During the training session at Valdebebas, all eyes of Los Blancos players and staff were on a blond player who stood out.

“He’s got the makings of a top player,” commented one veteran member of the staff, who remembers perfectly well when Martin Odegaard had just signed for Real Madrid and later becoming the youngest player to debut for Real Madrid in La Liga under Carlo Ancelotti.

That was in May 2015 when Odegaard came on for Cristiano Ronaldo in a meeting with Getafe when he was 16 years and 156 days old. A lot has changed for Odegaard since then. Five years ago he was a precocious youngster with a lot to prove. Today he is one of the most admired midfielders in La Liga.

In January 2015, Real Madrid had to fight against Bayern Munich and Arsenal to land the promising 16-year-old. They paid just 4 million for Odegaard but also had to pay him a salary of half that amount after tax.

Today, according to Transfermarkt he is worth 45 million.

Odegaard is the only ‘signing’ a Madrid side in the process of a transition plan to make this summer, with Real Madrid not turning the world upside down with their mind-blowing and gorgeous signings – a quiet summer for Real Madrid with which the fans are not accustomed to, but Florentino Perez is not like others to invest foolishly – rather he plans to invest in home-grown talents, who return the favour in days to come.

Odegaard, like other youngsters, is a project of Real Madrid, who has been given time to mature and become a Real Madrid material, and right now the player is back home to boost Zinedine Zidane’s team.

He boasts a record of goals and assists that was better than the other Real Madrid midfielders achieved in 2019-20, having scored seven goals and provided nine assists.

Only Toni Kroos, who finished the campaign with six goals and eight assists, came close.

Odegaard also had more goals from outside the box (four) than his Real Madrid colleagues last season and only Kroos had a better overall chance created tally for last season (97 to 75).

Yet Odegaard created more big chances, with 14 to Kroos’ 12.

In terms of dribbling, the youngster was way ahead of the second-best Real Madrid player as he had 72 successful dribbles for La Real, while Modric had 49.

While playing for Real Sociedad, he developed this calm and composure with the ball at his feet and script accurate through-passes in the final third of the game.

Odegaard is a natural left-footed player who was responsible for all the set pieces in La Real and so there is an extra option available to Real Madrid in that area.

Generally, a left-winger, the role of Odegaard in Real Sociedad changed in the last season.

He has become more of an attacking midfielder and a traditional number 10.

He operates just behind the central forward and was positioned in the middle of the attacking third of Sociedad’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

Manager Imanol Alguacil ensured this was possible by designing an asymmetric midfield shape that could retain possession deep while consistently finding Odegaard between the lines.

Imanol gave him a free role to move all over the final third – to fetch better outcomes in the central and wider areas.

When the situation demands, Odegaard drops deep to help his defenders play the ball upwards.

In Zidane’s Real Madrid, who exploits his central midfielders to stay deep during the transition period and perform the defensive duties whereas, in Imanol’s Sociedad, the central midfielders usually stay high and between the lines and probe for the vertical passes.

So in Real Madrid, Odegaard has to improve his defensive qualities alongside his attacking instincts. He does drop deeper, but in Madrid, he has to form the base with the players and act against the pressing of the opposition. Especially with Casemiro, who forms a pair with the backline when Madrid lose possession.

After the match against Manchester City where Real were thrashed, Casemiro was caught off-guard more often, which might have let Zidane think about a midfielder who would aid in deeper roles along with attacking duties – distribution of workload would be very important.

It is important to note that, Odegaard also has brilliant defensive statistics in 2019-20 with a 64 percent tackle success rate, even beating defensive midfield maestro Casemiro’s 61 percent – although it’s true that both players were asked to make different kinds of tackles.

Zidane has tried the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 more often in the last season and very rarely his shape changed to 4-2-3-1. In the new season, he might have to settle in with a 4-2-3-1 formation to exploit his resources well.

It is expected that Zidane would provide Odegaard with the free role to move around the field and fuel the attack, something that Isco had done often this season. This would make Carvajal overlap down the flanks and Odegaard will find his usual position behind the central forward.

With the ball, he can cut inside and play out wide to the left-winger or the left-back and switch the flanks quickly. Another option is to get the through-ball past the defenders and play it to the player upfront.

Odegaard will now wear the white shirt and it is never easy to fare well in Real Madrid – a player has to have the mental toughness, fitness, and skill to shine in Santiago Bernabeu.

Odegaard has the talent and over the years he has developed the skill to survive at the top level.

The clay has been molded – the time has come to return the favour.

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