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Back at his boyhood club after proving himself with a season in Germany, Real Madrid CF youth product Daniel Carvajal had a lot to be happy about in his formative years.
"It was a childhood dream come true. In Spain, and especially Madrid, every kid wants to play for Real Madrid," he said. "Everyone wants to get the call when they're young. Making your debut, pulling on the shirt, instils a lot of pride and excitement. Being part of the academy is really great."
With first-team opportunities limited, however, the right-back was faced with a difficult decision when Bayer 04 Leverkusen came calling in July 2012. "It was an interesting time, one of the most intense in my life, but I took the chance," the 22-year-old recalled of his €5m transfer to the Bundesliga. "It was an amazing experience in my development as a player. Playing football in a different country was a great opportunity and Leverkusen treated me well. It was wonderful."
After coming of age in Germany last term, Carvajal could barely believe his luck when the Merengues activated a buy-back clause just 12 months later. "I knew they could sign me again in three years' time, so I worked very hard, but it hadn't crossed my mind that they would come back in for me so soon," admitted the Spanish Under-21 international, who has since made 27 Liga outings. "It was a dream come true when I found out, I was quite emotional. After spending a year away from my family, to get that news was special."
Carvajal was soon thrust into the limelight, making his UEFA Champions League bow in Madrid's Group B opener at Galatasaray AŞ – a sensational 6-1 win. "It was the best. When I was young, I was always very intense on the pitch with friends because I didn't want to lose," he said. "I remember saying to myself, 'Relax, this isn't the Champions League!' So when I played my first match I got shivers. It was a great game and I'll never forget it."
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