After failing to overtake Barcelona in La Liga, Real Madrid’s Jese was perhaps the one bright spark in what was ultimately a disappointing weekend for Real Madrid.
The continuing exploits of the talented 20 year old saw him notch his fifth goal of the season in Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw against Athletico Bilbao, in a game that also saw Cristiano Ronaldo get sent off for violent conduct.
The draw took Real level with Barcelona (both currently behind first placed Athletico Madrid) but with the Catalonians having lost to Valencia the day before, Madrid would have been looking to capitalise on their rival’s slip up. The dominance of Barcelona in recent seasons has especially irked the Real fans because Barca take so much joy out of their home-grown superstars outshining the galacticos at the Bernabeu.
So thinking along the lines that Real Madrid would want to build a side that can go on to dominate, it would be reasonable to expect a young talent like Jese to be nurtured and given a long term chance to shine. However, the recent history of Real tells us differently.
Consider this; during the time Barcelona have produced and gotten the best out of the likes of Xavi, Andre Iniesta, Lionel Messi and others, Real Madrid have willingly let go of players such as Juan Mata, Alvara Negredo and even Samuel Eto’o.
Now, it is very common for top clubs to let a few diamonds slip through the net; think Paul Pogba at Manchester United, Patrick Viera with AC Milan and many other examples. Also, it is very common for castoffs from top clubs to be able to forge careers for themselves at clubs in the top leagues. So were it a case of the Real Madrid Castilla (youth academy) not producing players of the right ability, than there could be no qualms about how players make the transition from youth team to first team. However, the subsequent development of the likes of Mata and Negredo proves this is not the case. And they are not the only ones.
Roberto Soldado (now of Tottenham after a £27m transfer from Valencia) scored 124 goals in 207 games in Spain after leaving Real Madrid. Javi Garcia established himself as a solid, intelligent midfield player after leaving Real and went on to sign for Manchester City for £16m in 2012. Borja Valero and Daniel Parejo have each become lynchpins respectively for Fiorentina and Valencia. Alvaro Arbeloa was eventually signed back by Real Madrid, having spent five years away proving his worth at Deportivo La Coruna and Liverpool. Just last season, home-grown talent Jose Callejon was deemed not good enough for Real and is now in the Napoli team that is third in Serie A, scoring nine goals in 20 games so far in the league. Along with Mata, Negredo and Eto’o, is it beyond any of these players to fulfil roles currently being occupied by the likes of Isco, Asier Illaremendi, or Karim Benzema?
It doesn’t need to stop there either. More names could be mentioned, names that have won trophies and that have hauls of international caps. And these names all at one time played for one of the Real Madrid academy teams. And for all these names, the ones that have made it at Real can be counted on one hand; Raul, Guti and Iker Casillas.
It must also be recognised, the Real youth products mentioned were all castoffs. Other than arguably Samuel Eto’o (who had visa issues but was still let go with consent) the rest were willingly sold. The sale of Real’s talented reserve players bears no comparison to the situations of Cesc Fabregas or Gerard Pique, who were both plucked away by Arsenal and Manchester United respectively, with the English clubs taking advantage of a Spanish rule stopping youngsters from signing pre-contracts.
So what is the problem?
To begin with, the constant change of managers at the Bernabeu has stopped any real bridges from the youth team to the first being built. And with this instability, even youth team coaches have become belligerent in their roles. During Jose Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid it was rumoured former manager of Real Madrid Castilla Alberto Toril refused to play promising centre-back Nacho at right-back when Mourinho requested, claiming the player was not a right-back and if to be used by the first team would need to be used properly.
Although this may seem selfish of the coach, he may also have had the interests of the player at heart. Many a Madrid youth player has come in expected to fill a role they may have not been used to playing, and if not excelling in that role the player is usually shipped out of the club soon after.
Put simply, blooding young players in – unless they are truly exceptional – takes time, and time is something most managers at Real Madrid do not get.
However, it is evident that Real Madrid are not against playing youngsters in the first team, with Raphael Varane currently being given the chance to prove his worth since a move from the Lens first team as a teenager.
Yet, therein is the biggest problem. The fact that Real Madrid can more or less sign anyone they want is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows them to consistently bring some of the best players in the world to the Bernabeu. Yet on the other hand, this means Real Madrid can always go for the quick fix solution, something which has stopped them from paying serious attention to what is very obviously an excellent youth academy.
Ever since the days of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, Real Madrid have been a club all about the big signings. If a season goes by where Madrid do not purchase an international star the fans are outraged. It is nearly as bad as not winning a trophy. In essence, even Real Madrid fans are more partial to a superstar signing over giving time to create a star of their own.
Many will say that if players with the potential of Raul or Casillas come through they will force their way in. However, as football people know, teams are never completely made up of stars of that calibre. Winning sides usually have a group of home-grown players that complement the stars of the side and ensure imports understand the philosophy of the club. This core group are vital to maintain a standard of practice within a club. This should be especially important at Real considering the constant changes at the club.
Will Real Madrid come to this same conclusion? Frankly, it is very unlikely. Rumours already abound about summer transfer targets, with the likes of Luis Suarez and Radamel Falcao on their radar, making it likely another potential Real raised star – Alvaro Morata – will have to move on to fulfil his potential.
And what for arguably the most talented young player Madrid have produced since Raul, in Jese?
The attacker has modelled himself on Cristiano Ronaldo and is showing positive similarities. Very quick, two footed, skilful and with a clear eye for goal, there is no logical reason Jese should not thrive at Real Madrid. Yet, no one will be surprised if he is sold within a season or two.
A club so prideful about their history, Real Madrid should start learning from past mistakes. Places for these talented youngsters should be kept in their squad, because as we now know, if they do not make the most out of them, lots of other clubs most certainly will.