We’ve reached that point of the summer in which nothing is really going on. Real Madrid have taken a break from relentless signings, the players are on holiday before pre-season starts, and the sun is out and calling me to the local beach. This also means that there is probably no better time to revisit and complete a two part series examining the biggest Castilla under - and overachievers. If you missed the first piece, looking at the underachievers, then you can find/revisit it here. Whilst Castilla consistently produce top level players, some success paths are easier to predict than others. Witnessing a player soar through their previously estimated ceiling and go on to achieve something amazing is truly invigorating, and it’s just as worthwhile following Castilla to experience these cases as opposed to highly rated youngsters fulfilling their potential. This piece will explore the five biggest overachievers to come out of Castilla, although the list will be in no particular order. Unlike the last piece, not all of these players will be from the 21st century, but you may well still know of them...
Lucas Vázquez – Real Madrid
The 2011/12 team was Castilla’s best of all time. They absolutely annihilated Segunda Division B, winning the title effortlessly. The squad was packed with some of the best young talent in the world, and many of the players have gone on to win some of the biggest titles in the world. One name that didn’t make people jump up and down with anticipation at the time however, was Lucas Vázquez. Despite falling behind star man Jesé Rodríguez and Denis Cheryshev amongst others in the pecking order, the winger managed to feature in a substantial amount of games for Castilla over three seasons. Most of these games as well as most of his goals and assists came in the Spanish second division, and his progress earned him a contract with the Real Madrid first team. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to get a look in with the senior side, so he was sent out on loan to La Liga side Espanyol for some top-level experience. He completed a decent season with the Catalan based side, scoring four and assisting seven in 39 games. This led to Espanyol securing his services full time on a five year contract for around €2 million in June 2015. This was perfect for him, and it laid the foundations for a steady career full of top league football. June would end up being so much better for Lucas, though...
Not even one month had passed before Rafael Benítez and Real Madrid decided to exercise a buy-back option on Lucas, bringing him into the first team squad for the first time on a five year deal. It was the 2015/16 season that would shoot Lucas into stardom. He consistently featured throughout a mixed season, as Real Madrid made the Champions League final against rivals Atlético in Milan. The game boiled down to penalties, and an ultra cool Vázquez paced towards the spot, spinning the ball on his finger in the process. He gave the ball a kiss goodbye, placing it on the spot - before calmly rolling it past a frozen Jan Oblak. Madrid went on to win the first of three consecutive Champions League trophies that night, and Lucas played a part in every one. He has picked up ten honours in the four years since his return, and has been a firm favourite for every manager to pass Real Madrid by in that time. Whilst many fans feel that the 28 year old’s tenure with the first team has been overly prolonged, there should be no denying his quality and the fact that he has been an incredibly useful servant to the best club in the world. Especially when considering his initial projection. He has been recently linked with both Arsenal and Bayern Munich, and although nothing has materialised as of yet, the stature of these two clubs just goes to show how highly rated Lucas is in the footballing world.
José Luis Caminero - Retired
We’re travelling back some time for this one. After breaking through the Real Madrid academy and spending three seasons with Castilla in the late 1980’s, the midfielder was unable to ever make an appearance with the first team. He was immediately sold to Valladolid, who were in La Liga - but only just. After managing to avoid relegation for four years, things took a turn for the better for José as he joined Atlético Madrid. It was here where he would begin to achieve the unexpected, winning the La Liga title, a Copa Del Rey and becoming the Spanish player of the year all in one season. The Spanish national team took notice of his progress, and he became a regular during his time in the capital. After spending five years with Atlético, scoring plenty of goals in that time, Caminero rejoined Valladolid and saw his career out at the club. He retired on almost 500 career appearances, and multiple accolades that Real Madrid never saw coming. Since he retired he has held positions at both Valladolid and Atlético as a director, and currently resides in Málaga working for the club as a CEO.
Sergio Reguilón - Sevilla
Back in the modern day, and there is no Castilla success story in like more than Sergio Reguilón’s. He was technically on the books at Castilla for four seasons, but he was only part of the squad for one whole season in 2017/18. He was recalled for a part of the 2015/16 season because of injuries elsewhere, but apart from that he was not in any plans and was sent out on loan twice to Logroñés for regular game time in Segunda B. An anecdote I am always fond of sharing derives from podcast planning with Kiyan Sobhani, when we were assessing what to talk about just before recording. We figured it out, and just prior to starting Kiyan asked if there was one final topic we could discuss for the remaining few minutes or so. I looked right at the very bottom of my notes, and one Sergio Reguilón was there. He had scored four goals in one game whilst playing as a winger out on loan against Athletic Bilbao B, but more attention went into pronouncing his name than his amazing performance. This was at a time when the Castilla players were struggling to find the net, and the next season Sergio was placed straight into the Castilla squad. The team had a below par campaign that season, however Sergio earned one of the highest season ratings in the team, and the joint highest for a defender.
