Real Madrid’s Castilla department has been producing top players since seemingly before time began. Whilst many of the club’s highest rated prospects go on to fulfil their potential, there are always going to be a few that fall through the net. I’m not talking about players like Vinícius Júnior or Martin Ødegaard, two tabloid favourites that are painted out to be finished whilst still in their teens. I’m talking about matured footballers that just never quite achieved what they were originally projected to. In this article we’re going to be looking at five of the biggest Castilla underachievers from the 21st century. These examples have purposely been kept reasonably modern to promote relevance, and will be in no particular order. Let’s begin:
Derik Osede (25) – Free Agent
In 2012, if you could go back and ask me whom I believed Real Madrid’s next great centre-back would be – one of the first names to pop into my mind would have been Derik Osede. This guy had it all. He dominated Real Madrid’s youth teams, shone with the now disbanded ‘C’ team, and immediately broke into the Castilla team in LaLiga2. He was also a regular Spanish youth international, and during the under-19 European Championships he was so good that Gary Neville took to Twitter to brandish his passing out from the back as “the best I’ve seen for years”. Spain won that trophy with ease, and Derik chipped in with an important goal against Greece, but more impressively he made the team of the tournament – joining names such as Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti and Saúl Ñíguez in the line-up. He was again on the score-sheet a year later in the under-20 world cup, this time scoring against Mexico. Sadly, Spain crashed out of this one in the quarter finals, losing out to Uruguay. His Castilla career lasted for three seasons, and he only made a couple of first team squads in that time.
For the next batch of top players, everything tends to happen very quickly. Whilst Derik went from an academy player to a Castilla starter and title winning youth international in a short space of time, he needed to continue on that rate of progression in order to realise his potential. Staying at Castilla for so long was becoming damaging, and he needed to find a progressive move to get himself back on track. In 2015 he left Real Madrid for good. To the surprise of many, English Championship side Bolton Wanderers would be his next destination. Although he broke into their side in good time, they eventually finished bottom of the Championship, and before he even knew it – the next best centre-back was now 24, and plying his trade in League One. They did bounce back to the Championship immediately, but this would prove to be Derik’s last season at Bolton. When his contract expired he was not offered a new deal, and left to become a free agent. The 2018/19 season is now well under-way, and as I type this Derik is yet to find a new club and remains a free agent. Still only 25, Derik could still step up and become a top flight player. His next club is going to be key towards his aspirations. For now, one of the highest rated young centre-backs of his time remains unemployed.
Alípio (26) - Clube de Regatas Brasil
Ah, Alípio… The once Brazilian wonder-kid was snapped up from Portuguese side Rio Ave in 2008 for a cool €2.5million, with the help of his super agent Jorge Mendes. Reports suggested that Real Madrid opted for Alípio ahead of Philippe Coutinho due to his impressive skill set at an early age. After spending a bit of time with the academy and the ‘C’ team, he was fast tracked to Castilla at 17 years of age. A player of immense ability, Alípio became the youngest Castilla player of all time after coming on against Águilas. That record has since been stolen by a certain Martin Ødegaard. Alípio would only go on to make a handful of appearances for Castilla that season, and his progress was stagnated due to a recurring knee injury. In hindsight, Real Madrid did not address this injury in the correct manor, refusing to supply relevant treatment. The injury would haunt the Brazilian for most of his young career. He left Real Madrid that summer after being offered a supposedly better opportunity at Portuguese giants Benfica.
The decision to leave Real Madrid ended up being fatal for the prospect, as he never featured for any other Benfica team except the under-19s. He was loaned out to a Brazilian third division team not long after, and ended up playing all over the place. After stints in the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and Greece; he finally managed to catch a break when he signed for Brazilian top flight side Vitória. He won a Campeonato Baiano title with Vitória, but was soon on the move again. He finally settled in the Brazilian second division, and after hopping from club to club, currently plays for Clube de Regatas Brasil. Not so long ago, I checked up on Alípio to see how he was doing and found that at 26, he is still very talented, and consistently performs at his level. In the future he should be looking to step up to at least the Brazilian top flight to test himself. Although he was a hugely talented youngster, he was never widely thought of as the next big thing. He has still however not lived up to his initial promise. He has been vocal about his time at Real Madrid and views it as a negative experience.
