Martin Ødegaard's arrival at Real Madrid was always going to be problematic in some way, shape or form. Through no fault of his own, the Norwegian wonderkid's integration into the world's biggest football club was never going to be a walk in the park.
The ideal scenario was for the 16-year-old to make his debut for Real Madrid Castilla, wow Madridistas with his sublime performances and help guide Zinedine Zidane's side to promotion before making a hit alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and company in the first team. It was never going to be quite like that. The former Stromsgodset player has already lived a fairytale in becoming the most sought-after player in world football and signing for the European champions but the hard work started when he put pen-to-paper on his six-year contract in the Spanish capital.
The saving grace is that Ødegaard and his advisers, including his father, a former player and coach, seem grounded. That fairytale may have been a fleeting vision in the youngster's head but the early signs are that he is intelligent enough not to get carried away in the surroundings of Valdebebas, the club's training base, and the Santiago Bernabéu.
Bumps will be expected along the way in a journey in which Madrid hope to see Ødegaard eventually shine in the first-team. Eventually being the key word. He is 16 and still has a long way to go in order to live up to his early billing as a star of the future. Madrid know that and Ødegaard knows that, too. The current problems don't surround the player's own personal progression, they surround his impact on Madrid's second string.
It did not go unnoticed that Castilla, plying their trade in Segunda Division B, ended a four-game losing streak to thrash Las Palmas Atlético 5-1 at Valdebebas on Sunday. It came with Ødegaard away on international duty for Norway. A coincidence or a sign that the youngster's integration into Zinedine Zidane's squad has not been as seamless as some hoped?
Indeed, Castilla had won just once in the eight games that preceded the weekend win with the young Norwegian international in their line-up. A 4-0 victory over Barakaldo was emphatic and Ødegaard scored the opening goal - his first and only goal for Castilla so far. After three games and just three points from his opening three outings, things looked like they had finally clicked and the Ødegaard Express was ready to up its gear.
However, that result proved to be an exception rather than the rule with Ødegaard in the squad. His performances have been hit-and-miss across Castilla's front line and Zidane took the decision to bench the attacker for the 2-0 loss at Huesca. Castilla's form as a whole has seen them drop from top spot before the player's arrival to a spot in sixth. They are sit points adrift of leaders Huesca.
Before Ødegaard came in Castilla looked to be racing to promotion back to the Segunda Division. A seven-game unbeaten run saw Zidane's men to top spot thanks to six wins and one draw and all looked rosy. Ødegaard looked to be stepping into a promotion-winning side and Zidane looked to be taking Castilla to promotion in his first year at the helm.
The comments of Castilla captain Sergio Aguza regarding Ødegaard's arrival did not go unnoticed, either. "It isn't that it bothers me, but I'd also like to be up there and earning what they say he's getting," he said after the youngster's arrival. Aguza went on to say that "we'll welcome him (Ødegaard) just like just one more player, like Markkanen or Abner, and try to make him fit in as well as possible" but the reference to the Norwegian's wage was telling.
Patience is required with regards to the progress of Ødegaard but that comes in short supply at a club like Madrid. Not only with the first team but with Castilla, too. Many second teams in Spain are used to reflect the formation and tactics of the first team to enable a seamless transition when players are called upon but Castilla also need the results to match this term.
Not only is promotion vital for Zidane's development as a coach, one who has been touted as a future first-team coach, in-line with the ‘progression of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique at Barcelona, but it is also crucial for the future of Ødegaard. Despite his tender age and experience, he is not a player who will be happy playing in the third tier of Spanish football next season but if Castilla gain promotion a season playing in the second tier may be seen as the ideal opportunity to progress and continue training alongside Madrid's first-team stars, with a few outings in the Copa del Rey thrown in.
If Castilla fail to go up this season Madrid may ponder a loan elsewhere and that would leave him outside of the Valdebebas sphere of influence. A move to a Primer Division club may well be too early, despite reports linking him with Villarreal, a club that has enabled another Madrid man in Denis Cheryshev to thrive on loan.
Madrid's first team face a big few months ahead but Castilla, Zidane and Ødegaard face a big end to their own campaign, too. The Norwegian will return to club football this weekend and Zidane will have a big decision on his hands - change a team that enjoyed a resounding 5-1 victory last time out or throw Ødegaard back in? Castilla visit bottom club Conquense on Sunday and nothing less than three points will be seen as a success.