El Centrocampista

Mourinho and Madrid look elsewhere for talent

The current state of youth development at Real Madrid has been highlighted this week following an insightful article published in Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo.

Oscar Zarate pays particular attention to the dealings of Jose Mourinho and his record in the transfer market, not only in the Spanish capital but at his previous clubs.
The statistics reveal the extent to which the club, who once produced players such as Emilio Butragueño, José Camacho and Raúl, now rely on transfers to fill their squad.

The situation is in stark contrast to the famed La Masia youth academy at bitter rivals Barcelona, who have established themselves at the forefront of youth development and boast a squad full of players developed by the club.

The inclusion of 11 homegrown players in the Real Madrid squad currently on pre-season tour in the US may seem encouraging but of these, only Iker Casillas is an established member of the side.

Startling figures also show that the ten first team cantera debutants  last season only managed a paltry 696 minutes between them, a figure almost equalled by promising youth product Andreu Fontás who was given 640 minutes by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

Of these ten Real Madrid players, three have already left the club during the close season as Mourinho continues to look elsewhere for talent.

This trend has been evident at Real Madrid for a number of years but the Portuguese manager also used the strategy at his previous clubs. In less than four years at Chelsea, the self-proclaimed ‘special one’  spent almost £400 million on new talent with many of his signing struggling to justify the huge fees.
Of the established players in his squad, only captain John Terry came through the ranks and Mourinho failed to land his holy grail, the UEFA Champions League, despite the massive outlay

His time at Inter also saw new transfers flood in to the side, although the £140 million spent was rewarded as they won to the elusive European trophy.

Of the current Barcelona squad preparing for the new La Liga season, an impressive 12 players were resident at the La Masia during their footballing development.


  1. bulers

    22 July, 2011 at 11:13

    I mean no offense – I am constantly searching for good English-language La Liga sites and yours seems promising at first glance – but seriously, why even publish this if it adds absolutely nothing new to the conversation?

  2. Iain McMullen

    22 July, 2011 at 12:36

    Hi Bulers thanks for taking the time to visit the site and comment on the article – opinion is what it is all about and it is greatly appreciated.
    The piece highlights the growing reliance RM place on transfers rather than bringing players through the ranks, something that has been the case for a while now but too what extent many people may not be aware, especially outside Spain.

    What are your views on the matter? The first team squad is maybe at its all time weakest for homegrown talent, and this could have long lasting consequences when UEFA’s FFP becomes established. It will take many years to build the youth system up to the standard of clubs such as Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao.

    It is arguable whether clubs will be able to circumnavigate Platini’s plan but at this stage, we don’t know.

  3. bulers

    25 July, 2011 at 17:06

    I guess my point is that the fact that Madrid buys a lot of players has got to be something every football fan is aware of by now. I mean, come on, after Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo I and II, Beckham, Kaka, Benzema, Di Maria et al, who wouldn’t get that impression? I didn’t really see anything in the article beyond another rehash of Barca’s self-adulating cantera VS cartera refrain.

    Frankly, as a long-time Real Madrid fan, I am not at all worried about FFP. Along with Arsenal, Real Madrid is actually among the best-placed of the elite teams to succeed in the FFP era. Say what you want about Perez and how he has commercialized everything about Madrid at the expense of the team, but he is some businessman. And Madrid’s policy of bringing in the star names may not be bringing the desired effect on the pitch, but as a business, Madrid is in great shape. With FFP targeting clubs who are spending more than they are making, it’s other clubs who have more to be worried about.

    Now the sporting side of things is a different matter. There is that big problem of Barcelona, being very good nowadays, and Real Madrid essentially having to play them twice in La Liga to decide who wins it all. That being said, this all comes in cycles, and I look forward to the tide turning once again in Spain. It could be because Mourinho’s Madrid finally figures out how to win a Classico. Or it could be age/injuries finally creeping up with Barca. Or, who knows, it may actually be FFP that does them in. I hear they’re not in great shape financially over there.

  4. Iain McMullen

    25 July, 2011 at 17:43

    But surely the relative lack of any real success at Real Madrid in almost five years is no coincidence with the end of the Raul and Guti era that had such a massive impact on the club, and all those that were brought into the team? They both knew the club inside out and had massive influence (maybe too much) – the same influence Puyol and Xavi have at the camp nou.

    I look at the Real Madrid side now and they lack that type of individual. Iker Casillas certainly doesn’t have the same influence in my opinion.

    The fact that FCB can bring players up through the system and slot them straight into the side, is a massive advantage to paying millions for world class players that take time to settle into a system that is constantly changing with each manager.

    Jose Mourinho may be given more time, and control, than most at the head of the team, which is sure to create more fluidity in their game and I hope, for the sake of La Liga, they can mount a serious challenge this season.

  5. bulers

    26 July, 2011 at 04:34

    I think people tend to over-estimate how long this all-conquering Barcelona side has been dominant. Only three years ago, Real were back-to-back champions, and Barca had to suffer the ignominy of the pasillo.

    It’s true that after Iker, no one from the youth setup has really broken through. De la Red would have been big in my opinion, but for his unfortunate career-ending heart condition. Granero is there as well but just hasn’t taken his chance conclusively enough to displace the stars brought in. Looking at the players the cantera has produced, a lot now ply their trade in La Liga, but only Mata and Negredo has had real continued success. So I don’t think management can be blamed for not having enough canteranos in the side. There just haven’t been players good enough to make it, and with the focus on sides like Madrid being on winning now and no later, there just isn’t room for sentimentality when the talent isn’t there.

    Barcelona has recently struck it rich with its youth system, and I think the real advantage they have is that La Masia products have been trained to play the first team’s tiki-taka football from the get-go, and so any team who aspires to follow the Barca model have years to make up.

    Madrid doesn’t have the luxury of waiting, and so while they may make changes to the youth setup in the interim, they need to buy the world-class players to win now. Like I mentioned in the previous comment, they have made a unique and highly profitable business model out of it, and it’s there to stay. I forgot to cite this article which talks about Real Madrid’s business side extensively (http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2011/06/real-madrid-and-financial-fair-play.html). Now the only thing left is to actually win on the pitch, and I’m actually optimistic the team is getting closer rather than farther.

    • Iain McMullen

      26 July, 2011 at 09:37

      The lack of quality in the cantera players that have gone to other clubs, Negredo and Mata aside as you say, is probably down to the scouting system at Real Madrid and the youngsters they have managed to identify and get to the club.

      Obviously Lionel Messi is a special case, but I would be interested to know the level of importance, and financial attention, is placed on scouring the youth and young players of South America by RM? Whether this is ethical though, that’s another story altogether….

      We have our resident Real Madrid writer publishing his first pieces of work this week, so apologies if it seems slighty-skewed towards certain clubs, so I hope you continue to read the site and comment!

      Also, if you ever wish to get involved with our writing team, we are also looking for new contributors!

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