Alvaro Morata close to Man United switch but which Real academy prospects thrived after leaving Madrid?

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  • Alvaro Morata has agreed terms with Manchester United with the Premier League giants now looking to tie up a £60 million deal with Real Madrid for the striker’s services.

    United have made Morata their No1 priority this summer having released Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the 24-year-old could be about to partner up with former Juventus team-mate Paul Pogba at Old Trafford at the axis of a devastating attack.

    However, Morata’s Bernabeu exit will see another promising La Fabrica product leave Madrid without making the type of significant impact his potential had promised.

    We take a look at three Madrid academy players who became a ‘Hit’ after leaving and three who were a ‘Miss’ after making their exit.


    JUAN MATA – Real Madrid 2003/06

    Clubs after leaving: Valencia, Chelsea, Man United

    The Spain playmaker was nurtured at Real Oviedo for much of his youth career but in 2003 at the age of 15 he switched to join Real Madrid’s youth set up.

    He failed to make a single appearance for the first team but he impressed in the Segunda Division with the Castilla side at the age of 18 in his first year as a pro. He finished the season as their second top scorer on 10 behind a certain Alvaro Negredo.

    Mata’s Madrid stint was short-lived, though, and Valencia activated a release clause in his contract and from 2007-2011,  the diminutive midfielder blossomed into one of the world’s outstanding creative talents.

    Andre Villas-Boas convinced him to join Chelsea in 2011 after agreeing a £23.5 million deal with Los Che. He went on to win the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup during a three-year spell before Jose Mourinho sold him to Manchester United for £37.1 million.

    He remains a central figure at United despite rumoured initial tension between himself and Red Devils boss Mourinho.

    ROBERTO SOLDADO – Real Madrid 2000/08

    Clubs after leaving: Getafe, Valencia, Tottenham, Villarreal

    Don’t let his slide during a disastrous spell at Tottenham mislead you, since leaving Madrid in 2008, Soldado has been an unequivocal hit.

    Indeed, the Spanish striker’s association with Real stretches back to 2000 when he joined La Fabrica set-up at the age of 15.

    He quickly rose through the youth ranks after blazing a goal trail and when promoted to the Castilla side two years later, his scoring touch continued.

    In four years Soldado plundered 63 goals in 120 appearances and in 2006 moved up to join the first team. But his ascending Real career stopped there and after two seasons and just 16 appearances he moved to Getafe where he scored 33 goals in 66 games.

    That persuaded Valencia to snap him up for €10million in 2010 to fill the hole left by David Villa’s departure to Barcelona and he went on to make 44 appearances with 25 goals.

    Despite admiring glances from Real, Tottenham broke their transfer record to sign Soldado in 2013 for £26million and a combination of Villas-Boas dismissal and confidence bred a downturn in form.

    He has reinvented himself back in La Liga with Villarreal, who he joined in 2015 for £10million, as their chief creator although a knee injury curtailed his campaign last term.

    SAMUEL ETO’O – Real Madrid 1996/2000

    Clubs after leaving: Mallorca, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala, Chelsea, Everton, Sampdoria, Antalyaspor

    Difficult to envisage the Cameroon legend in the white of Real considering his incredibly successful time at arch rivals Barcelona but the striker did in fact begin his career in Madrid.

    It wasn’t a pleasant experience, though. Eto’o joined La Fabrica in 1997 but as a minor was only eligible to train with with the Castilla side. However, they B team was relegated to the third tier of Spanish football in the same year and non-EU players were prohibited from playing in the division.

    Eto’o was loaned to Spanish Segunda side Leganes for the 1997-98 campaign where he scored four goals in 30 appearances and he returned to Madrid the following year. He was loaned out again for 1999 campaign, this time to Espanyol but after failing to make a single appearance, Eto’o joined Mallorca, first on loan then on a permanent deal.

    Having scored 54 goals for the club he departed as their all-time leading domestic league scorer and signed for Barcelona in the summer of 2004 for €24million – though Real did try their best efforts to hijack the transfer.