Jesé Rodríguez (25) - Paris Saint-Germain
How on earth can a player that has won two Champions League titles with his boyhood club, and currently plays for one of the best teams in the world be deemed an underachiever? Well, Jesé Rodríguez was gearing up to be one of the best players in the world. He rinsed through the academy, before joining up with Castilla. He quickly became Castilla’s best player, and began to draw comparisons with the first team’s marquee player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Things really began taking off for Jesé when he was the star player for the best Castilla team of all time, a side that won the 80 team Segunda División B league title during the 2011/12 season. A year later he became the team’s record goalscorer within a single season, scoring 22 goals in LaLiga2 - a feat that he would surely struggle to replicate in the current day. Throughout all of this time he was constantly involved with the first team, joining them on pre-season tours and various match day squads, even picking up a La Liga winners medal from the 11/12 season to go with his Segunda B league winners medal from Castilla that same season.
It wasn’t just club level where Jesé was dominant. He also became the key player for many of the Spanish youth international teams. He was the golden boot winner of the European under-19 Championships with five goals, a tournament that Spain went on to win. Jesé walked into the team of the tournament alongside some of the world’s biggest footballing names. A year later, he was back at it again - this time taking home the silver boot for a further five goals during the under-20 World Cup. Despite his best efforts, Spain went out in the quarter finals. He was also a prominent member of the Spanish under-21’s team, but has never made his senior debut for his country as of now.
In 2013, Jesé was promoted to the Real Madrid senior team. His first goal came in typical fashion, away to Barcelona at the Camp Nou... He also contributed to a late, late winner against Valencia, and an important goal in the Madrid derby against Atlético. It was revealed that around this time, he was in Spain manager Vicente del Bosque’s plans for the World Cup that coming summer. It was all going Jesé’s way, until one fateful Champions League night at the Bernabéu. Madrid were playing Schalke - and Jesé’s career would be changed forever within the first ten minutes. Sead Kolašinac, now at Arsenal, had a particularly aggressive start, and caught Jesé on the turn, rupturing his cruciate ligaments, forcing him off of the field for almost a year. I remember this injury vividly, and I was absolutely gutted for him at the time. He was out for so long. During his first game back, nine months later in the Copa Del Rey against Cornellà, his first involvement was to nutmeg his defender, and he ended up scoring as well. It didn’t look all bad for Jesé, but the worst was yet to come...
From here on in, Jesé really struggled to get back to his best, and was getting no way near the Real Madrid team. He would keep up the fight for a further season, but eventually was forced to depart the club in search of relevant minutes that could help him return some day. He left Real Madrid with six honours for both the first team and Castilla to his name. Paris Saint-Germain came calling, and this was an opportunity that the Spaniard felt he could not turn down. Although he won three trophies during his time in Paris (a league cup and two super-cups), his tenure would be a sour one. He played a handful of games in the first half of the season, but was so inconsistent and unsettled, that he was loaned out for the second half. He returned to Spain and joined La Liga side Las Palmas on loan. He played a few decent games for the club, some of his best back from injury even - but was still largely inconsistent and returned to PSG the following summer.
