After a highly successful 2020/21 season for Real Madrid Castilla - interest in the team had never been higher after a record breaking number of players were drafted into the first team to help with the demanding COVID-19 situation. Legendary manager Raúl González had completed another strong campaign, reaching the play-off phase, and he had managed to do something very rare when he retained a large number of the squad for this season. The most concerning changes were the loss of top scorer Hugo Duro (Valencia via Getafe), and regular starter Hugo Vallejo (Valladolid) - whilst signing only two inexperienced players from external clubs. Both wingers, Jaume Jardí (direct from Barcelona) and Rafa Llorente (Las Rozas) joined the team for pre-season. So, how did Castilla manage during the 2021/22 season? This comprehensive guide will review the results, league position, and statistics - then splitting the squad into three performance categories, before finally giving the team an end of season verdict and some concluding thoughts ahead of next year.
Real Madrid finished in 10th place this season in group 2 of Primera RFEF with 56 points, resulting in Raúl’s worst season since taking over. The team won 16 games out of the 38 played in total, drawing the other 8 and losing 14. They scored a healthy 66 goals, but conceded 47, giving them a positive goal difference of 19. Some of their biggest victories included the 4-0 win over San Fernando, and the victories over eventual play-off sides Villarreal B (2-1), Gimnàstic de Tarragona (2-1) - and group winners FC Andorra (3-1). They scored five goals on three occasions, thrashing Atlético Sanluqueño 5-2 with a hat-trick from Sergio Arribas - UE Cornellà were then beaten 5-0, and finally UE Costa Brava lost 5-1. The season finished with an impressive 4-0 triumph over Real Betis B. Every single one of these positive results came at home, which is really telling. Their most disappointing results however came away at relegated UCAM Murcia (3-0) early on in the season, followed by the 3-0 drubbing from strugglers CD Castellón. The worst result was definitely the 4-1 defeat to fellow B team Villarreal. There were two mini-Clásico’s for the first time in a while this season, with both finishing even. The home game was a goalless, dry affair - and the away match ended 2-2 after a much more exacting showing, with victory being snatched away from Castilla in the final moments. These negative results ultimately left Castilla well away from play-off contention, making the mid-table finish a deserved one.
After some players really entered the scene with a bang last year, it was always going to be interesting to see how many fared this time out after questionably staying with Castilla. Below are three categories containing every squad member (that played a relevant number of games) and the manager. The high flyers are the stand out players from the season, whilst the steady performers are those that showed consistency but little more. The dubious duds contain those that disappointed throughout the campaign. The selections were peer reviewed and discussed at length with the Castilla Corner crew.
During 2019/20, I raved about Miguel Baeza - a midfielder who was scoring goals for fun, including a hat-trick, and if not for the early cancellation of the season due to COVID-19, would have hit a historic double figure goal mark. This year, Sergio Arribas eclipsed that amazing achievement. The midfield maestro hit an incredible 15 goals, finishing as the team’s top scorer, whilst simultaneously topping the assists chart with 9 goals created. He played the most games (36), and the most minutes (3044) for the team. At times with his ball carrying abilities and chance creation statistics, he was holding Castilla on his back through games. All of this was enough to crown him the player of the season for 2021/22.
Óscar Aranda was another attack minded player in red hot form this season. Inaugural seasons can be difficult for young players, but with 7 goals and 2 assists, Óscar will be sure to gain a starting place in next year’s line-up - and could bungee jump straight to the top with another good campaign. Mario Martín was a surprising inclusion in this list, with few predicting him to be as consistently excellent as he proved to be. The midfielder was a vital cog in the Castilla machine, and constantly involved himself in attacks despite his lack of numbers. He should be another starting player next year.
With a marquee striker seeming to always push Castilla that little bit higher in the table, fans had every right to be concerned after no proven goal scorer was brought in during the summer. It was down to one of the homegrown players to step up, and there was a lot of talent with the potential to do so. Jaunmi Latasa didn’t even make the team originally, before having a reasonable season last year - but this season, he became an entirely different beast. So many of Castilla’s goals came from crosses into the area this year, and Latasa was there so often to eat them all up. 13 goals and two assists (both with his head) marked an excellent campaign - and he proved he was decent with his feet as well, with some excellently taken goals put where no keeper could stop them. He was rewarded for his performances with a first team debut against Cádiz in La Liga, and if he plays his cards right this summer - he could be in for a whole lot more.
