Real Madrid: Will Martin Odegaard reach his ceiling with the club?

Real Madrid, Martin Odegaard (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Martin Odegaard (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

Martin Odegaard‘s journey at Real Madrid has been a crazy one. From being signed as a footballing wunderkind at the age of 16 to being labeled as a Real Madrid flop at the age of 17, and then coming back into contention as one of Real Madrid’s most-prized assets at the age of 21, it has been some journey so far for the Norwegian international.

After being signed for a reported fee of 4 million euros in the winter of 2015, Odegaard joined the reserve side Real Madrid Castilla. He also made his first-team debut in the final LaLiga game of the season vs Getafe, coming on as a sub for Cristiano Ronaldo. Though he struggled in Castilla due to training seasons with first-team and language barriers, he settled down in the following two seasons with Castilla.

But the impatience from fans and external pressure from the media gave him the label of a flop as he couldn’t break into the first-team quickly. He went away from the spotlight and spent two seasons on loan at Heerenveen and Vitesse between 2017 and 2019. These loan deals helped him a lot, as he continued to develop without any pressure.

After returning to Spain in 2019, but on loan to Real Sociedad he started showing his true potential. After a brilliant first season, his two-year loan deal was cut short, and he returned to Real Madrid in the summer of 2020 with Los Blancos seeing him as a player who could lead the new generation of youngsters.

Zinedine Zidane was excited to work with Odegaard, and he incorporated him into the scheme of things right away. But Odegaard couldn’t make the best use of the chances, and frequent injuries limited his playing time. Zidane was under pressure, and he had to use his best players in every game to be alive in LaLiga, due to which Odegaard couldn’t get playing time and subsequently went to Arsenal on a six-month loan deal.

After watching him play all these years, there’s still doubt about Odegaard. How high is the ceiling of Martin Odegaard?

The 22-year-old playmaker has always had the talent. Though he’s not that quick and he isn’t a penetrative dribbler who can easily operate in tight spaces, he is a decent dribbler with a great first touch and excellent close control. He has an extraordinary left foot and is a great passer of the ball. In my opinion, his passing vision is what makes him so special. He has the ability to scan the field and observe the movement of every player perfectly, before making a killer pass to the attacker. And that final ball from him is of top quality, something which is missed at Real Madrid.

Looking at his talent and his performances, there is no wrong in seeing Martin Odegaard as someone who has the potential to become one of the best midfielders in the coming years. But there’s something that can pose a huge challenge to Odegaard throughout his career.

Martin Odegaard belongs to a dying breed of No. 10’s

Odegaard’s position as a central attacking midfielder can hurt his chances of making it big. The position of a No. 10 is slowly dying, and players like Mesut Ozil and James Rodriguez, have seen the downside of being a No.10 in recent years. There are still teams like Bayern Munich and AC Milan who have No. 10 roles in their formations, but they demand something more from their No. 10’s.

In this modern game of football, where athleticism and work rate have equal prominence as the technical skillset. Unfortunately, the work rate is one of Martin Odegaard’s drawbacks. He is a great presser and presses the opponents cleverly, but once the opponents beat the press and get past the first line of pressure, Odegaard isn’t quick enough to track back and help the defense.

Defensive support is something a team like Real Madrid expects, which makes it a bit tougher for him to succeed at Real Madrid. And Real Madrid has been using a traditional 4-3-3 for the past 8 years or so, so it would be difficult to accommodate a playmaker like Odegaard. Odegaard doesn’t really have the experience of playing as a central midfielder in any of his recent loan terms, though he is used to playing as a right-sided midfielder in a 4-4-2 for his country.

These are the challenges Martin Odegaard might face if he thinks of reaching his potential at Real Madrid. But with determination and a great work ethic, he can make it big at Real Madrid or anywhere.

Two more factors that might be a possible stumbling block on Odegaard’s road to success are his fitness and attitude, though the latter is a debatable matter. Odegaard has suffered a lot of injuries since the end of the 2019/20 seasons, particularly since his issue with knee stellar tendinopathy. That hindered his performance as well and resulted in inconsistency.

Odegaard’s attitude may be an issue as well because leaving Real Madrid after just five months without fighting for his position drew criticism from a Real Madrid legend like Jorge Valdano and a section of the fans. But at the same time, Real Madrid’s impatience in his case could be criticized because he still had one year left in his loan term at La Real and was developing well.

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Considering all these factors, it would be really interesting to see how Odegaard shapes up his career from this point. He does have the skill-set to make it big, but he might have to face a lot of challenges in his career and he needs to clear them to reach his potential and become one of the best players in his position.