Is Real Madrid losing their Spanish identity with its new approach?
European champions Real Madrid no longer boasts a core of homegrown players or footballers from La Roja and could start with only one first-choice player from Spain in 2015-16.
It is a two-tier policy. Just like in his first mandate as president, Florentino Perez is aiming to build a Real Madrid side made up of some of the world’s finest footballers alongside much of the top talent from Spain.
When he returned for his second spell as club chief in 2009, Perez spoke of his hopes for a Madrid team combining international stars with homegrown heroes.
"Real Madrid should have several of the best players in the world and several of the best from Spain, many of whom are in the national team, and players from the youth team," he told an attentive audience.
But while the first part of that plan has undoubtedly been achieved with many of the world’s best strutting their stuff at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Spanish contingent is now dwindling in numbers.
Iker Casillas is still in goal, but faces an uncertain future, while Xabi Alonso surprisingly left to join Bayern Munich in the summer, Asier Illarramendi is set to leave at the end of the season after slipping way down the pecking order under coach Carlo Ancelotti, Jese has hardly had opportunities since returning from injury, Dani Carvajal’s place is under threat following the purchase of Brazil fullback Danilo and the Brazilian’s arrival also means Alvaro Arbeloa’s days at Real are now numbered.
As things stand, the only Spanish player certain to be first-choice in next season’s starting lineup is Sergio Ramos, who is hoping to sign a new contract in the months ahead but remains a fixture for the world and European champion.
Casillas is the captain, but his place in the team next season is far from guaranteed. Should he leave, however, his replacement could well be another Spaniard – Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.
Isco should start in 2015-16, but may also find his place under threat. "Isco is non-negotiable," Ancelotti said at the end of February following a string of superb showings by the former Malaga man in the winter months. However, the 22-year-old found himself frozen out earlier this season and may again as James Rordriguez returns from injury. If Madrid brings in an all-action midfielder like Paul Pogba in the summer, he could well be the man to make way.
Most of the other top Spanish midfielders, meanwhile, are at Atletico and Barcelona, which means there is virtually no chance they will move to Real – even if there was interest from Madrid in recruiting the likes of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets or Koke.
Another Spanish player targeted by Madrid for next season is Valencia left back Jose Luis Gaya, who would compete with Marcelo for a starting spot in Ancelotti’s side. However, the Mestalla-based club is working hard on a new deal for the talented defender and he may yet commit to his current club.
Further forward, it is also difficult to see any Spanish stars featuring for Madrid in the near future. Homegrown striker Alvaro Morata left to join Juventus last summer due to a lack of opportunities at Real, while Jese finds his route to the team blocked by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
In the past, Florentino has been keen to recruit Spanish strikers like David Villa and Fernando Torres, but there is currently no national center forward of such quality around, unless Morata makes an unlikely return in the near future.
In any case, the trend at Madrid is perhaps to be expected. Most of Europe’s top teams have a foreign base these days and the brilliant Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides built on a base of homegrown talent are now exceptions to the rule.
Bayern will likely start 2015-16 with five or six Germans in the lineup, while clubs like Liverpool and Juventus also rely on local talent to make up at least half of their teams and Manchester United is not far behind.
In Spain, Atleti and Barca should start next season with around five Spanish players apiece in their sides, maintaining a base of talent from La Roja to complement their fine footballers from abroad.
Others, however, such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain will have only one or two national players in the starting XI in the coming campaign.
That is where Madrid finds itself right now, the two-tier plan not really working and the club’s Spanish identity somewhat diminishing. Once regarded as "Spain’s club", Real represents more of a league of nations these days.
More from Goal.com: