MADRID (Reuters) - The “Galactico” age seems to be over at Real Madrid but after winning a Champions League and La Liga double, Real’s appetite is far from sated and the 12-times European champions have advanced their bid for footballing domination by recruiting some of the young stars with the highest potential.
Much of the credit for the team’s recent success should go to players Casemiro or Isco, among others who don’t have the highest profiles but are hungry and still heading towards their peaks.
In recent summers Madrid have focused on the future and in this transfer window that strategy has been intensified by the signings of Theo Hernandez, Vinicius Junior and their interest in Real Betis’s Dani Ceballos, who is poised to move to the Bernabeu Stadium.
Along with young talents signed in recent years like Marco Asensio and Jesus Vallejo, club President Florentino Perez has quietly and carefully been constructing a team with huge potential and plenty of homegrown players.
It is a far cry from the “Galactico” era of Perez’s first term as president, when big names like David Beckham, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo ruled the roost.
Real’s most recent signings of that ilk were Gareth Bale in 2013 and James Rodriguez following his brilliant 2014 World Cup campaign. Neither started the Champions League final win over Juventus in Cardiff, however, and most people would not include them in the strongest line-up.
Perez’s strategy of recruiting global superstars had a thinly-veiled aim of boosting the club’s commercial profile, but the new approach is about creating a footballing dynasty - none of the new players are widely known outside of Spain.
Hernandez had a superb season at Alaves on loan from Atletico Madrid and his signature for 30 million euros is a coup.
Vallejo, meanwhile, shone at Eintracht Frankfurt after Real signed him from Real Zaragoza two years ago and farmed him out on loan, first back to his former side and then to the German club.
Losing ageing Portuguese duo Fabio Coentrao and Pepe and replacing them with Vallejo (20) and Hernandez (19) will increase competition in Madrid’s defence, the one area they could improve based on last season’s evidence.
Ceballos, who was deemed the most impressive player at the Under-21 European Championships in Poland, was also a target for Barcelona.
The 20-year-old is an influential midfielder and Real convincing him to join was a big blow for their Catalan rivals, who desperately need more control in the middle of the pitch.
Along with Vinicius and Hernandez, Ceballos completes a trio of young talents linked to Barcelona who plumped for Real, with their repeated European successes a magnetic draw.
It would be no surprise to see Real continue to make occasional big signings, but the club’s strategy is now more forward thinking and they could reap the rewards in years to come by dominating the footballing landscape.
Editing by Ed Osmond