Real Madrid's 'La Fabrica' academy is now more prolific than La Masia

PETE JENSON: Forget ‘La Masia’, Real Madrid’s youth factory ‘La Fabrica’ is now powering Europe’s top divisions… and with coronavirus hitting finances hard, these are the academy stars set to get big chances at the Bernabeu

  • Diario AS reported 41 players from Real Madrid’s academy are playing in Europe
  • Juan Mata, Fabinho and Marcos Alonso are some of those who started at Real
  • Selling young players for big money has helped Real’s healthy financial situation
  • With the coronavirus crisis going to hit hard, it could help them in the short-term
  • Future looks bright with Reinier, Rodrigo and Martin Odegaard coming through
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

They call Real Madrid’s youth system ‘La Fabrica’ (the factory) and the production line has never been so productive.

While Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ academy, which produced the unrivalled group of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, is heralded the world over, Real’s own youth set-up is arguably now more successful.   

Diario AS counted 41 players in Europe’s top divisions who have come from the Valdebebas academy. That figure includes Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, Manchester United’s Juan Mata, Liverpool’s Fabinho, Aston Villa’s Jota and Watford’s Kiko Femenia.

There are also 42 ex-Madrid youth-system players playing in Spain. That means around eight per cent of the league’s player population has passed through the gates of the huge Valdebebas complex just a drop-kick from Madrid’s main airport.

Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training base has produced a steady stream of quality players

Diario AS counted 41 players in Europe’s top leagues who have come from Real’s youth system

Florentino Perez has used his production line to maximum financial gain in recent seasons

Once upon a time it would been looked upon as a negative that so many of the homemade stars had been sent off to shine somewhere else. Commentators asked: what is the point of the club scouting diligently home and abroad to bring in the best kids if none of them end up in the Real Madrid first team?

Currently only six of the first-team squad have come through the ranks. Only Lucas Vazquez, Dani Carvajal and Nacho have been at the club since they were young boys and only Nacho has progressed to the first team without so much as a season’s loan elsewhere.

But Madrid have long since recognised that there is nothing wrong with the factory producing to export. Madrid’s relatively good state of financial health owes a lot to the players who have been raised at home and then sold.

In 2019 nine of the 13 different youth categories at the club won their respective leagues. The quality is there in abundance still, but that means it’s impossible that every youngster makes it into the 23 who end up representing the first team every season. If the club makes money by selling those that don’t make it then the model is still justified.

A perfect example is Fabinho, who passed through Real Madrid on his way to the top level

Not all have been successful sales and letting Dani Parejo (centre) go for just €3m was an error

Just last summer Marcos Llorente was sold to Atletico Madrid for €40million (£35m). 

In the past players such as Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez have been sold to Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain. Only occasionally does the club live to regret a departure and not have a financial consolation for their loss.

Letting Dani Parejo go to Getafe for just €3m (£2.6m) was probably a mistake. Valencia would later value their captain at €40m (£35m) and Mata still feels like a major missed opportunity.

But when Raul de Tomas moved to Benfica for €25m (£22m) last year Spanish daily ABC totted up the money made over the last decade from selling off the young stars and their calculations arrived at €300m (£261m). 

Others have come up with a figure closer to €245m (£213m). Either way it’s been an important and constant cash injection.

With a new financial landscape on the horizon for all LaLiga clubs post-coronavirus shutdown, the club’s youth system continues to be of huge financial importance. But over the next decade it could be saving the club money rather than making it.

Allowing Alvaro Morata leave permanently to Chelsea has proven to be better business

Real sold Marcos Llorente to city rivals Atletico last summer for £35m and reinvested wisely

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has already warned Spanish football there will be a €1bn (£871m) deficit if this season is not completed and he has suggested most sides should forget the transfer market and look to their own youth systems – either players still coming through or having come through and now returning from loan.

The Real Madrid B-team coached by club legend Raul has underwhelmed this season, struggling to get promotion from the third tier back into Spain’s far more competitive second division.

But with players such as full-back Achraf Hakimi due back from Borussia Dortmund and Martin Odegaard from Real Sociedad there is an immediate injection of young talent that will allow the club to let the pot brew a little longer at Valdebebas and see what comes through in the next few years.

And of course, homegrown players going into the first team and not the revenue stream is what fans really want. ‘They bring a different sort of commitment, enthusiasm and loyalty,’ says Tomas Roncero, unashamed Madrid-mad columnist for Diario AS.

Spain Under-17 and Under-19 talent Antonio Blanco is one of the stars of Real Madrid’s B team. His ability to run games from midfield and score spectacular goals from distance have made him stand out.

The future looks bright, too, with Brazilian Rodrygo one of a number of promising youngsters

The first-team squad will be bolstered by the arrival of in-form Martin Odegaard this summer

Miguel Baeza is another who looks like he might be good enough to go all the way to the first XI. He has top-scored for Raul with nine goals this season – a decent return for someone who often plays wider or deeper than a centre-forward.

Miguel Gutierrez is the Under-19 captain and has the potential to be a top-class left back. And at Under-17 level Takuhiro Nakai – also known as ‘Pipi’ – is causing a lot of excitement. Brought in from Japan, the left-footed midfielder is another one to watch.

That recruitment of young talent into the youth system continues to be important. In January, Brazil Under-23 international Reinier Jesus arrived at Real Madrid. And it was Juni Calafat, head of scouting, who discovered him.

The highly-rated talent-spotter has also been responsible for the arrival of Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius Junior, Odegaard, Take Kubo and Fede Valverde in recent years.

Once upon a time, in the scales of their destiny, an eventual move to another club would have weighed heaviest for those players. But as the future becomes more homegrown at Madrid, then they may have a greater chance than ever of reaching the first team.

The conveyor belt is healthy as AS’s special report indicates. But traffic from it may now, instead of leading out the door, be diverted towards the Santiago Bernabeu. 

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