I think Real Madrid fans greatly underestimate what a harsh testing ground Castilla is for both players and managers. Every summer, the club witnesses dramatic turnover as its best players depart for new pastures and are replaced largely with youth players. The manager must then manage the joint objective of properly developing young players in an unsuitable environment and try to keep the club in the promotion race. Sometimes the cantera youth ranks gifts the manager with a talented core that win promotion easily, most of the time the campaign turns into a gruelling marathon.
On Sunday, Raul got an early taste of the challenge that faces him. Just as the disappointment of a poor performance on his competitive debut had begun to sink in, the young manager was greeted with the confirmation of more bad news i.e Kubo departing for Mallorca. The Japanese’s winger is unlikely to be the last player Raul will lose in the name of player development this season.
Even if Rodrygo doesn’t get a loan move of his own, there is every chance he could see some first team action this season which will inevitably rule him out of Castilla matches. With Keylor Navas’s future up in the air, Diego Altube is another player Raul might have to prepare to live without, provided the senior side don’t bring in another backup keeper. In this sense, Castilla are merely keeping these players fit for the first team rather than starting them for the club’s benefits. This is not in any way talking down Rodrygo or Altube’s potential, in actual fact, its because they are such talented players that knowing your not going to have them the entire season can be such a headache.
Such issues are enough to drive more established managers in the game mad, perhaps its one of the reasons that veterans like Manolo Diaz prefer to stay at a board level rather than coaching on the frontlines. If that is true then one can only imagine how infuriating it can be for a young coach like Raul who will be expected to adapt his own, raw, managerial style to cope with the prospect of his best players not being available come matchday.
Barring injury, Raul had the luxury of picking the same team week in, week out at Juvenil B and even if the schedule demanded rotations, his side quality often meant that regardless of who they played, the result remained the same. Now, much like his players, Raul is being asked to make a massive jump and to do it quickly so as he isn’t buried by all the challenges professional coaching spit ups.
Despite all these challenges and frustrations that are clear to both the manager and the fans, one suspects that managing the reserve side can be a rewarding task. Despite his limited influence on Kubo’s career, Raul will rightfully feel some sense of pride should Kubo break into the Mallorca first team and will feel it even more so if someone like Rodrygo impresses enough to earn a senior team debut.
Castilla can also be a rewarding route personally. Throughout its history and regardless of the division, the youth team has always produced something, be it legendary players or legendary managers. As Raul will know from his playing days, so much of what makes you successful at youth level is rising to adversity it poses and making the jump. Even in these early days, there have been signs of what Raul wants to do with this Castilla side. His challenge will to be to continue to build of these early traits regardless of the inevitable setbacks he is going to experience.
The opening weeks of Raul’s Castilla management will be the most difficult of his managerial career so far, but should he successful navigate these challenges and find a way to impose his own personality onto this team, it could very well be the making of him.