The Spaniard had a good season with Castilla, but I don’t think anyone predicted what he would go on to achieve the very next year. He was called up by manager Julien Lopetegui for the first team’s pre-season tour of the USA. This didn’t come as much of a shock as multiple Castilla players are brought in every summer, but the consensus was that Reguilón was going to be loaned out after the team returned. This however quickly changed as he unpredictably performed superbly in every single game, against some of the best outfits in the world. He earned a place in the first team squad as the backup left back to Marcelo. However, strong performances in huge games such as the Madrid derby and El Clásico had some fans calling for an even bigger role ahead of the legendary Brazilian. He won his first trophy for Real Madrid after lifting the club world cup in the United Arab Emirates. This summer Real Madrid signed the established Ferland Mendy, meaning that Sergio was going to have to find a new destination. Julien Lopetegui again came calling, this time at Sevilla - and a loan deal was agreed for the coming season. With Marcelo not getting any younger, I highly doubt that we have seen the last of Sergio Reguilón in a Real Madrid shirt. Either way, to see a player catapult from the waiting list at Castilla to the starting line-up in some of the biggest games in the world is spectacular. May this be a lesson to every Castilla and academy player: with the right attitude, anything can happen.
Sergio Reguilón couldn’t even make the squad for the majority of his Castilla career, and was sent out on back to back loans.— Real Madrid Castilla Stats (@CastillaStats) August 31, 2018
Mariano graduated Castilla at the age of 23.
There are potential first team players everywhere you look. Never discount Castilla.#RealMadridCastilla pic.twitter.com/NKxo5NXAO4
Santiago Cañizares - Retired
Goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares came through at Castilla around the same time as Caminero towards the end of an incredibly successful decade for the reserve side. Also a product of the academy and the C team, Cañizares initially could not break through with the first team, and was sent out on two loans to Elche and Mérida to gain experience. He didn’t do enough to impress the club, and was later sold to Celta Vigo. It was here where he would impress Los Blancos, and after two seasons as the starting goalkeeper for the Galicians in La Liga, Madrid brought him back. He would win four trophies in four years at Madrid, including two league titles and a Champions League. He was never really a starter during this time, but did play most of his games in the final season. An offer came in from Valencia with a chance at more playing time, and it turned out to be the best decision he made during his career. He played almost 400 games for Valencia over a ten year period (including another two league titles and another Champions League victory), winning another nine trophies and becoming a regular for Spain in the process. He retired in 2008 having achieved far more than he was predicted to, becoming one of the best goalkeepers around and unlocking legendary status at Valencia. He has since ventured into entertainment, trying his luck at punditry and commentary.
Casemiro - Real Madrid
This choice could be considered slightly controversial, although I believe I can make a strong case to justify Casemiro’s inclusion. He was already playing at a decent level when he arrived at Castilla during the 2012/13 LaLiga123 season, after being a starter for Brazilian giants São Paulo. He looked comfortable in the reserve side, and even made his first team debut in La Liga against Real Betis. At this point I just did not envision him ever making the first team squad, yet alone being one of the most important players during a historic period for the club. For the first surprise of many, Casemiro was promoted to the first team squad the following season. He didn’t make much of a mark though, playing just two full games - both against third division side Olímpic Xàtiva in the first round of the cup. He did pick up a Copa Del Rey and a Champions League loan medal, but the midfielder was then loaned out to Porto in search of consistent minutes. He found just that in Portugal, and completed an excellent season, playing more than five times as much than he managed with Madrid. I still did not think this would be enough to earn him a place back at the Santiago Bernabéu, but he was slotted straight back into the squad for the 2015/16 campaign. It didn’t take him long to anchor himself at the base of the team’s midfield. Whilst Real Madrid brought in five managers in that time, but Casemiro was always a mainstay. He was still very effective defensively, breaking up opponents play and freeing up the more attacking midfielders around him. Unlike his first term at the club, his technical and offensive play had improved leaps and bounds. He still receives criticism to this day for being too comfortable floating forwards at times, but some of his goals and contributions have been essential in the teams league and cup runs. His progression allowed him to become one of the best in the world at his position. He has also become an important part of the Brazilian national team, and just last week won his first title for his country: the Copa América. I highly doubt it will be the last achievements for either club or country, and although he is still not the most popular player to some people, Real Madrid would have had a really hard time without him. We should be very thankful for this overachiever.
That wraps up the end of this long awaited two part series. Like last time, this list took its time to narrow down. With the amount of academy and Castilla graduates making the first team squad and finding top level moves, the next exciting overachiever is just around the corner. Next week I’ll be investigating Castilla’s summer so far, and what we can begin to expect from new gaffer Raúl and his team. I’ll also be looking to start a new mini-series at some point exploring how players from different Castilla season squads are progressing now. Do you agree or disagree with certain selections? Do you think that anyone is missing from this list? If so let me know in the comments section or on social media.