Real Madrid’s academy is one of the most productive in world football. Los Blancos legends like Iker Casillas and Raul developed at La Fabrica, while the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Emiliano Buendia and Alvaro Morata are shining elsewhere in Europe.
But what became of the former Madrid wonderkids who never quite delivered on the promise they showed at a young age?
We’ve gone back and taken a look at nine much-hyped youngsters at Madrid that failed to realise their potential. Here’s where their careers have taken them since and what they’re doing today.
Where does the time go?
It feels like yesterday that Madrid signed 20-year-old Drenthe alongside his compatriot Wesley Sneijder.
The winger spent five seasons on the club’s books, scoring four goals in 65 appearances, and went on to represent no fewer than 12(!) other clubs across a well-travelled career – taking him from the Championship to the Turkish Super Lig (naturally), UAE and the amateur leagues of the Netherlands and Spain.
Drenthe was last spotted playing for Real Murcia in the Segunda Division in 2021-22. Nowadays the 36-year-old is a free agent – we hope he’s spending his time on his burgeoning rap career.
¿Resaca tras #ElClásico?
Recordemos el GOLAZO que marcó DRENTHE al SEVILLA 🚀⚽️😱
RT si PENSABAS que sería un CRACK y no un FIASCO 😂🐦 pic.twitter.com/J568bc7ED0
— DiarioMadridista.com (@dmadridistaok) December 4, 2016
The midfielder was one of 16 academy graduates handed his debut by Jose Mourinho.
He made his solitary Los Blancos appearance in the Portuguese coach’s final match in charge in 2013.
Mascarell was later loaned out to Derby County and Sporting Gijon. He left the Bernabeu for good in 2016 and is now turning out for relegation-bound Elche.
A great Dutch name. A less great career. Peeters’ CV is impressive enough – from Ajax’s academy to Madrid’s.
The forward impressed for the Juvenil A youth side, earning him a three-year professional contract, but he couldn’t turn his world-class footballing education into a top-level career.
Peeters spent three loans away from Madrid before departing in 2019. He spent a short stint at Serbian club Cukaricki and later turned out for Dutch side FC Volendam but has been unattached since 2021.
He’s still only 24, but it looks like his future path may lie away from professional football.
Austrian centre-back Lienhart originally arrived on loan from Rapid Wien during the 2014-15 campaign.
He developed in the C and B teams and eventually signed for an €800,000 fee. His one appearance for the first team was a 12-minute cameo in a 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over Cadiz in 2015, but he ended up going out on loan to Freiburg for more regular opportunities.
The Bundesliga club were impressed and signed him permanently in 2018. Lienhart has since become a stalwart for Freiburg, notching over 150 appearances for the club. He’s also earned 11 caps for Austria.
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) November 10, 2021
A precursor to the likes of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Endrick, Madrid signed highly-rated Brazilian teenager Augusto for a €3million fee from Sao Paulo in February 2017.
But the attacking midfielder never made it beyond the fringes, only appearing for the B team amid loans away. He departed the club last year and is currently back in Brazil, turning out for lower-league outfit Caxias.
Born and raised in the nearby town of Talavera de la Reina, Rodriguez joined La Fabrica as a 10-year-old in 2009.
He spent over 11 years on the club’s books, representing Spain at four youth levels before earning a couple of senior La Roja caps under Luis Enrique in 2020.
But the promising young midfielder only made a solitary Copa del Rey appearance for his boyhood club. Behind the likes of Martin Odegaard in the line of succession to a future first-team spot, Oscar left for Sevilla in 2020.
The 24-year-old remains on Sevilla’s books but has spent the 2022-23 campaign out on loan at Celta Vigo.
Having progressed through Madrid’s academy since he was 14 years old, Garcia appeared over 50 times for the club’s B Team between 2018 and 2020 but – sensing a theme here – only made one cup appearance for the first team.
After shining on loan in Rayo Vallecano’s 2020-21 promotion-winning campaign, the left-back joined the club permanently and is now one of the first names on the teamsheet for Andoni Iraola’s all-action side.
Vallejo only signed for Madrid in January 2020. He was widely hailed as a wonderkid to watch upon his arrival from fallen giants Malaga.
The winger developed his game in Madrid’s B Team and was later loaned out to Deportivo La Coruna, but he only spent 18 months on Madrid’s books.
In 2021 he joined Ronaldo-owned Real Valladolid but struggled to break through and has spent this season on loan at Segunda outfit Ponferradina.
Those that managed Madrid in recent-ish editions of Football Manager might have noticed Ramos as an academy prospect with lots of potential.
In real life, things have worked out a little differently to how they might’ve in the world of FM. The goalkeeper was loaned out to Birmingham City and Real Union but barely featured before departing for Rayo Cantabria (Racing Santander’s B Team) in 2021.
It looks increasingly unlikely that the 23-year-old will enjoy the top-level career some predicted. He’s currently turning out for Las Palmas B.