In many ways, the Real Madrid press should have been delighted with the 2-2 draw in Wednesday’s friendly with Lyon. The big boys had failed to do the business in the clash in the Stade Gerland. Instead it was the club’s youngsters who bailed out the Spanish visitors after the side had gone two goals down.
This peculiar sensation stems from a strange obsession in Madrid from the local fans, for bringing through footballers from the club’s "cantera" or youth system. That is probably due to the fact that this very rarely happens.
The last wee nippers to grow into fully fledged first-team adults at the side were Iker Casillas and Guti. Other footballers such as Juan Mata, Borja Valero, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado have passed through the academy but needed to move elsewhere to establish themselves.
Why this is the case at Real Madrid is worthy of a whole series of articles. Maybe even a book with film rights.
But it was Alvaro Morata with a penalty and Carlos Casemiro who popped up in the final 15 minutes to spare a defeat for Carlo Ancelotti’s side in just the second summer match of the season. The headline on the front cover of AS on Thursday morning beamed that “the cantera comes to the rescue,” whilst Marca noted that Madrid “were better with the kids.”
Although Madrid are only just kicking off the team’s preparations for the new campaign, there are concerns, as ever, over Karim Benzema. The French forward was in his home town against his former club but still could not muster a decent performance in front of goal. “He continues to be incapable of changing his attitude or his rhythm,” was the complaint from Luis Nieto in the AS match report, on a footballer without a goal in two halves of friendly football.
Despite the departure of Benzema's main competition to Napoli on Wednesday, as reported by John Edwards in the Daily Mail, this lack of trust in Benzema’s goalscoring consistency is going to produce Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest decision of the summer: Do Real Madrid buy a replacement for the Argentinean forward or give youth a chance in the shape of Morata and Jese, the star of last season’s "B" team?
The romantic side of the Real Madrid support would love to see the homegrown talent being given an opportunity. After all, if they are never given a decent chance in the team, how can they battle the doubters who will say the two former youth-team players are not up to the job? If Manchester United in the past and Barcelona in the present can gamble on ready-made talent, why can't Real Madrid?
Those doubters will call themselves "realists" and argue that it is impossible to get through a campaign of three competitions—winning them all, along the way—and nearly 60 matches relying on yet more miracles from Cristiano Ronaldo, a largely unmotivated Benzema and a couple of kids.
These are the kind of questions that will be pondered and perhaps resolved as the Spanish side continue the club’s summer preparations. On Saturday, an even tougher test awaits with a clash against Paris Saint-Germain. Another chance for Benzema to show what he cannot do, but an opportunity for a couple of upstarts to prove to the new manager that they are worth a gamble.