It should be hard to find time to debut a bunch of kids throughout a season when you’re a club like Real Madrid.
They haven’t become the biggest club in the world for their endless reliance on youth and opposition to big money signings, but they are keen to follow the moniker of ‘if they’re good enough, they’re old enough’. In between sweeping up major honours, obviously.
Los Blancos have been keen to give youth the chance when it arises and continue to do so, even if they’re signing that youth from around the world for large fees. Here’s the 30 youngest players to make their Real debut in the 21st century.
Tottenham Hotspur legend Roberto Soldado actually started out as a youngster among the Real Madrid ranks.
He debuted in 2005 after lighting it up in the youth ranks, but moved away to build his stock elsewhere in Spain having failed to break in among Madrid’s top dogs.
Breaking through as a teen at Sevilla, Real Madrid paid a record fee for a Spanish defender to bring a young Sergio Ramos to the club.
Aged 19, he debuted in September 2005. From a long haired, scrawny teenager, Ramos has become a serial winner, one of football’s greatest captains ever and also one of the planet’s most handsome men. Good work, Mr. Perez.
Having failed to be given the opportunity to break through at Manchester City, Real Madrid snapped up Spanish hotshot Brahim Diaz in 2019 and it looked a serious coup.
Real seemed seriously invested in Diaz and handed him his debut that January, but again is another who has failed to knuckle down in the first team in recent seasons.
De la Red was highly thought of within Real Madrid’s La Fabrica and impressed with Real Madrid Castilla before debuting for the first team in November 2004.
A 2005 move to Getafe saw De la Red impress enough for Real to re-purchase him in 2007, but heart issues plagued his return and ultimately forced him into retirement aged 25.
Having joined the set-up in 2009, Oscar Rodriguez impressed enough with Castilla to earn a debut in the Copa del Rey in November 2017.
Continued performances with the B-team earned him a long-term deal with the club, but an impressive loan with Leganes wasn’t enough to break into the side and thus Rodriguez joined Sevilla in 2020.
Having impressed in his native Austria, Real poached defender Philipp Lienhart in 2014 and he was promoted to the B-team by Zinedine Zidane shortly after.
Rafa Benitez called on Lienhart in October 2015 amid injury struggles, but he left in 2017 on loan to Freiburg, which became permanent a year later.
Alvaro Tejero is another reserve team star that was given the debut but didn’t quite kick on.
The full back has stayed around Spain, turning out for Albacete, Eibar and Real Zaragoza.
Left back Fran Garcia was given debut minutes in the Copa del Rey in 2018 with Real Madrid dishing out a 6-1 thrashing.
Now 21, he is still with the club and spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Rayo Vallecano. With Marcelo’s influence winding down, he could have a chance in the first team if he shows patience.
Despite his reputation as now being the only left wing back in all of the universe, Marcos Alonso was once a Real Madrid prospect.
His Real debut came in the 90th minute against Racing Santander in 2009, shortly followed by an illustrious move to Bolton Wanderers a year later. Alonso at the Reebok, nice.
The frosted tips of Ruben Gonzalez weren’t enough for him to kick on as a regular Madridsta following his 2001 debut with the side, with him leaving in 2006 after a series of loans.
He became a bit of a journeyman following Real, playing throughout Spain before venturing to Azerbaijan and India later on in his career.
If you think Ruben Gonzalez got around the houses, David Aganzo is on another planet.
Following his 2000 debut against Valencia, Aganzo went on a tour with his Real Madrid appearance. He played throughout Spain on loan, before also featuring in Jerusalem and Greece, before winding down in Spain’s lower tiers again.
It’s weird to think that Gonzalo Higuain was once a youth talent.
But he was, and he made good on the fee Real paid to pluck him away from River Plate in his native Argentina. 107 goals from 190 La Liga appearances came following his debut in a goalless draw in 2007.
Breaking us into the 18s category, Juanfran impressed at every level in Real Madrid’s youth set-up and earned a senior debut in 2004 as a result.
A handful more appearances followed before the inevitable loans and departure. Juanfran was a success in Madrid, but with local rivals Atletico throughout the 2010s.
Born in 2001, Sergio Arribas’ success at Under-20s in the UEFA Youth League has developed nicely into a first team debut.
The midfielder was given a senior debut in September 2020 and featured in the Champions League that December. A promising breakout season has got Real fans excited about the youngster.
That ever successful loan system proving perfect again.
Following his 2017 debut and breakout with Real, right back Achraf Hakimi starred on a two year loan for Borussia Dortmund, but was then sold to Inter in 2020. His stock has gone through the roof as one of the best young attacking full backs around; annoying for Real, who lack a young right back following his departure.
