez.
Described as a player with excellent ball control and speed, he has excelled since joining Real Madrid and regularly gets on the score sheet. He stands out from the rest with his ability to confidently and consistently beat goalkeepers one on one, a trait normally associated with matured professionals.
He is described by his peers as a hard worker which has seen him maintain his place in the Castilla team. The only criticism of his game is it becomes somewhat predictable, very much a traditional winger who hugs the touchline, Lucas should look to adapt his style of play and try different things; such as playing more centrally.
9. ALFONSO HERRERO
Born in Toledo, Herrero joined Real Madrid in 2003. Already played for Spain’s U19’s alongside Celta Vigo’s Ruben Blanco, the youngster has impressed for his country and is beginning to be held in high esteem by his own club. He claims, naturally, that his footballing idol is Iker Casillas, who he dreams of succeeding in the near future.
Currently the 19 year-old deputises Andres Prieto in Castilla C, who used to play behind now Castilla first choice Tomas Mejias and also Jesus Fernandez who trains with the first team. Unlike the aforementioned, Herrero is under six foot and will need to grow to maximize his chances of competing at the highest level.
Acrobatic, a strong palm and excellent upper-body strength for someone of his tender age. Herrero is happy to get involved in the passing game at the back and will frequently look to restart play with short, quick passes to his defenders. By doing so he has demonstrated a great deal of confidence in possession which is always what team mates want to see.
Despite the level of competition to excel in goal at Real Madrid, Herrero is making a case for future acknowledgement and will certainly be one the club should handle carefully.
8. CRISTIAN BENAVENTE
Described as the Peruvian Ronaldinho from a young age, Cristian Benavente has a long way to go before these comparisons with the former Barcelona legend can be justified.
A versatile midfielder, he joined the club in 2002 aged 8 and quickly rose through the youth ranks. Competent on either foot and comfortable on the wing or in the centre of the park, Benavente is a great player for a manager to have at his disposal. Because he’s played the beautiful game for such a concentrated period of time, he’s developed magnificently.
The 19 year-old rarely fades out of game and likes to be centre-stage whenever possible. At the moment, he is still very raw and lacks the sharpness of his first team counterparts; very reliant on sheer determination to make amends for any errors or mistakes.
It’s more than likely Benavente will spend some time out on loan to gain match experience, but he will also need to continue improving if he wants a role at the club in the future.
7. DERIK OSEDE
Known by his first name, the young Derik Osede is a player Los Blancos fans will do well to monitor.
A graceful defender who can quickly dart to-and-from the opponents half, he is also very dangerous from corners and set-pieces. Though he’s not the tallest of central defenders, his sheer grit and guile has seen him shake off his markers and bury the ball into the back of the net.
The local lad joined Real Madrid aged nine and excelled in each of the youth teams. He made his unofficial debut for the first team in last seasons friendlies, coming on for Raul Albiol against Colombian side Millonarios. In the brief time he was on the field at the Bernabeu, he made a perfectly executed slide-tackle much to the joy of the home support.
Currently Derik isn’t a regular sight on the bench and instead continued to develop with the Castilla. Though his career in the near future may require a loan spell or two, the prospects are good for the Madrid-born defender.
6. NACHO FERNANDEZ
Already a familiar name at the Bernabeu, Nacho seems destined to wear the captain’s armband at Madrid; providing he stays long enough.
A player effectively on the fringes, it should of course be observed that the young Nacho Fernandez has only been recognised as member of the first team since the beginning of the current season. The departure of Raul Albiol to Napoli saw Nacho inherit the number 18, but since the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti the 23 year-old has featured infrequently.
His CV is immaculate: been at Real for over ten years, mature, composed on the ball and can be deployed anywhere in the defensive line. Like so many youth products before him, Nacho’s progress at the Bernabeu is suffering because of the array of quality ahead of him in the pecking order.
To make the armband he wore so often for Real at youth level his own, he will need to demonstrate his potential in the few outings he is offered.
5. DANIEL CARVAJAL
If Nacho Fernandez was hoping to make it at Real Madrid, then it isn’t necessarily the end if he is transferred, as demonstrated by Daniel Carvajal.
Two years younger than Nacho, the former Castilla graduate went straight from the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium in Madrid to the fiery cauldron of the BayArena in Germany. As with any youth player who leaves Real Madrid these days, Carvajal had a buy-back clause in his contract which would later earn him a first-class ticket back to where it all began.
