Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Looking closer to home...

Juan MataThe excellent Diarios de Fútbol blog argues today that Real Madrid are undervaluing the talent in their youth teams to look abroad for similar players at much greater expense. They take as their example 18-year-old Juan Mata, recently promoted from the 'C' to the 'B' team (also known as Castilla), and playing in the Spanish second division.

Mata had a successful campaign with the Spain under-19 side in last summer's European Championship, scoring five goals on the way to winning the trophy. He's also doing well with Castilla, having scored 6 goals so far this season. However, the club's youth policy seems to be against him. The only three players in the current starting eleven who have come up from the ranks - Raúl, Guti and Casillas - have been there since before Florentino Pérez was in charge.

Contrast this with the reported 10 million euros that River Plate have rejected for their 19-year-old striker Gonzalo (great name) Higuaín, the ongoing negotiations with Boca Juniors over Fernando Gago and the signing of Marcelo, and it seems that Real Madrid are only looking abroad to renew their ageing squad.

Although the poster has a very valid point, I take some issue with the comparisons made. I cannot comment on Juan Mata's abilities, as I've never seen him play. However, you cannot compare a player who has performed well in the Spanish second and third divisions, and with the national under-19 side, with someone of similar age who is currently performing at a high level with one of the top clubs in Argentina. One merely has potential, the other has demonstrated at least some of that potential. Look at Javier Portillo, who broke goalscoring records at every Real Madrid youth team, but never really came up with the goods in the first squad.

Looking though the rest of the Real Madrid squad, there are five other players who have come up through the ranks: Diego López, Pavón, Miñambres, Raúl Bravo and Mejía. None of these is getting a regular spot in the starting line-up, but, other than Miñambres, who is recovering from a serious knee injury, they have all played at some point this season. Add to that the fact that Capello has tried to give 'B' teamers like Rubén de la Red a run-out in relatively low pressure affairs like the recent Champions League game at Dynamo Kiev, and it seems that the club's technical team is at least trying to give these youngsters a chance to prove themselves,even if they don't always take it.

Any chance is, given the pressure for results at Real Madrid, likely to come only from time to time, and not everyone can be a Raúl. Luck has a lot to do with it, so mere talent is no guarantee, and there's no question the club is combing the youth market partly to steal a march on other clubs, but things are no blacker for the youngsters, in my opinion, than they have ever been.


Anonymous said...

it's an interesting debate, for sure, but i think the guy we are looking at our far superior to what is in our youth team. All three of the lads we are linked to or have signed (marcelo, gago and higuain) are already playing on national teams and play first team football on big teams already. Sure i'd like to see some of the younger guys get a chance, but to be honest, I dont think we should pass up superior talent.

Monter said...

"19-year-old striker Gonzalo (great name) Higuaín"
LOL, good one.

The high pressure for results at the moment, which is a result of Perez policy in the last years, won't give the Castilla a fair chance. Obviously, not every player can cut it at the high level. Portillo, Ruben come to mind. Some of them emerged at the young Spanish national team, like Minambres, R.Bravo but they looked nothing but crap. Though, Minambres has always been prone to injury.

Personally, I think the next after they emerge at the Castilla should be loaning them out. They would gain experience, get a better chance to play more games, and the club, this way, will only give a chance to a guaranteed success (sort of).

To make it all clear, look how Ramos developed and what, hopefully, will he be in near future. Then look at our defenders who nothing but good, which is unfortunately not enough for a team like RM.

Gonzalo said...

Anonymous, Monter, thanks for your comments. I think that is the thrust of my argument: Just because you perform well in the youth teams does not mean you can cut it at the top. I have no issue with RM buying up the good young talent from abroad, although there is a risk associated the less 'proven' they are, and we should not pay overinflated prices just because we've signed a good TV deal.