How Real Madrid have completely mismanaged Martin Odegaard

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald Updated: 19 May 2021 12:39 CEST 4 min read
How Real Madrid have completely mismanaged Martin Odegaard

Arsenal are set to complete the signing of Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season after the Norwegian failed to make an impact at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first half of 2020/21.

But, the Spanish champions and head coach Zinedine Zidane must take the majority of the blame for Odegaard’s desire to look elsewhere for game time.

After starring with Stromsgodset as a youngster and into his mid teens, Odegaard was eventually signed by Real Madrid in 2015 to much fanfare, with him considered one of the best players in the world in his age group at the time.

He would feature for the Castilla side before eventually going out on loan to Heerenveen, Vitesse, and, then, Real Sociedad for the 2019/20 campaign.

It was with the Basque side that he truly came into his own and started to make good on the reputation he made for himself in his youth.

On loan at the Anoeta, he scored seven goals and assisted a further nine in all competitions, emerging as one of the players of the season as Sociedad finished in a healthy sixth position in La Liga.

His best performance came in a 3-1 victory at home against Osasuna in which he recorded a 9.7 FootballCritic rating. As well as scoring one and assisting the other two for Alexander Isak, his creativity was simply exceptional as he created three big chances overall, and sent no less than seven successful crosses into the box.

Odegaard’s tenure with the club was originally meant to be a two-year loan. However, Real Madrid, like every other club in Europe, have seen their finances decimated by the current pandemic, and with no money available to bring in any permanent signings or, preferably, a ‘Galactico’, Zidane requested that Odegaard be brought back midway through his loan deal to effectively be their signing of the summer.

Odegaard at Real Madrid

Things were immediately looking positive following the move back to the Spanish capital, as he was earning good reviews from training, even from Zidane himself.

Then, strangely, he was left out of Real Madrid’s squad for their first friendly of pre-season versus neighbours Getafe despite not having any known fitness or injury issues.

Under Zidane, Real Madrid have typically played in 4-3-3 formation with a holding midfielder complimented by two more attacking or creative midfielders either side.

In order to accommodate Odegaard, a true number 10, Zidane opted to change to a 4-2-1-3 for a couple of games at the start of the 2020/21 season.

Stat2019/202020/21
Goals40
Assists60
Final Third Passes P9023.226.7
Big Chances Created80
Dribbles P902.30.4
Crosses P904.22.2
La Liga only, via FootballCritic

In their opening match of the campaign away at former club Real Sociedad, Odegaard started, playing behind Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, and Rodrygo. The match ended 0-0, with none of the front four being particularly impressive, though Odegaard was withdrawn with 20 minutes to go.

In their next game they won 3-2 away at Real Betis, with Odegaard starting again. However, the equalising and winning goal came after the then 21-year-old had been whipped off at half-time after not really getting into his groove again. The third game saw a narrow 1-0 win against Real Valladolid – Odegaard did not start and didn’t even make it off the bench.

Since the Betis game in September, he has subsequently started just one game this season against Villarreal in November. Overall he has been limited to five starts, combining for a paltry 368 minutes of football. Yes, he has suffered from injuries along the way, but none of which kept him out of action for longer than three weeks which means there was definitely scope to bring him back and begin integrating him into the team again.

After just two starts, Zidane seemingly made his mind up that Odegaard was not yet up to the level required to play for Real Madrid.

The Frenchman has since turned to the old guard to get them through the season, with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro the regular starting midfielders in a 4-3-3 with two wingers either side of the striker and nobody playing in the number 10 role.

Now Odegaard faces a spell at yet another club where he can hopefully rebuild his reputation (again). However, with every bit of wasted time will come a sense of ‘what could have been?’.

Pep Guardiola is famously quoted as saying of Odegaard: “You have to bring that boy to Munich, you have to bring him to Munich! I will make him the best player in the world.” Maybe Pep would have been right.