His spell with Bayern Leverkusen proved very successful and he found himself back in the familiar white jersey the following season. In the Bundesliga he developed his crossing ability and became more efficient in possession. He is known for his tireless work-rate which is often hard to capture in simply a high price tag. Carvajal was born in an around Madrid, truly a flag bearer for his side and an inspiration to those living in the city.
After just one season away from the club, Carvajal is now back and challenging Alvaro Arbeloa for the first team spot; a testament to the 21 year-old’s level of commitment.
4. JOSE RODRIGUEZ
Easily one of the most surprising youth players at Real Madrid’s disposal, Jose Rodriguez could easily be a starter at any other club.
A perfectly well-rounded midfield player, he has demonstrated a knack for opening up defenses and dictating play. Not satisfied with playing deep, Rodriguez will charge forward with the ball and quickly play it through to an attacker, drawing opponents toward him. Clearly a lad who has learned a lot, but at 18 years of age his development is astounding.
He has been a welcome addition to every youth set-up he’s joined as it gives his team mates a calm, reassuring presence in the middle of the park. Rodriguez is more than happy to relieve his defenders of pressure and seamlessly turns defense into attack, relying heavily on his passing skills.
His Champions League debut made him the youngest player in Real Madrid history in the competition and his progress has not gone unnoticed by Spain’s youth directors. He lacks the physicality to feature regularly at the highest level as of current, but his stock can only rise with time.
Pure Sao Paulo pedigree is what it should say on Casemiro’s label.
The Brazilian midfielder is a world-class player in the making and the mere fact he plays for Real Madrid’s Castilla is frankly an insult. A regular in Brazil having progressed through Sao Paulo’s youth system, Casemiro is everything you can want from a midfield enforcer.
On the radar of various Italian and English clubs, Casemiro signed a lucrative contract in his homeland to stave off poverty and support his family, but it was inevitable he would move on to better things and in the end he joined Real Madrid on loan. Restricted to playing for the Castilla, the Brazilian signed a long-term contract with Los Blancos the following season and has been following the club’s youth progression programme very obediently ever since.
He’s gradually been introduced into the Real Madrid first team and the sheer audacity with the way the club have handled Casemiro is staggering, but the 21 year-old has been compliant and could possibly be of greater importance should the likes of Xabi Alonso move on next season.
2. ALVARO MORATA
Rising head and shoulders above his Castilla peers, Alvaro Morata has surely been giving Karim Benzema restless nights.
The 21 year-old has been a revelation for Real Madrid this season and really, there is no other word for it. A tall, imposing striker despite his youthful looks, Morata is also quick off the line and a nightmare in the penalty area. He’s played over 20 La Liga matches for Los Blancos already having arrived from the Castilla, where he was already very well known to the people of Spain.
Top scorer in his first season with the Castilla, his goal scoring exploits are only matched by his impact for his country. He made his debut with the Spanish Under-21’s in the 2013 European Championships in Israel, finishing the tournament as top scorer with four goals; one shy of Adrian Lopez’s feat in 2011. So far this season he has given Karim Benzema a run for his money as the Frenchmen’s poor form has allowed Morata to exploit the opportunity.
However despite all the progress he has made, Morata seems destined to be second-choice to who ever Real Madrid decide to shell out on in attack. He may not have the right definition, but Morata is the closest Real Madrid have come to replacing club legend Raul.
1. JESE RODRIGUEZ
At Real Madrid, you have to be truly spectacular to stand a chance of replacing the very best players in the world, and Jese Rodriguez seems to be the only player with a genuine chance of doing so.
Blisteringly quick, cool and composed in front of goal, very hard working and above all a perfectionist, these are just a few aspects of Jese’s game. He joined Real in 2007 at the ripe age of 14. He scored 17 goals for the Juvenil A before being promoted to the reserve team at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Fans got their first glimpse of Jese during the 2011 pre-season friendly to Los Angeles Galaxy and thereafter he would feature marginally. His success with the Castilla however was unparalleled as he scored a record 22 goals in his first full season, piling pressure on the hierarchy to take notice and promote him to the first team.
The young Spaniard was moving at one-hundred miles per hour and soon got into a spat with the club involving declarations made by his agent. Many fans felt Jese should be given more of an opportunity with the first team and club icon and now assistant coach Zinedine Zidane echoed these thoughts.
Despite limited playing time, Jese managed to score his first competitive goal for Real Madrid, coming late into his El Clasico debut to give his side a consolation goal. There is the ominous threat that Jese may wriggle his way out of Real Madrid’s grip if he isn’t given the chances he feels he deserves. However right now he is Real Madrid property and is certainly the club’s most promising young player.
Follow Louis Gibberd-Thomas on Twitter: @mercutio156