Real Madrid today announced that Castilla and senior third goalkeeper Diego Altube has left the club to join second division outfit Fuenlabrada on loan for the coming season. After three unique seasons as a professional at the club, it now seems time for him to fly the nest and seek out new experiences and most importantly: game time at a higher level. Fuenlabrada are a Madrid based side so Diego will not have to relocate, whilst being able to compete for a place between the sticks in a higher division than Castilla. There are a number of factors to consider when looking at this move, though...
Diego had a very different Castilla experience to most of the other players his age. The club decided against hiring seasoned professionals to be a back up option - instead creating a “shadow” third keeper role which allowed Altube to continue to feature for Castilla. On one hand, he was involved in more first team games than anyone else. On the other, he only managed 14 appearances for the reserve side in three seasons, and none whatsoever for the first team. The problem the young keeper now has is the fact that he does not have much experience to build on, and a senior side fighting for vital results such as Fuenlabrada may not have the patience required to wait for him to fully blossom. Add that to the stiff competition he faces in former Castilla star Javier Belman and we may have a dilemma. The good news is that Belman has begun to flourish, and rumours are coming in linking him to a move up to the top level... This would leave Diego leading the race for the number one jersey.
For Andriy Lunin, this could confirm a place in the first team squad for the 2021/22 season. If it were Lunin going out on loan, then Altube would surely have been kept to provide back up to Thibaut Courtois. Whether Madrid fans will see this as positive or negative is unclear, and Lunin himself has suffered from very little playing time since his arrival in Madrid. Another season as number two would not change that for yet another year. A replacement third goalkeeper will also need to be appointed either way, and the club is more than likely going to promote one of the current Castilla/youth players to be the “shadow” back up. One of Toni Fuidias or Luis López will be the favourites, but that will then of course affect their own playing time over the coming campaign.
The third goalkeeper conversation
The positives of the first team experience and incredible environment exposure handed to these young shadow third goalkeepers is a huge talking point. Joining the first team at the Bernabéu and training and learning alongside the best is always going to be advantageous. However, if it loses you 40 odd professional senior games then that can also have a knock on effect. In my opinion, it was more appropriate to have a more senior, abled and experienced goalkeeper brought in full time to provide support in the dressing room and healthy competition to the other players. Names such as Jerzy Dudek and Kiko Casilla spring to mind when searching for good examples. This of course would cost a considerably larger amount of money, with bigger names requiring bigger paycheques. For that reason it seems unlikely that the club will consider this option during the summer, as they look to offload players and spend as little as possible to gather funds for future Galactico endeavours.
Like many academy graduates before him, this loan move may spell the end of the road at Real Madrid for Diego Altube. He looked more than capable during his scattered Castilla appearances over the years, and I really hope that he manages to find his feet in the second division and secure some much needed minutes. If he can do that and impress, then who knows where he will end up in the future... Who would you like to see Real Madrid bring in as a third keeper option?