Real Madrid are taking a page out of their rival’s book, as they are turning to their youth talent, rather than purchasing ready-made, but expensive superstars.
Their El Clasico enemy, Barcelona, have long been praised for bringing through world-class youth products, not least the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets.
However, while the Catalan side have spent £277.5 million (€307m) on two players, Los Blancos have promoted Achraf Hakimi, Borja Mayoral and Marcos Llorente in recent years from their famed ‘B’ team, Real Madrid Castilla.
Transition from Castilla to first team
The key to their recent success has largely been down to the former reserve team manager, and now leading the senior side, Zinedine Zidane.
While ex-youth product Dani Carvajal was already back playing in white after a stint in Germany, the Frenchman has given plenty of game time and much-needed confidence to several youngsters.
Defender Nacho has gone from strength to strength under Zidane, with Lucas Vazquez also seeing more of the pitch since he became Real Madrid coach.
Meanwhile, Marcos Llorente has featured on 10 occasions following a loan spell at Deportivo Alaves, despite Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro all being mainstays in the team for the majority of the season.
Fresh, new talent
Yet, Zidane has also blooded new talent, particularly the most exciting is full-back Achraf.
The Morocco international made his debut at just 18-years-old in October last year, becoming Carvajal’s understudy, only to score his first goal for the club two months later.
Borja Mayoral is another who has been preferred over experienced heads, with the club selling another former Castilla member, Alvaro Morata, in the summer, leaving the ex-Wolfsburg attacker the only other Los Blancos out-and-out striker after Karim Benzema.
Promote, not buy
While Real Madrid’s first team have struggled this season, Zidane has still not been afraid to stick with the young guns and promote from the Castilla squad.
In January, the Frenchman and the club’s president Florentino Perez disagreed over signing a new goalkeeper, with the latter wanting to acquire Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao, yet the manager felt it would hinder the youngsters, notably his son Luca.
With Kiko Casilla expected to depart in the summer, it provides another opportunity to promote youth rather than purchase expensive recruits.
Who is next?
Aside from Luca, there are other youngsters impressing for the Castilla and getting on the fringes of getting game-time in the first team.
Midfielder Oscar Rodriguez was on the bench for February’s La Liga clash with Espanyol, while Aleix Febas and Fede Valverde have found minutes at loan clubs Real Zaragoza and Deportivo La Coruna, so will be expected to start pushing for a place in the senior side next season.