Everyone in the world has heard about ‘La Masia,’ Barcelona’s youth academy which year after year produces exceptional talent and has housed superstars such as Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta (just to name three). Almost every game they have many youth products in their starting eleven and the publicity their academy gets is understandable and justified. But what about their great rivals, Real Madrid?
The stereotype or the easy theory, prompted by Madrid’s ‘Galactico’ ethos, is that Barcelona makes players whereas Madrid buys them. The purchases Madrid have made since the turn of the century make you forget about the achievements of their academy. From Santiago Bernabeu to Iker Casillas, Real Madrid has constantly been producing top class talents for almost a century.
Although the current ethos at the Bernabeu is centred on big money buys such as Cristiano Ronaldo, it didn’t used to be like that. The change in ethos came about during Florentino Perez’s first reign as Real’s president when Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham were bought from abroad and the modern stereotype of Madrid derives from these purchases.
In the late 1980s a very different Real Madrid team won five consecutive Spanish titles, two UEFA Cups and a Copa del Rey with five homegrown talents at the core along with the great Hugo Sanchez. This squad was known as the ‘Vultures Squad’ which comes from Emilio Butragueno, the legendary forward who was nicknamed ‘The Vulture’. The other four players who were central to their success were Manolo Sanchis, Michel, Martin Vazguez and Miguel Pardeza. It was a truly legendary team who are often forgotten about in the modern era due to the new ‘Galactico’ ethos.
It wasn’t just the late 1980s which have seen Madrid’s academy produce world class talent, players such as the great Santiago Bernabeu, who was one of the earliest stars and later President, and Jose Antonio Camacho were produced in Madrid. That’s not to mention players who were signed as youngsters such as the legendary Alfredo di Stefano, Fernando Hierro, Francisco Gento, Fernando Morientes, Sergio Ramos and Amancio. There has been a continual trend of top players who were signed as youngsters who go on to become superstars at Madrid and this is no coincidence.
Over the last twenty years their academy hasn’t stopped producing footballing talents, however, in recent years only a few have stayed at the Bernabeu for the majority of their careers, The ‘Galactico’ purchases over the last decade have somewhat overshadowed the achievements of the academy in producing talent over the last twenty years. Iker Casillas, Raul Gonzalez and Guti were the main stays of the Madrid teams of the last twenty years with Casillas still playing his football at the club. Despite all the purchases the club has made, these three players remain darlings of the club to the current day. Raul and Casillas in particular are etched into Madrid folklore as legends. Raul signed his first professional deal in 1994 and went onto become the club’s top goalscorer of all time, winning three Champions League titles in the process. Casillas signed his first deal in 1999 and is still at the club having rarely missed a game in the last 14 years.