Samuel Eto’o. Esteban Cambiasso. Wesley Sneijder. Juan Mata. These world class players all started at the Real Madrid academy. What do they have in common? They reached their peaks at other major clubs. But with Zinedine Zidane at the helm of Real Madrid Castilla, there is a clear determination to change this trend, and Martin Ødegaard is a perfect way to start.
The wait for La Decima was hard on Madrid. In 2009, Real Madrid watched former youth academy star Samuel Eto’o score the first goal in the final that their arch-rivals Barcelona would go on to win. In 2010, Real Madrid had to watch three former Real players inspire Inter Milan to achieve European success at their sacred Bernabéu. Samuel Eto’o led the line for Inter, and he became the first (and only) player in history to win consecutive trebles. Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso made for a solid midfield combination. Real Madrid received less that €20 million for this trio who were now being valued at over €100 million. In fact, in 2009, Real Madrid received half as much (€15 million) for Sneijder as they dished out to bring him to Madrid (€27 million) less than two years earlier. It is stunning to consider that the largest transfer fee paid for Esteban Cambiasso during his career was €0. Leicester City paid as much for him to be an experienced veteran for a season as Inter Milan did to turn their side into a European superpower, and as Real Madrid did to bring him to their academy. Juan Mata left Real in 2007 with no first team appearances on a free transfer to Valencia, and therefore no league medals. Almost a decade later, Mata is still searching for his first league title. However, one thinks that the Champions League, Europa League, FIFA World Cup, and European Championship winners’ medals he’s earned have made up for the lack of league success.
Martin Ødegaard chose Real Madrid over the Premier League and Bayern Munich, and seeing as Barcelona is banned from transfers, he couldn’t develop at La Masia. Real Madrid has a chance, the chance, to set the record straight and turn the Norwegian teenager into the best player of his generation.