When Football Manager 2013 was released in November 2012, Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid were the reigning champions of Spain.
They’d knocked Barcelona off their perch and sent Pep Guardiola packing, but their grip at the summit of La Liga was slipping. They suffered an underwhelming title defence in 2012-13 and ended up falling quite a distance behind Tito Vilanova’s reinvigorated side.
But the future of the club was looking bright. They boasted one of the most highly-rated centre-backs in world football and a new batch of promising kids from their famous La Fabrica academy.
FM 2013 tipped five Real Madrid ‘wonderkids’ to have exciting futures. We’ve taken a look at how things have worked out for the quintet in real life.
The French defender arrived as an 18-year-old from Lens in the summer of 2011.
He featured on the periphery of Los Blancos’ record-breaking 100-point La Liga campaign in 2011-12 before gradually becoming more integrated into the first-team picture.
“I think Varane is the best central defender in the world. He is still young, but I think he’s the best,” Mourinho later said, a year after leaving the Bernabeu, in 2014. “Already, yes. I think he’s the best defender.”
Varane ended up making 360 appearances for the club and won four Champions Leagues, starting three finals alongside Sergio Ramos, between 2014 and 2018.
He left for a new challenge in 2021 but suffered issues with form and fitness during his debut season with a struggling Manchester United side. In year two he’s looked like the Rolls Royce centre-half we all know he is.
Physically imposing 💪
Composed in possession ✨
Excellent reading of the game 📚
Just a few of the reasons why Raphaël Varane is so highly regarded…pic.twitter.com/kRo69zRtMe
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 14, 2021
An odd one, this.
Former Spain Under-19 international Saez was marked as one to watch on Football Manager 2013, and won the Under-18s Copa del Rey that year, but he never made a single appearance in senior football.
“A very safe centre-back. His greatest strength is the reliability, confidence and peace of mind he transmits to his team-mates,” is how he’s described on Real Madrid’s official website.
“However, his great defensive ability takes nothing away from his imagination. He is exceptional when it comes to finding a way out of defence.”
But he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page and appears to have left the industry entirely when he was released by Madrid in 2015. No idea what he’s doing these days.
A La Fabrica academy graduate, Jose Rodriguez was handed his senior debut by Mourinho during the 2012-13 season.
He made four appearances that year for his boyhood club and captained Spain’s Under-19s – a squad that featured Hector Bellerin and Adama Traore – at the European Championships in Lituania in the summer of 2013.
But further opportunities with Los Blancos weren’t forthcoming under Mourinho’s successor Carlo Ancelotti. After a loan to Deportivo La Coruna, the midfielder was sold to Galatasaray in 2015.
It’s been a nomadic career ever since, and his contract with Belgian side Union SG was terminated in February.
Alex Fernandez made a grand total of two appearances under Mourinho for his hometown club.
He left by mutual consent in 2013 before joining Espanyol, spending a few years bouncing around odd locations – from Rijeka to Reading – before well and truly finding his feet with Cadiz.
The central midfielder now into his sixth season with the Andalusian club, notching 200 appearances, having helped them get promoted from the Segunda Division and established in La Liga.
The B-Team regular made a solitary senior appearance – a nine-minute cameo in a 4-2 win over Osasuna a couple of months after FM2013’s release.
He subsequently found his path away from the Spanish capital, first of all on loan at Steve McClaren’s Derby County in 2014-15, then Sporting Gijon, then a permanent sale to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Mascarell notched almost a century of Bundesliga appearances in five years with Frankfurt and Schalke before returning to Spain with Elche last summer. He’s made 20 appearances this season, with Elche sitting rock bottom of La Liga – with just two wins and 13 points.