An academy of champions

For long periods of Real Madrid’s history, the homegrown talent produced within Valdebebas’ walls has been neglected in favour of star signings and club stalwarts. That’s no longer the case, however.

A year of revolution has taken place in the Spanish capital, as young players make their mark on the first-team and show their worth with impeccable results.

In the winning of three major crowns, eight players out of La Fabrica have played their part and often to a large degree, allowing Real to take a step back in the transfer market.

Dani Carvajal had to initially depart LaLiga to grow as a player who’s now considered one of the best right-backs in the world. Returning from Bayer Leverkusen in 2013, the Spaniard is undisputed in the starting XI, even in the face of 30 million euro signing Danilo.

Across 2016, Carvajal has managed to appear in 44 of Madrid’s 54 outings, starting all three finals and even scoring the winner in the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla.

Alvaro Morata has upset the BBC apple cart in a matter of months, a quite impressive feat. Outscoring Gareth Bale to become Real’s third highest goal-getter in the current season, the Spaniard missed December through injury and hasn’t even been a regular starter under Zinedine Zidane.

Nacho Fernandez, often the forgotten man, has had a stellar year. Without losing a game in 2016, the Spaniard has regained his confidence and earned a spot in the national side having failed to let down his club boss when needed as cover across the back four.

Lucas Vazquez is now a genuine alternative to Gareth Bale, putting in nine assists in the current campaign and featuring in the Super Cup and Club World Cup showpieces from the start, coming off the bench to notch in the penalty shootout win over Atletico Madrid in May.

Casemiro is the great wall of Madrid. Undoubtedly, the leg fracture that the anchor man suffered in the autumn months coincided with Los Merengues’ poorest run of form all year, and with his return, a great balance returns to the team.

Mariano, another homegrown talent, could be considered a great surprise of 2016. Nowhere near the first-team in January, the young striker has ended the calendar year as a key option for Zidane, primarily off the bench. Scoring every 31 minutes of pitch time, the Dominican bagged a hat-trick against lowly Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey, and plans to stick around to earn his Blancos stripes.

Kiko Casilla enjoyed a spurt of senior side action having covered for Keylor Navas at the start of the 2016/17 season, going 12 games unbeaten as he lifted the Super Cup in Norway.

Ruben Yanez may be third choice in between the sticks, but as a part of the first-team squad, the shot-stopper made his debut for Real in November in the Copa.

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