Alvaro Odriozola: Real Madrid target starring for Sociedad and with a head for business
Real Sociedad right-back Alvaro Odriozola has emerged over the last 18 months as one of the most exciting prospects in Spanish football.
The Basque defender’s next few weeks look pretty exciting too, as he heads to the World Cup with his country, with well-placed rumours suggesting he will also be joining Real Madrid before the summer is out.
Here are five things to know about a player who we will be hearing a lot about in future …
1. Real Madrid could trigger €40 million release clause
Reports claim Real Madrid have identified Odriozola as their primary transfer target, with the Bernabeu outfit reportedly ready to pay his €40m release clause.
Madrid need to add defensive cover this summer, and Odriozola would in theory come in as back-up for Dani Carvajal, as part of club president Florentino Perez’s policy of snapping up the best young Spanish talent.
Barcelona and Manchester City have also been linked with a player who looks a complete modern full-back, fast and creative in attack, and tactically aware in defence. Madrid remain best placed though, even if president Jokin Aperribay said this week that no club had yet made contact over a move.
2. He could start in Spain’s World Cup opener
Odriozola made his senior debut for Spain just last October, capping a man of the match performance by assisting a goal for Thiago Alcantara in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win at home to Albania.
The 22-year-old has been a fixture in each of La Roja coach Julen Lopetegui’s squads since, and held off competition from Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin to be named in the 23 for Russia this summer.
The hamstring injury suffered by Lopetegui’s first choice Carvajal in the Champions League final is not serious enough to rule him completely out of the tournament. However a fully fit Odriozola is quite likely to start Spain’s first game, against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Sochi on June 15.
3. He made his senior club debut less than 18 months ago
Although Odriozola attracted attention when he scored the winner for La Real in a UEFA Youth League game at Manchester United in October 2013, he was not a much hyped underage sensation long tipped for the very top. With the slightly older Aritz Elustondo and Joseba Zaldua ahead of him in the first team queue, he had to wait for a first team debut until January 2017.
The youngster immediately looked at home at the top level, quickly making the right-back slot his own, while providing five assists in his first 15 La Liga games. Having previously been overlooked by Spain’s youth team coaches, he made the squad for last summer’s under-21 Championships, although he only played one game as Bellerin was first choice.
4. He was not even a right-back until recently
After joining La Real’s Zubieta academy aged 10, Odriozola was a goalscoring right-winger all the way up through the youth ranks. It was only when he got to the reserve side, playing in Spain’s Segunda B third tier, that he dropped to right-back. La Roja and Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba made a similar switch early in his career.
It also helped that his first senior coach at La Real was former Barca player and Barca B coach Eusebio Sacristan. “At Real the wingers play infield, and the full-backs go up and down the flank,” Odriozola said from Spain camp this week.
“Here it is the same, which has been useful for me.”
5. He knows exactly where he is going
Odriozola made such an impact on breaking into the La Real first team that speculation over his future began almost immediately. That led to a first proper senior contract last summer, which runs until 2022, with the €40m release clause.
By that time he had switched agents to “Best of You”, run by former Madrid press chief Oscar Ribot, who now represents a number of high profile current and past Bernabeu figures including Casemiro, Xabi Alonso and Luis Figo. The mature character is also doing a business degree by distance learning and appears to have his future path worked out.
“A lot has changed for me over these 18 months, it has been crazy,” he said on Wednesday, ahead of Spain’s warm-up friendly against Switzerland in Villarreal.
“But I keep my feet on the ground, and head well organised. The key is hard work, which is bringing these nice things that are happening to me. My future is tomorrow’s training session, and Sunday’s game, nothing else.”