It was clear he was going nowhere at PSG, and would need to look for another loan move for the 2017/18 campaign. The Premier League would be his next destination, as he would join the Stoke City revolution, joining up with other declined talents from top clubs such as Bojan Krkić and Ibrahim Afellay. He had a really bright start, scoring the winning goal in a man of the match performance against Arsenal. It was all downhill after that... He had a few spats with manager Mark Hughes and his backroom staff, and ended up receiving limited playing time. He was even fielded for a ‘Premier League 2’ reserve team game at one point, creating a new low for the once immensely rated prospect. He returned to PSG this summer, and voiced his desire to fight for a place in France, but has since been frozen out. Although he is technically still a PSG player, he now trains on his own most of the time, and will surely be actively searching for a new club in the meantime. He has publicly cursed the injury that he picked up in the Champions League as the main reason for his downfall, and believes that he would currently be enjoying huge success with Real Madrid had he not received it. I really do believe that statement to be true. Already a very accomplished player, Jesé can still put a shift in at a good standard if he sorts his attitude out. But for someone who could have been one of the best players in the world, anything else at this point is still a severe underachievement.
Jorge Casado (29) - Xanthi
Jorge is one of the best Castilla left back’s ever. He joined Castilla from Rayo Vallecano’s B team, where he played consistently in the Spanish fourth division for two seasons prior. He made the team very quickly, and became an indispensable figure for the best Castilla side ever, as they went on to win a league title during the 2011/12 campaign. He made his first team debut in the Copa Del Rey that season, and was often invited to train with them and involved with some of their games. Being one of the older players at Castilla, the time had to eventually come to move on. With no sign of him displacing Marcelo in the Real Madrid team, he joined Real Betis in LaLiga2. He never really played regularly for them, and when they got promoted he left to join Ponferradina, before singing for Real Zaragoza.
He currently is playing in the Greek Super-League, for Xanthi. Granted, Jorge was never going to be the best left back in the world, but I do think it’s criminal that he never got the chance to give La Liga a crack, and never really played higher than LaLiga2 in Spain. Still, it’s good that he’s now playing in a top flight in Europe, even if his current club isn’t making waves in the footballing ocean. Now 29, it could be a tough challenge, but I would still love to see Jorge Casado on the field for a La Liga team one day. He remains one of my favourite Castilla graduates ever.
José Rodríguez (23) - Fortuna Sittard
José Rodríguez is quite a unique addition to this list. He was always really highly rated as a footballer that was mature beyond his years, and this was true to an extent, but I never quite saw anything to justify his excellent approval ratings. Like many, he worked his way through the academy before reaching Castilla, and went on to spend two decent seasons with the reserve side. He also made four appearances for the first team in that time, scoring on his debut in the Copa Del Rey against Alcaoyano. He then went out on loan to Deportivo La Coruña, and played consistently in La Liga throughout the campaign. He was only 20 years old at this point, and usually when a Castilla graduate reaches this stage of their development, they don’t look back.
Next season, he left Real Madrid for Turkish giants Galatasary. He again played a considerable amount of minutes, as he went on to lift the Turkish cup - but was on the move again that summer as Bundesliga outfit Mainz 05 secured his services. It was here that he showed the first signs of struggle, as he only managed a small number of appearances, before being loaned back to La Liga with Málaga. He would fail to impress there as well, and it was at this point his career took a different turn. For the 2017/18 season he was loaned out to Israeli Premier League team Maccabi Tel Aviv. He did win a cup whilst out there, but the standard was below par - and didn’t help to make a case for a quick Bundesliga return. This season he was again loaned out, this time to Fortuna Sittard in the Dutch Eredivisie. Whilst the team aren’t great, the league standard is at least better, and a good showing this year could help him get back to the big leagues. At only 23 years of age, he is the youngest player on this list, and perhaps has the best chance out of anybody to still succeed.
There we have it. This list took quite some research and contemplation to narrow down to a mere five, with players such as Álex Fernández, Cristian Benavente, Antonio Rozzi and Eero Markkanen just missing out. It has to be said that for every Castilla graduate that fails to reach their potential, there must be a ratio of at least ten other players that go on to become top level footballers. The work the Real Madrid academy completes really is unprecedented, and has contributed so much to the recent success that the club has seen.
If this piece wasn’t enough to fill your appetite, then I am always open to looking into five of Castilla’s biggest overachievers upon request... Alternatively, if you guys have anything to add, or know of anybody that I may have missed out on, then be sure to let me know in the comments section!