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Juan Mata

9 players you probably had no idea were Real Madrid academy graduates

Real Madrid are known for having one of the best youth academies in Europe but we bet you aren’t aware that some of these players came through their ranks.

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Los Blancos are one of the most successful clubs in Europe and they have produced some serious talents over the years from Raul to Iker Casillas.

We’ve scrolled through the archives and picked out nine players you won’t believe came through the Real Madrid youth academy.

Emi Buendia

Aston Villa starlet Buendia spent one year with the Madrid academy back in 2009. Things didn’t quite pan out for the Argentine in Madrid but he was soon snapped up by Getafe where he would go on to make his professional debut.

The winger left Argentina as a teenager to pursue a career in Europe and despite his early rejection from Real Madrid, he made it in the end and has now even been capped by his country.

Juan Mata

Mata was thrust into the limelight at Valencia, but it was Real Madrid who spotted his talents way back in 2003. The Spanish midfielder spent the 2006–07 season with Real Madrid Castilla where he scored nine goals in 39 appearances.

El Confidencial leaked a tape from 2009 where Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is quoted blasting former Madrid legend, Michel, as he claimed he was responsible for letting Mata slip through the cracks of their academy.

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Perez claimed: “I think Michel is the one who made the hole for Mata [to leave], he is the one who threw him out of Real Madrid Castilla to put his son in the team.”

Saul Niguez

Despite spending his entire professional career with local rivals Atletico Madrid, Saul actually started out his footballing journey at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Having spent last season on loan with Chelsea, the Spanish midfielder is now back at Atletico this year. Since being promoted to the first team in 2011-12 he has racked up 356 appearances for the Spanish side.

Dani Parejo

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano described a teenage Parejo as “the best talent in La Fabrica (Madrid’s academy), a terrific player, a phenomenon.” That was always going to be tough to live up to.

The Spanish midfielder only featured in five first-team matches before he was shipped out to Getafe in 2009. The 33-year-old has had a stellar career in Spain, making more than 600 career appearances.

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Pablo Sarabia

Sarabia spent seven years with Real Madrid but only made one first-team appearance. He did rack up 49 appearances for Real Madrid Castilla, but he couldn’t quite make the cut for their starting side.

The winger told Goal in 2016: “Fielding youth players is something that Real Madrid needs. Madrid doesn’t benefit or harm you. I thank Real Madrid because I spent a long time there, but that’s in the past now.

“In football, for me, you only have to worry about the present. I only believe in working hard every day – it’s the only thing that matters; not where you train.”

Aleix Vidal

Former Barcelona full-back Vidal spent three years of his youth with Real Madrid from 2003–2006. The 33-year-old has been quite the journeyman throughout his career as he has played for 10 different clubs so far.


The Spanish defender racked up over 350 appearances for Atletico, but he actually started out with local rivals Real Madrid. Juanfran progressed through their youth ranks and made his first-team debut in January 2004.

He went on to make 11 first-team appearances before leaving the club in 2005. It’s probably fair to say that he enjoyed this strike against his previous employers.


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Marcos Alonso

Madrid-born Alonso joined the Real Madrid youth ranks as a child and made one senior appearance for the club before joining Bolton Wanderers in 2010-11.

Now playing for Barcelona, the defender told Sport: “It was complicated at first. After doing the trial a little reluctantly, they [Madrid] called me to join. My parents were laughing.

“In the end, Real was the best for my development. I was there for many years. I grew as a person and a player – I can’t say I didn’t.”

Philipp Lienhart

Austrian defender Lienhart isn’t your typical Madrid academy graduate but he was snapped up by the club after impressing with Rapid Wien as a youngster.

Lienhart played plenty of matches for Madrid’s reserve sides but only ever made on first-team appearance in 2015–16. Since leaving Madrid he has spent his career with SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga.

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