Revisiting Real Madrid’s Football Manager 2011 wonderkids, 10 years on

Quick Reads

When Football Manager 2011 was released back in November 2010, it was a fascinating time to follow Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho was still new to the job, fresh from winning the treble with Inter.

The Portuguese coach took some time to knock Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona off their perch, finishing as runners-up in La Liga and losing to them in the Champions League semis, but he led Real to victory in the Copa del Rey that year and went on to deliver the league title in his second season.

There was no shortage of superstars in the first team, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso signed by Florentino Perez for big-money fees, but there was also hope that some of the club’s crop of youngsters could make the step up.

FM Scout picked out three Real Madrid “wonderkids” from that edition of the game. Here’s how things turned out for them in real life…

Pablo Sarabia

Born and raised in Madrid, Sarabia joined Real’s fabled La Fabrica academy at the age of 12 back in 2004. Six years later, having turned out for the B team in the lower tiers of Spanish football, the talented midfielder was knocking on the door of the senior squad.

Handed his debut by Mourinho as a late substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo in a 4-0 Champions League win over Auxerre in December 2010, no more first-team opportunities were forthcoming.

He left for a €3million fee to Getafe in 2011 with a promising reputation after scoring 12 goals in 33 appearances for Castilla in 2010-11.

Sarabia steadily established himself as a decent La Liga player across five seasons with the Madrid-based outfit, who were eventually relegated in 2016.

Following the drop, Sevilla spotted an opportunity. It was there, particularly under Jorge Sampaoli, that he started to realise the potential he’d shown in the Spanish youth set-up, having won the UEFA Under-19 and Under-21 Euros in 2011 and 2013.

After three years with Sevilla, scoring 22 goals in his final season, he was signed by PSG in 2019. He’s been a useful squad player, but given the star-studded competition, he’s found regular playing time hard to come by, just as likely to appear off the bench as he is the first XI.

READ: Where are they now? Jose Mourinho’s 16 Real Madrid academy graduates

Jese Rodriguez

Nicknamed ‘El Bichito’, something like ‘The Little Bug’, it’s probably a good thing Jese didn’t go with that stage name in his ill-advised reggaeton career.

Born and raised in the Canary Islands, Jese already had a reputation as a potential rising star when he was still a teenager, opting against Barcelona when he joined Madrid as a 14-year-old in 2007.

Developing with the Castilla alongside Sarabia, sections of the not-at-all-hyperbolic Madrid press started talking the diminutive striker up as the next Raul, but it’s safe to say things never quite worked out that way; he’s turned out to be far more sensational in the tabloids than on the pitch.

Still, unlike Sarabia, he did manage to break through to feature on the fringes of the first-team squad, making 63 La Liga appearances for Los Blancos between 2011 and 2016, albeit more than three-quarters of those came as a substitute.

In spite of never quite breaking through to clock up regular minutes, he still boasted a big reputation, which convinced PSG to splash out €25million on his signature in 2016.

Across four years on the Parisiens books, he had twice as many loan moves away – to Las Palmas, Stoke, Real Betis and Sporting Lisbon – than he managed goals for the club, and his contract was terminated by mutual consent in December 2020.

He’s now back where he grew up, turning out in the Segunda Division with a second stint at Las Palmas.

We’re starting to doubt anything he’ll achieve in football will top the time he allegedly spent €5,000 on text messages to evict his ex-girlfriend from the Spanish version of Big Brother, but he’s given us the very occasional reminder of what might have been.

Sergio Canales

Arriving for a €4.5million fee from Racing Santander in the same summer as Mourinho, Canales represented Spain at every youth level and was once thought of as one of the country’s hottest prospects.

But it wasn’t to be in the capital, with just three La Liga starts in 2010-11 and 15 appearances in all competitions – though three of those came in the successful Copa del Rey run.

After just a year at Madrid, he left for Valencia, initially on loan, but suffered more than one serious knee injury during his time at the club. At one time it appeared he’d been robbed of ever fulfilling his potential.

Deemed surplus to requirements by Juan Antonio Pizzi, Valencia allowed him to sign for Real Sociedad in January 2014. He went on to make well over 100 appearances for La Real, but they allowed him to leave on a free when his contract expired in 2018.

Still not yet 30, he’s enjoyed a wonderful resurgence at Real Betis. Playing the best football of his career, the midfielder was rewarded by Luis Enrique with a first senior Spain call-up in November 2019.

Starting 2021 with a run of seven goals in six matches for Betis, expect to see him feature for his country at the Euros this summer.

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