While most writing on why Spanish players are awesome is limited to La Masia, a big part of their success is rooted in the reserve system, in which various La Liga B teams comprising U23 players or U25 players under contract compete in the lower divisions, rather than in a separate reserve league system. It’s an effective way to ensure young players compete against both prospects, overseas journeymen and senior players on their way to a possible first team spot.
Real Madrid’s team is known as Real Madrid Castilla, and is currently coached by Alberto Toril, former youth player with the club and Spain, as well as a youth team manager for Albacete and Real Madrid. While he normally operates beneath Spain’s sometimes vicious tabloid news cycle, he’s been at the centre of accusations that Jose Mourinho has been neglecting his younger prospects.
Mourinho recently criticized Toril, and said he “…has to decide whether it’s more important [to him] to finish seventh or eighth or to help the first team. He has his autonomy but we use a different system and a different model. They play in different positions at Castilla. There is limited common ground in terms of the style of play, and the kids are the ones who end up paying the price.”
This highlights a significant philosophical drawback in Real Madrid’s case, and former Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster piled on the criticism of Mourinho, saying “He has done the least amount for the youth team and nor will he do any more, he is not interested. He only wants to win and he is not interested in bringing a youth player into the senior team and succeeding with that, he only wants personal success, and the more titles won in the shortest time possible the better.”
While Schuster is admittedly kind of a dick, he does have a point. Part of the problem with modern football’s approach to youth development is that transfer market-friendly teams are far more reticent to take a risk on an untested home-grown player, no matter their relative skill. Spain’s reserve system addressed some of those concerns, and it’s hard to know how genuine Mourinho’s concerns are about Toril using players in positions that don’t properly mesh with the first team.
SB Nation’s Managing Madrid blog details the differences well:
Mourinho belives that Castilla should play with the 4-2-3-1 formation the first team uses. But that’s not happening. Toril usually plays a 4-4-2, with Jesé as a false striker, a position that doesn’t exist in Mourinho’s system. The Portuguese coach believes that’s not helping the young players, and he’s right. If Jesé is used to play and develops well in that position he’s playing now, he’ll lack the experience to play in Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1.
All of this highlights the problem that can arise when all facets of the team, from the youth academy up through the first team, bear little tactical relationship to one another. With future uncertainty about how FFP will affect Real Madrid’s relative dominance in the transfer market, the club would do well to get everyone on the same page.