Real Madrid and Barcelona’s perennial battle for dominance in both La Liga and the Champions League makes for breathtaking viewing, but is made all the more interesting by the contrasting approaches of the respective clubs.
While the Camp Nou side put considerable emphasis on their fabled youth academy, La Masia, the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu outfit has generated the reputation for buying big-name players from elsewhere.
The likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi are just a few of the products that have come through the ranks at Barcelona, with plenty more Blaugrana first-team regulars joining the club in their teenage years or younger.
In the Spanish capital, the examples of successful youth graduates from Real Madrid’s equivalent, the Castilla, that have had longevity at the club are not as easily recognisable.
The poster boys for the Real Madrid youth system over the last 15 years have been the likes of Raúl, Iker Casillas and Guti, but few others have had success with Los Blancos.
Current Spain internationals such as Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado and Álvaro Negredo are products of the Madrid youth set-up, but have had to move elsewhere to make their name in the sport.
Of the current crop of young stars coming through the Castilla and fighting for first-team inclusion, Álvaro Morata must be considered one of the most gifted, alongside Jesé Rodríguez.
The Spain under-21 international actually started out at cross-town rivals Atlético and also had a year-long stint at Getafe before being signed up by the Spanish giants in 2008.
A goal ratio of better than a strike every two games for Real Madrid B saw Morata net 45 goals for the reserve side over the space of three years, before he was introduced to the first-team fold consistently in 2013.
However, it has been the youngster’s performances at national level that have really caught the eye.
Introduced to the Spain under-17’s side in 2009, the gifted centre forward has gone on to forge an enviable strike rate at under-18, 19 and 21 levels. Twelve goals in 11 games for La Rojita last year firmly announced Morata as a star of the future.
However, despite his impressive outings for Spain under-21’s, regular first-team football at Real Madrid has been something of a commodity given the standard of his team-mates.
In Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Karim Benzema has been excelling as the lone striker, netting 14 La Liga goals so far this term. With the France international as first-choice, Morata has had to make do with fleeting appearances from the bench – he has only started one league fixture this season.
With Madrid always on the lookout for the next galactico, there would be few shocks if the current La Liga leaders splurged extortionate amounts of money on someone like Luis Suárez or Radamel Falcao this summer.
Morata, as able as he is, lacks the big name that has become renowned with the Madrid forward line over the last generation.
The 21-year-old had the option to leave on loan in January, but opted to fight for his place at the Bernabéu. Unfortunately he has been subjected to much of the same, with very few opportunities to play this year.
With Uefa’s Financial Fair Play starting to have an impact on profit and loss accounts, Morata could well be one of those to leave the club this summer.
He will have no shortage of big-name suitors, but if recent history is to go by, his name is just not big enough for Real Madrid.