Following the debut of Jese in 2011, there was a serious buzz surrounding the winger.
A seriously talented prospect, the Spaniard was developing well in Madrid but moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2016 in search of more game time. That was the beginning of the end and by the time he had been loaned to Stoke City, there felt like no return to the top.
Debuting in 2000, Enrique Corrales couldn’t find a way in at left back for Real Madrid. Unfortunately for him, his chance came at a time when prime Roberto Carlos was plying his trade.
Corrales moved swiftly on after barely getting a sniff at first team level and forged out a respectable career for himself in Spain, before rounding things off with a stint in Bolivia.
A young and exciting Brazilian winger emerging at Santos before being snapped up by a Spanish heavyweight? Barcelona did it first guys.
Rodrygo moved to Real Madrid for a mammoth £40m aged just 18 and made an instant impact on his 2019 debut, bagging moments after being subbed on. He still has plenty to do, but he’s not doing badly so far.
A Brazilian with it all to prove, to a Brazilian who’s won it all.
Picking up Marcelo age 18 was one of the greatest bits of business ever conducted by Real. The Brazilian was the greatest attacking full back in the world at his peak and was instrumental to their European dominance throughout the 2010s. A fair amount of success has followed a quiet debut in a defeat in 2007.
Having signed for the club aged 12, replacing Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League for his Real Madrid debut was the dream for Pablo Sarabia in 2010.
He left shortly after in 2011 in search of first team football, where success with Getafe and Sevilla earned him a move to PSG in 2019.
Breaking through is hard enough at a top club, but doing so as a striker brings even more pressure to the plate.
Making an impact isn’t enough. Teams need goals. Borja Mayoral scored a shed load for Real at various youth levels which earned him a first team debut in October 2015. He’s since fallen victim to the loan circle and a move away permanently is probably for the best at this point.
A star in the Castilla side, Jose Manuel Jurado grew up in the Real Madrid ranks and made the first team jump in October 2005.
He never quite broke through at the top level and stayed in Madrid with a move to Atletico a year later. His career since then has been a serious world tour, with a stint at Watford surrounded by time in Germany, Saudi Arabia and China.
One standout season with Lens as a teenager was enough for Real Madrid to decide that Raphael Varane was the blueprint for the future. They were right.
Varane debuted in a goalless draw in 2011 and would be carefully edged into the side among Sergio Ramos and Pepe, before slowly taking the reigns as Real dominated their way to four Champions Leagues in five years.
Brother of defender Nacho, Alex Fernandez debuted early after rising through the Real ranks from age 12.
His debut in early 2011 never led to sustained success with Los Blancos, however, and he moved on in 2013 to find regular football. He’s since found his feet in Spain with Cadiz, while Nacho continues to play for Real.
Having made his professional debut at Flamengo aged 16, Real Madrid were immediately convinced by Vinicius Junior. So much so that they agreed to pay around £40m to bring him to the Santiago Bernabeu as soon as he turned 18.
He debuted in September 2018 as a late substitute and has gradually increased his first team influence. He had earned the trust of Zinedine Zidane and shown flashes of brilliance, but is still frustrating fans with inconsistency.
Alvaro Morata’s career path is truthfully nauseating to look at, purely because of the constant moving to and fro.
After spending time in the Atletico Madrid youth ranks, he signed for Real in 2008 and eventually made a first team debut in December 2010. Juventus signed him in 2014, before returning to Real two years later, before even more yo-yo transfer movements. Probably due a return to Real yet again.
Handing a debut to a 17-year-old is big business, not least when that debut comes for Los Blancos.
Alex Perez was given that honour in 2003, but never kicked on and failed to put together a career in football. He retired in 2011, aged 26.
It took Jose Rodriguez just three years from signing with Real Madrid for him to make his debut, coming on and scoring in a 4-1 Copa del Rey win in 2012.
He managed a handful more of first team appearances, but mainly plied his trade in the Castilla side before moving on and taking up the journeyman route.
A defensive midfielder by trade, Javi Garcia was hot property in Real’s youth ranks and then some after helping Spain to win the 2006 Under-19 European Championship.
His impressive debut had come two years before that, however, and Garcia had failed to crack on. A move to Osasuna in 2007 and a successful season saw Real buy him back in 2008, only to then sell him again a year later.
Will it ever happen for Martin Odegaard at Real Madrid?
The world was stunned when Odegaard earned full international honours for Norway aged 15 in 2014. A move to Madrid followed in 2015, and he was given a full first team debut that May aged just 16. Injuries and loans have seen him fail to break in, but he continues to impress whenever away from the club.