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Real Madrid sign Asier Illarramendi for $52 million, who is he?

Jul 12, 2013, 10:37 AM EDT

FBL-EURO-2013-U21-ESP-ITA Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti is beginning to find his feet as Real Madrid manager. We know that because he’s splashing the cash.

But have you heard of ex-Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi, who Madrid just snapped up for a cool $52 million?

Chances are unless you’re an avid fan of La Liga or the Spanish youth setup, Illarramendi’s name may have been off your radar.

Until now.

The 23-year-old holding midfielder was picked in the team of the tournament, as he played in every game the Spanish Under-21 side that won the European Championships in Israel this summer. Illarramendi has been at Real Sociedad for his entire his career and played a leading role as the Basque side finished fourth in La Liga last season, securing a Champions League spot in the process.

And Madrid’s new man was humble after leaving his hometown club for one of the world’s biggest teams.

“It hasn’t been an easy decision, it has been very difficult for me to decide because Real Sociedad have given me so much,” Illarramendi said. “I was on holiday when we started to hear about the interest from Real Madrid. There were contacts, we mulled it over and came to the conclusion that it was an offer we couldn’t refuse. It’s a unique opportunity.”

Unique, maybe. Life changing, definitely.

(MORE: Real Madrid confirm Isco capture, set to unveil former Málaga star)

The Spanish youngster is seen as the long-term replacement for Spanish international Xabi Alonso in the engine room of Madrid’s midfield and with fellow Under-21 star Isco joining him, Illarramendi will have a partner in crime straight away. So is this what Real will become under Ancelotti? Instead of buying top foreign talent, it seems as if Madrid’s new mantra is to snap up the best domestic players available.

Splashing out on Isco and Illarramendi has cost over $90 million and the future of Real seems to have been placed on their shoulders. Investing in two rising stars for the future was never Madrid’s way in the past, now, refreshingly, it seems to be the way forward.

And now relative veterans such as Kaká, Pepe and Gonzalo Higuain are being forced towards the exit door as the young stars roll into town.

(MORE: Ancelotti promises “most spectacular football” at Real Madrid)

Can Isco and Illarramendi wreck havoc in a new-look Madrid side next season? Bet on it. These two are something special. And if you hadn’t heard of Illarramendi before this huge transfer, you’ll be hearing plenty of rave reviews this season from the Santiago Bernabeu.