Transfer Analysis: Real Madrid's new signing, Alvaro Odriozola
Real Madrid activated right-back Alvaro Odriozola's £40 million release clause two days ago. The Spain international signed for Los Blancos on a six-year deal pending a medical.
Odriozola was a La Liga breakthrough star last season. With Real Sociedad missing both Joseba Zaldua and Carlos Martinez due to injury, an unknown talent was offered the limelight.
During Odriozola's debut campaign, he made 15 league appearances, registering four assists. Fans at the Anoeta considered him an upgrade on regular starters Zaldua and Martinez. The 22-year-old was soon regarded as one of Europe's most promising young full-backs. His performance alerted Manchester United and Barcelona.
Last season, Odriozola instantly became an important player for Erreala, earning valuable minutes in the Europa League and La Liga. During his 41 appearances, he maintained a 91% passing accuracy.
After receiving national recognition with Fernando Hierro's under-21s, Odriozola was selected in Spain's squad for the ongoing World Cup. Former manager Julen Lopetegui described him as the future of Spanish football. Unfortunately, the youngster didn't feature in Russia, falling below both Dani Carvajal and Nacho Fernandez in the pecking order.
Style of play
Former Real Sociedad coach Eusebio Sacristan demanded a possession-based style. He opted for Odriozola at right-back in a 4-3-3 formation. Adnan Januzaj took up position in front. The Belgian often drifted inside, allowing his Basque-born teammate to own the right flank. Having played as a winger at academy level, it suited him perfectly.
Standing at 5,10'', Odriozola doesn't possess great physicality. He is also rather weak aerially. However, his intelligent anticipation makes up for all flaws. He helped Txuri-urdinak set the tempo of games, acting as a channel for the midfielders. His crossing ability is second to none, too. Januzaj and Mikel Oyarzabel are both left-footed, making it difficult for them to whip in a ball from the right.
Odriozola attempted 128 crosses last campaign, the second-most in La Liga.
Odriozola is a great athlete. He can maintain high-intensity throughout 90 minutes. His uniqueness comes in balancing defence with attack. He likes to play short passes as well as put in low crosses from the touchline. His pace enables him to track back to regain possession. Off-ball movement and patience mean he remains a step ahead at all times.
Odriozola still must improve in some areas. He has a very low defensive contribution, winning only 10% of aerial duels. Although his attributes will suit an attack-minded team, he must work on becoming an all-round full-back to fulfil potential.
In short, Odriozola is similar to Dani Alves.
Where will he fit at Real Madrid?
The reigning European champions now possess four quality right-backs. Carvajal, 26, is in his prime. He's expected to be Los Blancos' first choice for at least a few more seasons. Nacho, originally a central defender, is the backup. Odriozola's main threat could lie elsewhere, though.
Achaf Hakimi broke into Madrid's first team early last campaign after an injury to Carvajal. The 19-year-old realised his dream, making 12 domestic appearances and two in the Champions League. However, considering Odriozola's arrival, the Moroccan will find it difficult to earn minutes. A loan to Borussia Dortmund has already been speculated on.
Odriozola won't receive as much game time with Los Blancos as at Real Sociedad. New manager Lopetegui can't afford to take unnecessary risks. He has enough to deal with. Reports suggest talisman Cristiano Ronaldo is set to join Juventus. Mateo Kovacic could be looking for a way out of the Santiago Bernabeu, too.
The selection dilemma between Odriozola and Carvajal leaves Lopetegui with a future problem to solve.
Odriozola's arrival no doubt adds value to Real Madrid, but it's also complicated matters.