Only a month away from his twenty-first birthday, there is no time like the present for Martin Ødegaard. So much has been made about his future throughout his life, you’d have to excuse the young Norweigan for only looking forward to the next couple days. The only implication is that in the next couple days, he will be playing the team that ushered him into the spotlight and future filled speculation five years ago. You can be led to believe he has actually been looking forward to this for awhile.
This season will be the first that Real Madrid will allow their loan players play against them and it seems Ødegaard will be fit enough to play his parent club after suffering an injury against Celta Vigo which kept him sidelined for the past three matches.
The injury paused what has been a triumphant return to La Liga for Ødegaard. According to FBref.com, the midfielder is 9th in the league in Key Passes (passes that lead directly to a shot) with 24, 9th in expected assists (xA) with 2.4, tied for second (with many others) with 3 assists. He also leads La Liga in completed passes into the penalty area with 45. The next closest player, José Campaña of Levante, has 31. Extensively published La Liga guru, Sid Lowe, even said in late September that he thought that Ødegaard had been the best player in La Liga so far.
This all seems good and well, but with the intense hype that followed Ødegaard ever since he became Real Madrid’s youngest ever debutant at the age of 16, the question still remains if he can fulfill the almost unreasonable expectations that feat brought while at the Bernabeu.
Ødegaard’s first stint in Spain was quick. After the media flurry that followed his transfer from Norweigan Club Strømsgodset to the Spainish capital, the young midfielder only played in two competitive games for the Real Madrid senior team. In search of first team football and regular minutes, Ødegaard departed on loan to Heerenveen in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, his year and a half there did not go to plan as he struggled with injuries and registered just four assists and two goals over the 18 month loan. To some, it seemed like the pressure may have been too much and the terms bust and letdown were already being thrown around in Spanish newspapers to describe the still only 18-year-old wonderkid. However, last season he found his footing at Vitesse where he dazzled the Eredivisie with a fantastic eight goal and ten assist season. His brilliant performance landed him in the Dutch league team of the year and suitors from across Europe showed their interest in taking him on for the next season. Eventually, he selected Real Sociedad where he has continued to impress and progress on the momentum he built in Holland.
One of his many highlights includes this show stopping pass he made against Alaves.
With plays like this, it is easy to see why rumours have floated around of Real Madrid possibly recalling Ødegaard early from his two-year loan in San Sebastian. Ødegaard himself though has said that after years of switching around teams, his wish is two stay with La Real for two years before finally making his possible return to Madrid. With that being said, it is still interesting to look at where Ødegaard could fit in the current Real Madrid setup.
In the past, Ødegaard has been seen as possibly a winger or attacking midfielder, but with Real Sociedad he has shown his creative prowess in the center of the park. His stats display how capable he is at providing a lethal final pass to set up scoring attempts for his teammates and when he drops deeper to collect the ball, he offers his team an extra dimension by finding passing lanes to start breaking down opposing defenses.
While Real Madrid already have the established midfield trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, and youngster Federico Valverde, if Ødegaard continues to improve and play like he is now, Madrid will have to take a serious look at him in a year and a half. Becoming the successor to the 33-year-old Modric seems like the most likely outcome, but Real Madrid doesn’t wait for anyone and could easily spend big during any transfer window to bolster their midfield.
For now, however, all that matters for Ødegaard is focusing on the next game, and that shouldn’t be too hard when it’s against his club of the future, Real Madrid.