The Bernabéu's pursuit of Brahim Díaz is the latest example of a shift in recrutment policy: over the last six seasons the average age of arrivals is under 23.
Real Madrid’s attempt to lure Brahim Díaz to the Bernabéu from Manchester City is the latest example of a shift in club policy towards signing promising young players at reasonable prices in the hope that they will realise their potential at the club in order to avoid paying out huge transfer fees for established stars in order to remain competitive against the Premier League, awash with huge television revenue, and other European big-hitters with significant financial backing like PSG.
The addition in recent seasons of Marco Asensio, Isco, Mateo Kovacic, Jesús Vallejo, Martin Odegaard, Theo Hernández, Dani Ceballos, Vinicius, Rodrygo, Andriy Lunin and Álvaro Odriozola is an indication of Florentino Pérez’s priority for youth but it has not always been the case.
In his first spell as Real Madrid president between 2000 and 2006, the average age of Pérez’s 21 signings stood at 24.9 years old, with peaks of 29 for Zinedine Zidane and 28 for David Beckham. In his final summer of transfer business in 2005-06, that fell to 22.9 years with the arrivals of Sergio Ramos (19), Robinho (21) and Julio Baptista (23).
Real Madrid's shift towards promising youngsters
In his second stint in the boardroom, from 2009 to the present, the average age of Pérez’s signings has been reduced by 1.8 years, with the 49 arrivals on El Presi’s second watch rounding out at 23.1 years old on average.
In 2009-10, when Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema arrived, the average age was 24.1 and that has since dropped by almost a year overall with new arrivals averaging 21.3 this season. Last year, when only Hernández and Ceballos arrived, the pair’s average age was 19.5. It has been a constant throughout Pérez’s second tenure, other than an upwards spike in 2012-13 when Luka Modric (26), Michael Essien (29, loan) and Diego López (31) arrived.
Of the last 26 signings made by Real Madrid, 21 have been aged 24 or under.
At the other end of the scale, Madrid have been noticeably cooler on the over-30 age bracket. Despite constant rumours of a move for Edinson Cavani (31) or Robert Lewandowski (30), neither was seriously pursued after the departure of Ronaldo, Pérez instead entrusting the role vacated by the Portuguese to Asensio, with the arrival of Vinicius adding more youthful verve to the front line.
With a view to the future, Madrid have recently been linked with Pedrinho, the 20-year-old Corinthians winger, and are still hopeful of eventually securing the services of Kylian Mbappé, at 20 already a World Cup winner and global superstar with a glorious career at his feet. Interest in Neymar, 27, has apparently cooled, with Madrid preferring what would surely be a world record fee for either player to attempt to secure Mbappé ahead of the Brazil captain in line with an emerging policy of banking on youth.