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The Real Madrid youth system hasn’t exactly been busy churning out the talent in recent years and very few academy graduates have gone on to cement themselves as valued members of the senior set-up. One exception though is Dani Carvajal, who has made 84 starts for the club since getting his break at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Carvajal had previously spent a season in the Bundesliga at Bayer Leverkusen following two successful years as captain of Real Madrid Castilla so he had some experience behind him when he got his break under Carlo Ancelotti.
However unlike fellow academy graduates Nacho, Jese and Lucas Vazquez he managed to do enough to command a regular starting berth ahead of the more experienced Alvaro Arbeloa.
An appetite for a tackle
The Madrid-born defender displayed an appetite for a tackle as well as the ability to get forward and run with the ball, which is always seen as an important attribute for a full-back at Real Madrid. A dream first season with the senior side concluded with Dani Carvajal starting the UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon as Los Blancos beat city rivals Atletico to claim their 10th European crown.
A first international call-up soon followed and it appeared as though Real Madrid had found a long-term and home-grown solution to their problematic right-back position. However his second season wasn’t quite as successful as his first with a couple of niggling hamstring injuries and two suspensions holding him back.
With Arbeloa heading into his mid-30s, Real were always likely to buy another right-back last summer, the only question was whether or not they would opt for a big name starter or someone perhaps a bit younger to come in and act as back-up for Dani Carvajal.
Now 23, Carvajal had established himself as a popular figure with Los Blancos fans so it was something of a surprise when Florentino Perez splashed in excess of €30million on a new right-back in the form of Porto’s Danilo.
Danilo buy raised questions
It raised questions about how highly Dani Carvajal was rated by the Real Madrid hierarchy despite him signing a new five year deal that same summer. Injuries have again hampered him this term with another hamstring problem and separate ankle knock keeping him out for over two months of action but when he has played, Carvajal has impressed particularly with his attacking play, which seems to have improved.
Despite only making eight league starts he has created more goals than any of the other Real Madrid defenders and is perhaps thriving on the added competition, which again is something that has forced other recent academy graduates into their shells.
Determined to grab game-time and prove his worth
That said Dani Carvajal will be determined to ensure he continues to get regular game-time over the rest of this campaign providing he can remain injury free. There would certainly be interest in him from abroad should he lose out to Danilo on a regular basis and talk of a summer bid from Chelsea, who are likely to be in the market for a right-back, has been muted.
As long as he is starting games for his home-town club Dani Carvajal is highly unlikely to seek a move away but as he has already shown he is someone prepared to move abroad if it was in the best interests of his career.
Big clubs in England and Germany will certainly be keeping a close eye on him and there are a few that would surely pounce should the Spaniard be consigned to the Real Madrid substitutes bench on a regular basis.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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