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Zidane's rejects: Why there's bargains to be had among Real Madrid's snubbed whizkids

COMMENT: It came from the boardroom. From deep inside the Santiago Bernabeu. And from the training pitches of Valdebebes. Those strategic leaks from inside Real Madrid were all singing the same tune: The Galacticos era was over.

The Zidanes and Pavones approach remained. But with an emphasis on the Pavones. Under president Florentino Perez - second time around - Real Madrid were going for youth...

That was three years ago. And Florentino was true to his word. At the president's behest, Real launched a global campaign to hoover up the world's best young players. In a blaze of publicity, in they came: Marco Asensio from Real Mallorca. Martin Odegaard from Stromsgodset. Mink Peeters from Ajax. The exciting Sergio Diaz from Uruguay. Austria's Philipp Lienhart. And that's just to name a few.

But today? Asensio apart, three years on and there's scant evidence of the policy actually working. The trophies have arrived. And by the bucketload. But for those teens who were tempted from all corners of the world on the promise of a clear first team pathway, it's been one massive letdown.

And adding to the bitterness has been the constant presence over this time of Zinedine Zidane. It was Zidane's Castilla where the majority of those signed in 2015 were housed. But any expectation of the Frenchman bringing through Real's brightest has long been dashed.

Indeed, the decision of Florentino to confirm Zidane for next season is now being seen as a line in the sand for the club's young players. Those on the fringes have already been approached by Sergio Ramos. Over the past fortnight the captain, in his role as a liaison between the president and the dressing room, has tapped several young teammates on the shoulder, encouraging them to start looking for a new club. Peeters (Almere), Lienhart (Freiburg), Odegaard (Heerenveen) and Diaz (Lugo) weren't on Ramos' shortlist. They'd already been farmed out last summer - with little prospect of making it as a Real first teamer.

For those whom remained, there was a genuine belief they'd get their chance this season. But Zidane hasn't budged. Indeed, he's complained to Florentino that this season's failure in LaLiga is due to the lack of squad depth. For the Frenchman, the kids just aren't good enough.

Jesus Vallejo (Eintracht Frankfurt), Dani Ceballos (Real Betis), Marcos Llorente (Alaves) and Theo Hernandez (Atletico Madrid) all shone last season, but have seen their development abruptly halted by Zidane's attitude. And they're now looking for a way out.

Even Theo, who only arrived last summer, has admitted to family members he regrets not pushing through a Bosman move to Barcelona. Like many inside Valdebebes, the left-back knows Florentino wants the best for him. He knows he has the president's full support. But Zidane? Well, that's another matter altogether. And it's an opinion shared throughout the squad's younger contingent.

With the president now throwing his total support behind his coach, Zidane's complaints will now be heeded. More experience will be added this summer. And across all positions. For today's Pavones, it's time to look elsewhere.


MARTIN ODEGAARD

Is due to complete 18 months on-loan in Holland with Heerenveen. Joined Real in a blaze of publicity after spending time with the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Barcelona and Ajax. But two seasons with Castilla blunted his development, having made his senior Norway debut before joining Real at 16. While he has struggled for consistency at Heerenveen, they're keen to extend his loan another 12 months.


JESUS VALLEJO

Returned from a loan at Eintracht Frankfurt with glowing praise, but has struggled to win over Zinedine Zidane this season. Was sent off in the Copa del Rey, while struggled in defeat to Juventus in the Champions League. It's understood Zidane would be happy to see the 21 year-old move on and a return to Germany has been mooted.


BORJA MAYORAL

After a year on-loan with Wolfsburg, Mayoral returned to Real last summer and began the season with a LaLiga debut and a goal. But he has since fallen off the first team map. Despite his club woes, Mayoral overtook Raul to become Real's leading scorer at U21 level for Spain last month. He has already informed president Florentino Perez his intentions to leave, with Valencia keen. The striker can also count on long-term admirers at Manchester United.


DANI CEBALLOS

The midfielder is regarded among the best of his generation in Spain, but has found himself sidelined by Zidane this season. A summer arrival from Real Betis, his former club have already asked about taking him on-loan next term. Ceballos was blocked from joining Liverpool in January and remains of interest to Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.


MARCOS LLORENTE

Like Ceballos, Llorente is another midfielder highly regarded inside Spanish football - but with little prospect of progress under Zidane. He's also followed Ceballos' lead in requesting a transfer. Eintracht Frankfurt have asked about taking him on-loan, with Real Sociedad also keen. Ironically, Eintracht see Llorente as a readymade replacement for the 25 year-old Omar Mascarell, who is set to be re-signed by Real Madrid this summer.


ACHRAF HAKIMI

Has been celebrated in Morocco for his first team breakthrough this season. However, is not viewed as a genuine long-term first team prospect by both coaching staff and senior players. A move within the LaLiga is expected this summer with Alvaro Odriozola due to arrive from Real Sociedad.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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