They may be a species on the verge of extinction but Real Madrid have a player in their ranks who has spent two thirds of his life at the same club. Nacho Fernández this week celebrates his 16th anniversary at the Bernabéu having climbed through the ranks to become a dependable and valued member of the first team squad, picking up three Champions League titles, a Liga and a Copa del Rey.
“The start of his story at Real Madrid came when his god-parents bought him a present; they signed him up for a trial at the age of nine,” says Nacho’s father, José María Fernández. “They liked what they saw because they saw the player he is today. He wasn’t nervous, he was very relaxed and he nailed it.”
Vicente del Bosque's role in Nacho's career
However, Madrid also have Vicente del Bosque to thank for the emergence of the 27-year-old, who has made 120 competitive appearances for the club. After his trial Nacho continued to play for his local side, Complutense Alcalá – “where he was a box-to-box midfielder,” recalls José María - to be closer to home. But a Real Madrid coach, Rodolfo de la Rubia, recommended him to the future Spain manager, who was at that time in charge of Castilla and who arranged for Nacho to remain with Complutense for another season before joining La Fábrica. In September 2001, he made his first appearance for the club at the age of 11.
Alongside his brother Álex Fernández, who is currently at Cádiz, Nacho was part of the Castilla side promoted from Segunda B to Segunda in 2011-12 and made the step up to the first team squad under José Mourinho the following season.
Despite being the subject of offers from other clubs, notably Roma, over the past couple of years Nacho decided to stay and work his way into the team. Although he remains the third-choice central defender behind Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, his versatility across the back line saw him make a career-high 39 appearances in all competitions last season. Also, as Nacho himself has pointed out, “I have never had an injury.” Professionalism, combined with the requirement to look after himself due to diabetes, has made Nacho indispensable to his life-long club.