Some of these players find themselves unlucky to miss out on the ‘high flying’ list in here, whilst some were tailor made for this category. Others may even be a little fortunate to make it onto here. Carlos Dotor is one of those who could quite easily have found himself in the list above. The Spaniard often stepped in as captain in the absence of Antonio Blanco, and provided an unexpected amount of class in the midfield. We talk about how amazing it was that Arribas and Baeza were practically double figure midfielders - well, Dotor contributed 10 goals himself under the radar, and supplied two quality assists on the side. After having two very strong seasons for Castilla, he could well find himself justifiably moving up the league structure this summer.
Miguel Gutiérrez is a player with a lot of hope and hype from Madridistas on his back. His appearances with the first team have been top class, but they did get in the way of his progression with Castilla. This year it appears to have been more of the same, with Miguel only managing a total of 16 games due to his involvement with the seniors. This led to a steady season, but one thing that was not lacking were the numbers. The left-back finished as the team’s second highest assister with seven - including one game in which he recorded a hat-trick of assists against Atlético Sanluqueño. The extraordinary thing about these assists, was that practically every single one was of the highest quality. The deliveries into the box managed to contain perfect placement, and the unusual swinging technique caused the right amount of chaos for attackers to pounce on. Miguel’s influence was still felt despite a lack of game time. A good year.
The next batch of players are a perfect fit here. Toni Fuidias was taken away by the first team a lot without featuring for them - but he did pick up a Champions League medal for his spot in the final squad. He also finished with the most Castilla clean-sheets (6). Rafa Marín ended up being one of the stronger defenders in the team. Peter González carried the team through some games, but disappeared in others. The exciting winger was fielded all over the pitch, playing in at least four different positions. He still finished joint second on the assist chart (7), and scored three solo goals as well. Sergio Santos continued to make strides, with six goal involvements and plenty of good performances. Despite all the goals conceded, both Pablo Ramón and Mario Gila still had fine individual seasons. Ramón coming into his own at times this year, with Gila making a well earned first team debut against Espanyol for his efforts over the past three terms. David González, Luis López and Álvaro Carrillo all put in decent shifts during the chances they had. One revelation this season was that of Álvaro Rodríguez from the academy, who got his chance early due to missing players elsewhere. The young striker scored four goals and gained four assists in only 648 minutes. This will certainly earn himself promotion into the team full time next year.
Two players that were just about consistent enough to make this category, but still had quiet year’s for their standards were that of Andri Guðjohnsen and Iván Morante. Andri started, and ended the season well - but disappeared for long spells during the middle. His early form did however earn him a call-up to the Iceland senior national team, and he even scored on his debut for them. Morante was fine at times in the midfield, but never much more than that - and is now rumoured to be on the way out this summer. He could still find himself playing at top level if he is lucky, though.
The players on this list had surprisingly quiet campaigns. Although no player had a negative impact on the team, or even what could be considered a “bad” year. Antonio Blanco could be the most shocking inclusion here, as the captain often found himself stuck in no man’s land - on the bench for the first team, but receiving no minutes. This clearly shifted his focus and consistency when back with Castilla, and his performance levels dropped to their worst since joining the team three years ago. His one redeeming moment came when he scored the goal of the season, sending an incredible dipping volley home against Linares Deportivo. If you pinned high hopes on Antonio, then do not panic just yet. He is one of those players that are far better suited to La Liga than the third division, despite how bizarre that sounds. An intelligent technician, he will be wise to use his first team experiences to push for a loan at top level this summer.
