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Explaining the changes within Real Madrid's academy

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All of a sudden the return to training is upon us and for many, it will be a totally different Real Madrid club than the one they left for the summer holidays.

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As the build-up to the return to pre-season training continues, there's a lot more going on at Real Madrid at the moment than purely first-team matters.  The restructuring process has not only affected the first-team but also the Castilla sides.  Marca reported that Zinedine Zidane has brought nine new players into his Castilla side for the coming season; while it was reported weeks ago that Victor Fernandez has been tasked with the job of restructuring the whole youth cantera set-up.

It's always an exciting time of year for any young player who's given a promotion within the club to a higher team.  The nine newcomers to Zidane's squad must be really excited at the prospect of a step-up to the second team and turning out beside older and more experienced players; not to mention meeting tougher opposition at league level who are going to be a lot stronger than most of them will be used to playing against.

The changes behind the scenes have been gradual over the past few weeks and now all of a sudden the return to training is upon us and for many, it will be a totally different Real Madrid club than the one they left for the summer holidays.  There's going to be a lot of new faces around, and not only on the coaching side, since Zidane's new charges will form the bulk of the Castilla squad for the coming season with many of the others moving on.

Such is the way with the supporting teams that in most cases the players involved have to be regarded as genuine prospects for the first team and be able to justify their inclusion accordingly.  Occasionally, the B teams will include a couple of ‘older heads' who know full well that they are only there to help with the development of the youngsters around them on the field, and for those players any hopes of lining up alongside Ronaldo et al are purely theoretical.

Nevertheless, in many cases the excitement of just being involved with a club at the level of Real Madrid and training every day at the Valdebebas set-up can be reward enough; after all it's not everyone who can say they've played in the all-white of the Madrid club.

Victor Fernandez, though, has the task of ensuring that the bulk of the players involved with the Real Madrid sides outwith the recognised first-team squad, have the potential to step-up to the Castilla side in a years' time and in theory at least have the potential then to step up even further to the first team.

In short, his job is going to be to make sure that everyone has the potential to wear the all-white at La Primera level.

The latter is often where the vast difference between first team football at La Liga / European standard and every other level becomes apparent.  The nine youngsters looking to make an impact at Castilla will have an eye on the season after this one and will turn up this week brimming with hope that some of them at least can make that extra transition from second team to first.

This will likely be the selling point Victor Fernandez will be making as he oversees the whole Academy / Cantera / Castilla projects in the wake of recent changes following a reduction in successes on the field and in the number of players about to graduate to the first team; or at least to Madrid's first team.

The main task for the former Deportivo coach is in finding a way to bridge the gap between the relevant teams within the club in order that promising players can make the transition up the ladder to eventually be retained on the basis of their potential suitability to be called into action with Real Madrid proper.

The new players who will now be representing the club in the colours of Real Madrid Castilla in the regionalised Segunda B are going to be meeting some strong opposition so they'll need to rise to the challenge both in a playing and in a physical sense.

If Zinedine Zidane and Victor Fernandez are realistically hoping that these lads are potential first-team players then they need to be getting Castilla out of Segunda B and into the Liga Adelante where the quality of the opposition will be more consistent than in the current division.   There the opposition fluctuates in standard as a result of the constraints that most of the clubs in Segunda B are forced to operate under.

As an experienced coach, Madrid will be hoping that Victor Fernandez will be able to implement whatever restructuring may be necessary within the club outside of the first team to ensure that there is some continuity on the field between the club's respective sides.  It's not clear how much Rafa Benetiz has had to do with these changes below first team level, but he's certainly not been shy of taking similar actions at other clubs.

In order to have the supporting teams playing the same game patterns as the first team, you need to have people in charge of the respective teams who at least share the same philosophy when it comes to playing styles and tactics.  By creating a feeling that all the different sides below the first team actually are part of the same club is great for morale and the theory will be that success on the field will follow.

You can often have the situation within a club where the first team are essentially apart from the rest and rarely intermix with the other teams.  It looks as though the plan is to have the whole football club playing in the same style and with a structured pattern for player development that will encourage promising youngsters to want to stay at Madrid instead of seeking a place elsewhere.

Although it will take to implement fully, by creating a player pathway that makes progression between the different teams a natural process, hopefully all the different teams will feel a part of the club and success other than at first team level will follow as a result.