REAL MADRID

Martin Ødegaard, Real Madrid's 'summer signing' who never plays

The Norwegian was the only arrival last summer but is one of the least-used players in the Real Madrid squad. At La Rosaleda, he didn't even warm up...

Martin Ødegaard's situation in Zidane's Real Madrid is strange to say the least and has public opinion divided. The Norwegian midfielder has disappeared completely from the coach's plans to the point when he wasn't even instructed to warm up with the rest of the subs in last week's Super Cup semi-final against Athletic - even when Madrid were 0-2 down. Whether he is being punished or just doesn't count for Zidane isn't known, but Ødegaard  was the only one out of the unused substitutes who was not seen out on the pitch at La Rosaleda (the others were Marcelo, Militão and Isco) exercising along with two of the club's physios...

Paradoxically, Zidane took time to explain Ødegaard's situation in his press briefing ahead of the Super Cup clash and why he has hardly played this season. “It's circumstantial, Martin will triumph at Madrid,” Zizou said. Between December and the first two weeks of this month, Ødegaard has played 77 minutes in the painful 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar in Ukraine, and just five minutes against Celta in LaLiga. That's all. He is the 19th in the list in terms of total playing time - having been given more minutes than Mariano, Militão, Jovic and Odriozola. He has been almost totally overlooked considering that Zidane had tried to change the team formation to accommodate the midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 to exploit his movements playing in an attacking role. In precisely that set-up, Ødegaard was in the starting line-up against Villarreal and at San Siro. Two and a half months have passed since then and the situation looks completely different.

Summer 'signing'

It is also telling now that that Zidane is using a squad of 14 and rotating less. Ødegaard is a natural substitute for Modric but isn't being played - nor is he getting a chance during moments when the team could use his creativity. Madrid brought Ødegaard back early ahead of a second year on loan at Real Sociedad so that he could fulfill a role in a side which would be without James and Gareth Bale while the club opted against making any new signings to cut costs during the pandemic. Up until now, he hasn't even reached 400 minutes of playing time (he is on 387) and that is not enough time to evaluate his ability as a first team player. It has put the brakes on the startling evolution he enjoyed last season on loan at Real Sociedad, where he was voted the best player in the first half of the campaign.

There have been suggestions that Ødegaard has not been training at the level required in recent months. Some of the senior members of the squad have been trying to look after him, such as Luka Modric, who advised him. “Martin needs to work hard, show what he is capable of and find his place in the team”.