The second addition to this category is not a player, but a manager. Raúl González had previously completed two great seasons with Castilla, on the back of a short yet excellent academy record. He was ready last season to ride the hype wave into a top level team and really ignite his coaching career. That didn’t happen, and he stayed. He ended up with his worst finish as a manager to date as a result. The team played well in areas, but physical and defensive inconsistencies were not addressed, as well as the phycological issue many of the players seem to suffer from when travelling to hostile grounds. They had similar struggles last year as well, suggesting that Raúl is unable to fix the issues. He remains a good coach. Still one of the best I have seen at Castilla, but with the likelihood of him staying for another season growing by the day - I worry that his legacy as a manager may be tarnished before it has truly begun.
Marvin Park was really not up to his stellar standards this season, with no goals and just two assist to his name. Perhaps he was a player who should have looked to depart last summer after an explosive 2020/21, with plenty of strong games for Castilla, and first team involvement to match. Now it is definitely time for him to leave, but his future destination may well be effected by his poor form this year. The rest of the players on the list played enough games for the side, without really having any impact. Theo Zidane brings a big name with him, but failed to impress on numerous occasions. This unfortunately looks like another case of the name tax paying off, but not quite to the extremities we have seen previously at least. New signing Jaume Jardí didn’t really add the quality he was expecting to, but he will get another chance next year. Finally, Alberto Retuerta was one of the weakest defenders on the team, and did not do enough with his opportunities to warrant more minutes or a starting place.
There are a select group of players that do not make any of these categories, due to the lack of game time afforded to them for whatever reason. Vinicius Tobias famously was brought into the club during January on loan, and I hope he returns for another crack. I want to see more from Marvel, Israel Salazar, Lucas Cañizares and Nico Paz next season after they played very few games collectively. Pau Ferrer, Gonzalo García, Javi Villar and Edgar Pujol should all see more opportunities as well.
I don’t think this season can go down as anything but a fail. In defence of the team, this was the first season of the new league structure, and promotion is always a difficult achievement to realise - and they lost some key players without replacing them properly during the summer. However, they still shipped far too many goals in, their away record was very poor, and certain players put in disappointing performances despite the hype surrounding them. This may be a controversial sentence, but I think it needs to be acknowledged that this group of players is not nearly as talented as many think they are. That isn’t their fault. In terms of potential first team chances, a handful, if any, have the faintest of chances to make it here one day. If, in some alternate universe, the pandemic happened during the 2015/16, or 2016/17 season - then most of the players in those supremely talented squads would have never looked back. A few of these players have looked back, and it will now be interesting to see what happens to them this summer.
Predictions and Thoughts
Despite being overly hyped in areas, a number of the roster should be looking to graduate Castilla and play at a higher level this summer. For example: Miguel Gutiérrez, Antonio Blanco and Sergio Arribas should absolutely be playing in La Liga next season. Mario Gila, Carlos Dotor, Marvin Park and Jaunmi Latasa have the ability to reach the top level, but could also find themselves earning their stripes at second division level initially, before making the jump up at a later date. Iván Morante has been linked to La Liga clubs recently, which would be quite the step up, but he could certainly also play at a higher level in the near future. There will always be the confusing sales to make room for incoming players during the off-season, and most of the squad will end up staying - but two players I do expect to stay and become huge assets for the team are Pablo Ramón and Peter González. Already big names within the squad, both of them could be the keys to success if they stay - although Peter has already been linked with some big moves away. Raúl himself really should be on the way out, but it looks like he will be staying for at least a further year. How disastrous that decision may end up being remains to be seen, but a good year would equally turn things around for the better for him. I do find it interesting that the club has no problems keeping him around. Are we witnessing the next first team manager in action?
That officially concludes the season review. In the next few weeks Castilla will return for pre-season ahead of the 2022/23 season. Below are some of the season statistics, I really hope you enjoyed this one - and be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. I leave you with a video showcasing the talent of the 2021/22 player of the season: Sergio Arribas!
Top Scorer: Sergio Arribas (15)
Top Assister: Sergio Arribas (9)
Most Clean Sheets: Toni Fuidias (6)
Most Appearances: Peter González and Sergio Arribas (36)
Most Minutes: Sergio Arribas (3044)
Player of the Season: Sergio Arribas
Castilla Season Verdict: Fail