It is unusual for a club to bring through a player they know will serve them with distinction for over a decade.
But Iker Casillas was one of those exceptional youngsters, a goalkeeper of such exceptional ability that he always looked destined to excel - the Lionel Messi of goalkeepers, if you will.
The Early Years:
Casillas comes from Madrid's working-class, industrial satellite town of Mostoles and used to take the train to Real Madrid every day from the age of 12.
Outstanding for Real Madrid's youth team, Casillas was even told at the age of just 16 that he was needed for the Champions League, if only to sit on the bench.
His top-flight debut came in the 1998-99 season and he made the jersey his own the following campaign when he contributed to the club's Champions League success.
Casillas lost his place in the first-team to Cesar Sanchez during the 2001-02 season, but was called off the bench to replace Cesar 23 minutes from the end of that season’s Champions League final. He made several fine saves to keep Bayer Leverkusen at bay and help Real to a record ninth European Cup.
Ever modest, Casillas has gone on record as saying that he does not consider himself a galactico.
In a sense, he is right. Galacticos come and go, but Casillas started his career in Madrid, and will almost certainly end it there.
To accompany his two Champions League crowns, Casillas has won five La Liga titles, in 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2012.
Over the years he has regularly been the last line of defense for a club often guilty of stockpiling lavish attacking talent and ignoring deficiencies in the rearguard.
Saves such as the one against Sevilla in October 2009 have characterized his time at the club and saved his side numerous points over league seasons.
A winner of the FIFA under-20 World Cup in 1999, Casillas made his senior debut the following year.
Just as he benefited from Cesar's injury to star in the 2002 Champions League final, fate smiled on him again the following month when Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares severed a tendon in bizarre fashion as he tried to control an aftershave bottle at his home. The injury left Casillas as his country's number one and he was the hero in the second round penalty shoot-out against Ireland before Spain bowed out in controversial style against South Korea in the quarter finals.
Casillas has played in three World Cups and three European Championships. Spain are the current holders of both competitions, with Casillas one of the pillars in both successes. Having made his debut at 19 years and 14 days, the boy from Mostoles is now the most capped Spanish player of all time.