Martin Odegaard, remember him? It would be wrong to call it a career resurrection considering the Norwegian is only 20-years old.
But given world football seemingly gave up on his precocious talent after struggling following his initial move to Real Madrid back in 2015, his success this season is timely.
Indeed, a largely inauspicious loan spell at Heerenveen last term led many to believe his opportunity to force his way into Madrid’s plans was over.
However, the attacking midfielder returned to the Eredivisie in 2018/19 and has been instrumental in guiding Vitesse into Europe.
He’s scored nine times in the league, providing a further 12 assists which impressively is only bettered by Ajax pair Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech who are both enjoying the best returns of their respective careers.
Now, many detractors will use the fact he is plying his trade in the Netherlands as a caveat to his success. Yet, his performance against FC Groningen on Tuesday showcased abilities that matter little what level he’s operating at.
Odegaard created nine chances, according to Opta it was the joint-highest tally for an Eredivisie player this season with the coveted Ziyech.
He scored one and assisted the other two goals but he was the complete player, recovering the ball, pressing and tackling hard, crossing well and picking passes only elite playmakers could spot.
Martin Ødegaard vs. Groningen— Marc Geschwind (@MarcGeschwind) May 22, 2019
So many doubted him because he failed to make it at Real Madrid as a teenager, but Ødegaard is quite simply one of the very best youngsters in the world. Direct, positive, insanely skillful, and super intelligent — this kid will be a star. pic.twitter.com/MvY1sosTFe
His game is dependent on the injection of confidence because he is so direct, but having regained that this season, the Norway international has emerged as one of the premier young attacking talents.
Naturally, talk is ramping up about a potential return to Los Blancos next season and it’s obvious he could make an impact for Zinedine Zidane. One of Real’s biggest issues this season is just how blunt they are going forward.
Odegaard has that bit of magic to prise open defences.
However, there is interest elsewhere with Ajax reportedly interest in acquiring him on a permanent deal.
It seems unlikely the Spanish giants will sell, but with Odegaard turning 21 later this year, this is a crucial phase in his development.
After the foundation of his 2018/19 campaign, his next step be intriguing, but one thing is for sure, he’s just getting started when many thought his career at the very top level was done.
Check out the clip above to see highlights of Odegaard in action against FC Groningen
Germany international Toni Kroos has extended his contract with Real Madrid until 2023 ahead of an expected summer overhaul at the club, the Spanish giants said Monday.
The 29-year-old midfielder has won 12 titles in five seasons in Spain, lifting the Champions League trophy in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Kroos has scored 13 goals in 233 appearances for Real since arriving from Bayern Munich in 2014 after helping Germany win the World Cup in Brazil.
Real finished third in La Liga this term, 19 points behind champions Barcelona after registering their lowest points haul in 17 years, ending with a limp 2-0 home defeat to Real Betis on Sunday.
Coach Zinedine Zidane has promised changes to the squad ahead of next season, with Gareth Bale, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Nacho, Sergio Reguilon, Isco and Marcos Llorente all tipped to leave the club.
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Speaking after watching his side slip to a 2-0 home defeat by Real Betis in their final La Liga fixture, Zidane, who returned to the Bernabeu to replace Santiago Solari in March, pulled no punches in his assessment of the campaign.
He told a press conference: “What happened this year has to be accepted. I’m to blame – we’ve had 11 games and won just 5. That is what it is.
“When a season starts off badly and then you are not playing for a trophy, I think it is hard to play well if there is nothing to play for. Motivation is a strange thing, it is part of our reality.
“During the week, it always seems like we are going to have a good match but in the end, it just doesn’t happen due to many circumstances.
“Now we have to focus on next season because we want to please the fans and I can tell them right now that we are going to prepare well in pre-season. We are going to have plenty of time to focus on our work and set up a great season. We’re going to compete from the off.”
Zidane has indicated he will overhaul the squad he inherited over the summer, with some big names likely to be casualties.
Wales international Gareth Bale has found himself at the centre of speculation in recent weeks, and his displeasure was clear as headed straight down the tunnel after he was left sitting on the bench.
However, Zidane would not be drawn on his future.
The manager said: “I don’t know what will happen. I’ve called upon other players lately. I’m making decisions about who plays and who is on the bench, but next year anything can happen.
“Today he didn’t play because others have come in. I’m sorry that he didn’t get minutes today, but next year who knows what will happen?
“I have to take decisions and when I don’t like things or something doesn’t seem right, I have to change them.
“Nobody is going to change what the player has done at this club, but day-to-day, it is like that. We live in the present, although we will not forget the past.”
If Zidane was looking to the future after the final whistle, opposite number Quique Setien was heading through the exit door, with Betis announcing his departure shortly after goals from Loren Morn and substitute Jese had sealed a famous win.
It was left to Jese to reflect upon a season which saw the club miss out on European qualification by nine points.
He told LaLiga TV: “The teams which manage to get into the Champions League or the Europa League, they need consistency, they need more points, they need to play well and maybe we have just let too many points slip away through our fingers, really.
“But that’s football. Football is about winning and to get into European competitions, you need to win.”
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