Zinedine Zidane’s reluctance to trust youth is costing Real Madrid

A sense of inevitability and déjà vu flooded the air on Wednesday morning when news broke that Real Madrid star Martin Odegaard had handed in a transfer request in search of regular first-team football .

You can just imagine the reaction of the Madrid board now: ‘Good riddance! Either way, it was not the quality of Real Madrid! He never proved himself worthy of our beloved white jersey! We’ll have a pretty fee for this one for sure! ‘

Only one of these statements is true.

Odegaard is just the latest example of a talented youngster who got tired while waiting for his chance to burst onto the scene and make the Santiago Bernabeu his own stage. Instead, he looks set to abandon this particular dream, in which he will no doubt continue to prove Madrid wrong in their assessment of the Norwegian playmaker.

And he wouldn’t be the first to point out a worrying lack of confidence in the young footballers of the Spanish capital, especially under the leadership of current coach Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman is known for his masterful art of whispering ego, keeping football’s biggest names on the side and bringing them to European and La Liga glory. And you can’t win a league title without some tactical intelligence in the bank, so it would be wrong not to mention that he’s a more than competent coach as well as a man-manager.

Zidane won numerous trophies during his tenure as Madrid coach
Zidane won numerous trophies during his tenure as Madrid coach | GABRIEL BOUYS / Getty Images

But a glaring flaw in Zidane’s management game is his impatience and inability to nurture and develop young talent to come into the first team. Madrid have taken a new direction in their transfer policy in previous years, avoiding the high prices of Galactico signings and instead relying on exciting young talent to enter the starting lineup.

Los Blancos have scoured the market in search of the hottest teens on the planet and even promoted their own youth academy products to seniors, hoping that by 2021 their starting XI would be filled with early wonders.

Instead, Zidane still relies heavily on mainstays Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema. And the fact that this team can’t function when one or two of these superstars are absent highlights a few major shortcomings in their recruiting – but mostly in their treatment of the next generation.

Selling Odegaard, a youngster who demonstrated just how much impact he could have on Spain’s top flight during a loan to Real Sociedad last year, is purely a damning accusation of Zidane’s attitude towards future starlets. from Madrid.

The 22-year-old has made seven meager league appearances this season, finishing more than half of the game on just two of those occasions. Compare that to the heroism of last year, when he scored seven and assisted nine in all competitions, and you begin to understand where the fault can be.

It’s no wonder he seeks to follow Luka Jovic out of the gate. The Serbian forward has arrived in Madrid from Eintracht Frankfurt, having scored 28 goals in all competitions during the 2018/19 season.

A year in the Spanish capital with Zidane sent the striker’s career arc on a rapid downward trajectory, which many believed would never recover. He’s only scored two league goals for Los Merengues in 18 months – albeit from a bunch of cameo displays – which prompted his coach to send him packing where he came from.

Now do what you want with it, but Jovic tied the two goals he managed in 569 minutes for Madrid in just 28 minutes on his return to action for Frankfurt. The Serb fought back, while Los Blancos fans were forced to watch their men crash out of the Supercopa de España.

It’s not just forwards that Zidane finds it hard to trust. Full-backs Sergio Reguilon and Achraf Hakimi were both deemed to be surplus to requirement this summer and have been sold to Tottenham Hotspur and Inter respectively, where they are both lighting up their new homes.

Madrid also spent € 30million on Real Sociedad winger Alvaro Odriozola in 2018, and he made a total of 19 league appearances ahead of experienced Carvajal. Zidane has even chosen to play winger Lucas Vazquez at the back this year, clearly pointing the food chain to the disgraced Spain star.

Flying left-back Theo Hernandez arrived in 2017 and left for Milan in 2019, with 13 league appearances under his belt, and he has since grown into one of the most exciting attacking defenders in world football.

They even suffered a financial loss on the 23-year-old to take him off the books. Madness. Milan have clearly spotted a gap in this particular market and loaned out midfielder Brahim Diaz, and I Rossoneri are now top of Serie A.

Atletico Madrid also took note of Los Blancos’ wasteful tendencies towards youngsters and convinced academy product Marcos Llorente that the grass was greener at Wanda Metropolitano in 2019. 18 months later, Los Rojiblancos are four points clear at the top of the table with two games underway over their city rivals – and Llorente is truly at the heart of their success.

And talk about a misunderstanding about a player’s potential – the 25-year-old was a senior scoreless midfielder to his name before joining Atleti, where he now has nine goals and six assists behind the forward.

So all of this mismanagement must raise concerns for Madrid’s current crop of starlets still on the books.

Eder Militao is probably wondering if Madrid will convince Ramos to play until the age of 50, which means the Brazilian will never have the chance to shine – although his partner Raphael Varane has hardly impressed in recent months .

Arsenal lender Dani Ceballos must feel caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, either destined for mediocrity with the Gunners or banished at the hands of Zidane.

And the latest Japanese football star Takefusa Kubo is spending the time of his life on loan at Getafe, ignoring the betrayal and heartbreak that awaits him.

Zinedine Zidane Head Coach, Martin Odegaard
Replaced again | Quality sports images / Getty Images

So, is it Zidane’s fault? Well, one player reaching his peak away from the Bernabeu may be a coincidence, and two could be considered unlucky. But a list as long as a potential starting XI? These are bad management skills.

Madrid fans might like to think they will lose little sleep after Odegaard leaves, given his lack of involvement for the club at senior level. But maybe they’ll look back on that moment 10 years from now, when a 45-year-old Modric and 41-year-old Kroos are brought up against their sharp opponents, and wonder if they should have sacrificed immediate success for immediate success. . a few years, to consider a long-term plan.

The future is bright, after all, but not in Madrid.