Martin Odegaard still has a Real Madrid future but a loan could fulfil potential

As soon as Real Madrid Castilla's bid for promotion to Spain's second tier was thwarted by UCAM Murcia in the Segunda B playoffs, the writing was on the wall for Martin Odegaard.

If Castilla, then coached by Luis Miguel Ramis, had achieved their goal, the view facing their new manager, Santiago Solari, might have been very different. As it stands, Solari and Castilla, Real Madrid's reserve team, face a long and grim season. They lost four of their five preseason matches, albeit without a good chunk of the squad, who were taken to the U.S. to cover for Euro 2016 absences, and they have lost their two top scorers from last season in Mariano Diaz and Borja Mayoral.

Mayoral has gone to Wolfsburg on loan, a perfect platform for the young striker to develop in the manner that Dani Carvajal did at Bayer Leverkusen. Mariano will likely have his pick of clubs after his exploits for Castilla last season. The Dominican forward's cracking strike against Chelsea on Real's preseason tour announced his talent to a wider audience, and there will be no shortage of suitors.

For Odegaard, meanwhile, he may be off to Rennais. Senior-team manager Zinedine Zidane worked at the Ligue 1 club during his UEFA coaching course and sees the French side as the ideal place for Odegaard to gain some top-flight experience. The Norwegian had been holding out for a move to the Bundesliga or the Premier League, preferably at Liverpool. If he lacked grounding previously, he'll certainly find it when lumps are being kicked out of him in Guingamp and Metz.

It could be the fit that Odegaard needs. The 17-year-old has seen his career stagnate at Real Madrid when he had the world at his feet 18 months ago. Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal all hosted the child prodigy in late 2014 but Real secured his signature, to considerable fanfare.

A clause in his contract stipulating that he would train with the first team while playing for Castilla probably didn't help his integration. Clearly not ready to challenge for a place in the senior side, Odegaard did not endear himself to his peers by refusing to do the hard yards with Castilla while earning a reported €1.2 million a year.

Zidane was far from impressed during the two half seasons they spent together in the reserves. Odegaard made just nine starts under the Frenchman after his unveiling in January 2015 with Zidane unconvinced the teenager's training schedule was beneficial to either party.

Odegaard's numbers at Castilla have not helped his cause. Zidane tried a variety of positions to bring out the best in his player, but a return of one goal and three assists in 27 appearances under the former reserve team boss was not what the Bernabeu board had hoped for. Under Ramis in the second half of 2015-16, Odegaard's contribution improved slightly -- five assists in 18 games -- but it was not until the final day of the season in a 6-1 rout of La Roda that he opened his scoring account.

The voices expressing an opinion on Odegaard go to show the impact the youngster has had at Real, at least in the media. Carlo Ancelotti termed his signing "a PR move."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who knows a thing or two about expectation at an early age, didn't mince his words after playing against Odegaard in an international friendly in June 2015: "Firstly, he has to grow up and become a man, then get rid of his father [who landed a coaching job at Real as part of Odegaard's deal]," Ibrahimovic opined, adding: "He was good. He played simply without losing too many balls. He has a lot of time to improve more."

In part, Odegaard has suffered from a classic case of too much, too soon. A nascent talent in a country deprived of a top-level player since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called it a day, the urge to fast-track Odegaard was inevitable. But at club level, he should have been given more time to develop, either at Stromsgodset or on loan at a level somewhere between Segunda B and the very top. Marco Asensio's season at Espanyol after being plucked from second-tier Mallorca is a case in point.

Now, Odegaard's career can go one of two ways. Either the midfielder, who has also seen his opportunities with Norway dry up a result of his underwhelming spell at Castilla, will grasp the opportunity in Ligue 1 with both hands or he will go the way of so many child prodigies before him and let his talent slip through his fingers.

Zidane believes the Stade Rennais experience will toughen Odegaard up. The fact the French side have no purchase option suggests Real still believe in the Norwegian. It remains to be seen if Odegaard still believes in himself.