Fede Valverde has been one of the most notable players for Real Madrid since the start of the season. The Uruguayan midfielder even gained control of the starting spot because of his physicality, which allows Madrid to press higher up the pitch and recover the ball much more effectively.
Valverde suffered a small shin fracture during Real’s 4-1 loss to Valencia and will be out for around a month, so coach Zinedine Zidane will now have to find a way for his team to survive without him.
Years ago, the answer would’ve been simple. Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos dominated European football and quite possibly were the best midfield in the world. During the last two seasons though, proof is there that they just don’t have it anymore. Sure, they can still play together, but they need more help in that midfield line and can’t play with three attackers upfront if Madrid want to be successful.
Martin Odegaard is the one player who will give Zidane the flexibility to play with a solid midfield without sacrificing creativity and play making. With the Norwegian player Zidane has the option to play with different systems and formations during the game.
So far, Odegaard has mostly been used as an attacking midfielder, which might be his most natural position. However, it’s not easy for him and Modric to coexist, as Odegaard tends to drop to find the ball and they tend to occupy the same space when Madrid have the ball. That could change with Valverde, who could maximize Odegaard’s strengths as an attacking midfielder, but Zidane won’t be able to give that a try until the Uruguayan midfielder recovers from his injury.
Keeping that 4-3-3 and allowing Odegaard to play as a right winger would be one answer. Odegaard’s tendency to help the midfield would be very helpful if Madrid can’t bring the ball up to the attackers, and he would also have the room to deliver key passes to his teammates through that right wing, similarly to what Mesut Ozil did for Los Blancos when he was deployed in that spot.
Furthermore, Madrid’s right wingers have struggled so far this season. Asensio hasn’t been consistent and seems to be lacking confidence right now while the same could be said about Rodrygo even though he scored the great game-winning goal against Inter. Odegaard is the one player who could give Real Madrid what they need from that right wing and it’s worth trying.
It’s not the only possibility for him to play efficiently though. Odegaard was brilliant for Real Sociedad as a central midfielder, in the exact same position Modric —or Valverde— have been playing recently. Starting Odegaard there would allow Modric to keep coming off the bench —where he’s been able to make an impact for 30 minutes recently— and Madrid would still have three vertical players upfront. It’s a system worth exploring given how great Odegaard was last season, but most likely not the long-term solution given how crucial Valverde is when fit.
Either way, one thing is clear. Coach Zinedine Zidane must find a way to use Martin Odegaard because the Casemiro-Modric-Kroos midfield with three pure attackers upfront hasn’t been a success for quite some time. Odegaard isn’t a prospect anymore and it’s time to trust that he can deliver.