    At Camp Nou he matured into one of Europe’s most lethal forwards and across a five year career, he formed a key axis in one of the most successful teams in the club’s history, scoring 130 goals in 199 games.

    He left for Inter Milan in 2009 as part of a deal which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic go in the opposite direction but did so with eight major trophies including two Champions League medals and three La Liga titles.

    The Cameroonian continued his outstanding form in Italy where he added to his impressive trophy haul with another six titles including a third Champions League triumph.


    JESE RODRIGUEZ – Real Madrid 2007/16

    Clubs after leaving: Paris Saint-Germain

    Jese Rodriguez is one of the most poignant examples of why Real Madrid fans shouldn’t get too excited about their academy prospects.

    The forward had been with Los Blancos youth set up since the age of 14 and early on he was seen as a player who could grow into one of the best attackers on the planet, even drawing comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo.

    He made his senior debut with the Castilla team in 2011 and notched 32 goals in 80 games but he found playing time sparing when he moved up to the senior side.

    In five years he made 62 La Liga appearances, largely from the bench, scoring 12 goals and he left after nine years at the club last year to join Ligue 1 powerhouses Paris Saint-Germain.

    But his hopes of displaying his true ability fell flat and he was loaned out to Las Palmas. The expectations brought about by his CV meant he struggled with the Spanish club and he finds himself in a bit of a vacuum with a return to PSG unlikely and Las Palmas undecided over whether they can finance a permanent move.

    FRANCISCO PAVON –  Real Madrid 1998/07

    Clubs after leaving: Zaragoza and Arles-Avignon

    The defender is forever immortalised because of Florentino Perez’s claim he wanted to build a “team of Zidanes and Pavons”.

    Real’s president was keen to implement a policy which saw the skill of the Galacticos combined with homegrown talent elevated from the club’s academy.

    But the label is now used as nothing more than for players on low wages who fill a gap in the squad because Pavon was a bit of a flop.

    He progressed through the Real ranks from 1998 and actually made an impressive debut against Bilbao in 2001. That was as good as it got, though.

    It quickly became apparent he didn’t posses the necessary quality for a club of Real’s stature and their incredible attack masked defensive shortcomings as Vicente Del Bosque’s side went on to win the Champions League that year.

    Pavon became a fringe player after three seasons and he left in 2007 for Spanish second division side Zaragoza. He was promoted back into La Liga with them but dropped into France’s second tier with Arles-Avignon in 2010 before failing in a trial at West Ham.

    After two years of unemployment, he retired at the age of 33.

    JAVIER PORTILLO – Real Madrid 1994-2006

    Clubs after leaving: Gimnastic, Osasuna, Hercules, Las Palmas

    Javier Portillo will long be held up as a warning for all other Real Madrid prospects. He decimated the iconic Raul’s goalscoring record in their youth system with 150 goals scored between the ages of 12 and 19 and when he entered the senior set-up, much was hoped for him

    The expectation only grew after he scored a stunning left-footed thunderbolt against Panathinaikos on his Champions League debut in 2002 and the following season he made his La Liga debut, going on to score five goals in just 10 games.

    That season also saw him score a vital 92nd minute equaliser against Borussia Dortmund to save Madrid from being knocked out of the Champions League in the second group stage.

    Two goals in the following campaign saw him loaned out to Fiorentina and then Club Brugge between 2004 and 2006 but his performances were seriously underwhelming and he scored just once in Italy while only managing eight in Belgium.

    He was surplus to requirements at Real who boasted a wealth of strikers with Ruud van Nisterlrooy, Antonio Cassano, Raul and Ronaldo all cementing their places ahead of him.

    Portillo was released in 2006 and a permanent switch to Gimnastic saw him relegated from La Liga despite scoring 11 goals. He moved to Osasuna but scored three goals in 40 games across two seasons before flitting between the top two divisions in his final five years as a pro.

    He brought the curtain down a disappointing career in 2015 at the age of 34.