Bayern sign Álvaro Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season
After Hansi Flick had firmly stated his intention to play Joshua Kimmich in midfield, there was an increasing need for Bayern to act in the right-back position. Apart from Benjamin Pavard, there was no longer any real alternative in the squad for this position.
But now Bayern have strengthened their ranks with Álvaro Odriozola – initially on loan. At Real Madrid, the right-back never got beyond the role of a backup player. Since the 2018/19 season, he has made 27 appearances for Real, but only five this season. He managed 11 goal involvements in all games.
Whether he gets more playing time at Bayern now depends on many factors. One of them will be how offensively Flick wants his right-back to act against the respective opponent. Whenever Flick wanted the right-back role to be interpreted offensively, Pavard has had major problems so far this season, although his defensive stability is a real asset for the team.
But what kind of player has Bayern got? Odriozola originates from Real Sociedad’s youth team, where he played between 2006 and 2014 before breaking into the second team. He made his professional debut in 2017 and played 50 competitive matches for his club.
Real Madrid became aware of him and his talents and signed him for around €30M. The hope: In the shadow and under the guidance of Dani Carvajal, he could grow into their new regular right-back. But nothing came of it.
Real signed Odriozola mainly because he is a very dynamic and fast player. Especially at the beginning of his time in Madrid, he seemed to be someone who could link up in combinational play with the right number eight (usually Modrić). With his drive moving forward he is also a good support for the wingers, not only by way of classic overlaps, but also with diagonal runs into the penalty area.
What Real certainly took notice of before they signed him were his six strong performances in the 2017/18 Europa League, when Odriozola won an average of 2.2 of his 4.8 dribbles per 90 minutes – a strong figure.
However, between 2017 and today, this has levelled off at around 2.7 dribbles per 90 minutes. This is partly because he never made the breakthrough at Real Madrid. He has not been able to take his great strengths in dribbling and deep runs to Real’s higher level so far, because he often seemeed to want to force the issue.
A big problem of offensive-minded full-backs is often their lack of skill at working backwards. But Odriozola seems not to suffer from this weakness too much. At Real Sociedad, he won an impressive 73% of his challenges. With his speed, he was able to get back behind the ball again quickly after losing it. Nevertheless, proper integration in the back line and protection against attacks remain important issues for Bayern as well.
After his difficult time at Real, nobody at Bayern should make the mistake of seeing the next superstar in Odriozola. He is a sensible addition to the squad and brings a decent balance of offensive and defensive skills.
Another option on the market would have been ex-Hertha player Valentino Lazaro, who has huge offensive potential, but is limited in his work back. In contrast, Odriozola is a more balanced player who brings more drive forward than Pavard.
If Odriozola could build on his performances at Real Sociedad at Bayern, he would be an important addition to the squad, especially against lesser teams. But to do so, the Spaniard will need to take the step at Bayern that he failed to take at Real Madrid. If anything, his decision making and attacking game even deteriorated there. But he is young and has already demonstrated his potential. What is more, Bayern do not take a big risk due to the deal being a loan. Especially since it gives them the time they need to find a solution in the summer. And perhaps this has already been found, should Odriozola find his way back to his old form at Bayern. Because even if they have no option to buy, there will most likely be strong competition in Carvajal and Hakimi on Odriozola’s position at Real Madrid in the summer. So there might be room for a deal irrespective of a missing option to buy, especially since the relationship between Bayern and Real is considered to be quite good.