Slaven Bilic seems to have taken the tale of David and Goliath as a personal instruction manual. His first taste at West Ham was the defeat he dealt Arsenal at The Emirates, in last season’s opening fixture, humbling their well-off London rivals 0-2, with goals from Cheikhou Kouyaté and Mauro Zarate. Since then there has been no turning back. 0-3 at Anfield, 1-2 at the Etihad, and then repeating their adventures at Upton Park, showing utter disdain for Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with the scoreboard gleaming 2-1, 2-0, and 3-2 respectively.
The gall of Bilic is not just restricted to the four corners of the pitch, mind, as he looks to continue the trend off it as well, typified with recruitments of Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia, Havard Nordtveit from Borussia Monchengladbach, Gökhan Töre from Besiktas, and André Ayew of Swansea. All of the aforementioned players being linked with arguably, more financially lucrative clubs. And now, Bilic is poised to upset Senors in Spain with Sevilla CF, Valencia CF; Bayern Leverkusen, Hamburg, in Germany; the decorated Dutch side, Ajax Amsterdam; and their mid-table rivals, Liverpool FC.
French publication, Ouest France, who would have us believe has Real Madrid gaffer, Zinedine Zidane’s good faith, are reporting that the most successful club in Europe have invited offers to take one of the most sought-after talents in world football, 17-year-old, their talent, Norwegian wonder-kid, Martin Odegaard, on loan – and that West Ham would be given an answer in the next 48-hours.
JD, of The 4th Official, ponders on the potential benefits of the move and the risk it could provide, in the following paragraphs.
To say attacking midfielder, Martin Odegaard’s talents is held in high esteem with being an understatement. Such was the privilege that it elicited, that aged-16, he was given the free reins to hopscotch around the most reputable teams in Europe, appear for trails, and to make his pick. He went to Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund in Germany; Liverpool and Manchester City of England; and finally, Real Madrid – whom he joined, no little because of the $120k pay-cheque he picks up every week.
The boy has an innate understand of spaces and the lack of it – a sense of maturity belying his utterly tender years. Clever customer, with a full repertoire of the YouTube footballer, with feints, flicks and nutmegs, he operates in the corridors of the attacking third, most proficiently in the spaces between the defensive midfielder and the centre-backs, and the full-backs and the centre-backs. His economy of passes further underpins his game intelligence, often finding the right pass than the easy on.
Standing at 5’9”, and being as young as he is, the belligerence of the Premier League would provide him with an utterly rude learning curve. His verticality on the pitch needs improving, as too often when opponents employ to mark him tight, he looks to run square, instead of powering forward – thereby stunting his influence in key areas of the pitch.
Despite his apparent fragility, he shows body-work, mental perceptivity and resilience to suggest that he’ll only improve with time, and proper coaching that Slaven Bilic could impart. While the loan deal will not have an option to buy, with the excess that Real Madrid have, once acquainted with Bilic’s managerial style, Odegaard could very well be tempted to ply his trade in the most demanding and celebrated league in the world.
The learning curve, as we mentioned, would be steep. There’s a lot left to apparel his game with, most crucially, introducing him to the defensive side of matters, which Odegaard looks a stranger to – a far-cry from the attack-heavy upbringing of Madrid. Boy-wonder, Odegaard would require being afforded with patience by the knowledgeable West Ham supporters. Patience, which is a premium in football these days.