x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Real Madrid look within to find new talent

Youngsters such as Morata, Jesse, Fernandez and Cheryshev could provide the key to Real's hopes for the season, writes Andy Mitten.

Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata.
Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata.

Carlo Ancellotti, Real Madrid's 26th coach in 26 years, has claimed that he has never coached so much talent as is in the current Madrid side.

Quality is evident throughout the club with the highest revenues in world football, with two top-level players in every position and some of the finest talents on the planet. But Madrid are looking more Spanish than at any point in recent history.

A Portuguese player, Cristiano Ronaldo, who Madrid think is close to signing a new contract, remains the star, though Gareth Bale could become the club's record signing.

Ancelotti likes the idea of Bale, but he is not desperate to add the Welshman and is content with the players he has.

The Bale story has provided headlines throughout the close season, with Madrid briefing the media in the hope that the player - as Luca Modric did a year ago - will ask to leave Tottenham so that negotiations can follow.

Not since Vicente del Bosque was coach, in 2002, has Madrid's squad contained so many youthful Spanish players.

In contrast to rivals Barcelona, Madrid have famously been reticent to promote from within. But they have promoted four players from the reserve team after a successful season in the Spanish second division. The striker Alvaro Morata, 20, already has tasted first-team action, and the winger Jesse, 22; the defender Nacho Fernandez, 23; and the striker Denis Cheryshev could follow.

Madrid have often schooled talents which they have then sold on, to their eventual regret.

Juan Mata and Roberto Soldado both started at Madrid before being sold. Now, Madrid are more cautious.

They have paid €6 million (Dh29.4m) to bring back the right back Daniel Carvajal, 21, a season after selling him to Bayer Leverkusen for €5m.

Madrid have also invested heavily in the best emerging Spanish talents.

The prodigious playmaker Isco, 21, cost €30m from Malaga. In a more surprising move, Madrid paid the same for the central midfielder Asier Illarramendi, 23, one of the brightest talents in Real Sociedad's charge to the Champions League last season.

He is the fifth player at Madrid who won the Under 21 European championship in June with Spain.

The Basque has looked nervy in pre-season, though the same cannot be said of fellow new signing Casemiro, the 21-year-old Brazilian midfielder who cost €6m from Sao Paulo and has made an excellent first impression.

Madrid have sold Ricardo Carvalho to Monaco, Pedro Leon to Getafe, and Michael Essien has returned to Chelsea after his loan spell. The Bernabeu club have also sold Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon to Napoli for a total of €58m.

The mood around the club is more relaxed, in the absence of Jose Mourinho, whose three years leading Madrid seemed to come with daily battles between players and the club or the media, and they are confident of winning the title back from Barcelona.

Karim Benzema will be wear the No 9 and will hope for more consistency to fulfil the potential which saw Florentino Perez pay €30m for him in 2009.

Madrid need to avoid their poor start of last season if they are to win back the title. They finished 15 points behind the Catalans, who reached 100 points and lost only twice all season. Madrid lost twice in their first four games, at Getafe and Sevilla, by which point they were 12th in the league and already six points adrift of Barcelona.

Madrid's league campaign starts at home to Betis tomorrow followed by an away game at Granada and then Athletic Bilbao at home.

They also play the Qatari side Al Sadd in the Bernabeu Trophy on Thursday, the first team from the Gulf region to contest the prestigious friendly.

Madrid have played well in pre-season, winning six and drawing one of their seven games. The preparation is better than a year ago and Ancelotti is making a good impression with players and fans.

But then, all Madrid's coaches tend to do that - at the start.


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