Lowdown on Manchester United target Dani Olmo: Scout Report

dani olmo, spagna u21, urla, esulta, 2019
03 July at 12:30
It is never easy for a player to give up the dream of playing for a top European club and head to a smaller club to rebuild his career again. It does require some mental resolve, toughness and determination. That is exactly what Dani Olmo did not long ago. 

Having initially begun his career at Espanyol, Olmo moved to Barcelona in July of 2007 when he was only nine and grew through the La Masia ranks at a quick rate. But when he was 17 in 2014 and at an age when many La Masia graduates start to grab the spotlight, he took the brave decision to going to Croatia to play for Dinamo Zagreb.

The club is renowned for being the breeding ground for multiple Croatian stars across Europe and when Barca wouldn’t have given him a look in at that age, Olmo made his debut for Dinamo in the first game of the 2014-15 HNL season.
While he made only five substitute appearances that season, it was clear and obvious that he would play more often at the Stadio Maksimir.

The next season, Olmo played in the 2.HNL for the Dinamo Reserves’ side and shone. He was close to the first team and played in the last game of the season, apart from impressing in the 2. HNL and in the UEFA Youth League. He primarily played as a number ten but was also used as a right winger who could drift in because of his ability to use either foot.

The next season saw his breakthrough. After appearing in the initial few games for the Reserves side and constantly playing in the UEFA Youth League, Olmo made his first start for the first team in February 2017 and became a regular feature of the side from then on. He was used more as a left winger after being used on the right in the first two games. He scored once and assisted five times that season. He also scored thrice in the Croatian Cup.

Now a regular fixture of the side, Olmo scored eight times for the first team in the 2017-18 1.HNL campaign and assisted six times too. By this time, he was attracting interest from clubs like Liverpool and AC Milan. He was predominantly being used on the left but often played on the right or centrally when the need arose. 

This past season, his role changed and he played a number ten a vast majority of times. Having three runners around him in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 shape allowed him to set people up for goals. He scored eight times this season, assisting thrice. In the recently concluded UEFA Under-21s Euros, Olmo was one of the standout players for Spain and playing on the right throughout the tournament, he scored three goals and assisted once. He even scored in the final against Germany.

Playing alongside guys like Dani Ceballos, Pablo Fornals, Mikel Oyarzabal and Borja Mayoral has made him look like a star- which he really can be. In a Spanish side that often relied on movement off the ball and the free-roaming of the players in the final third, Olmo thrived and he had the freedom of movement and the license to dictate. 

He played on the right but found himself in central areas and often on the left. Spain consistently played fluid shapes and that helped not just him, but the other players out there too. Especially Ceballos and Fornals. 

Olmo is lightning quick. While the way he plays does remind one of Kevin de Bruyne, but he isn’t as prolific a passer as the Belgian midfield maestro. He is more about carrying the ball from a team’s own half and playing shorter, crispier passes in advanced positions.

He loves to dribble past people and is helped by a truly blessed pair of feet that help him go past people as if they aren’t there. He is technically very sound and while he likes to shoot from distance, he prefers to keep his passing reserved. He is adept in playing passes in triangles- how managers like Pep Guardiola would like. At the same time, he makes movements off the ball that can drag and carve defenses open.

That is why the recent links with Manchester United make sense. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes his side to play a fluid shape and they were really good at that during his early days as the club manager. The likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba had the license and freedom to move about in the final third. 

That is the sort of system Olmo will thrive on and it will bring the best out of him. Where there isn’t a fixed position for anyone. While United have been calling out for right-wingers, it really depends on the path that Solskjaer is taking going forward. If he wants to have a traditional winger who hugs the touchline in advanced positions to put crosses in,Olmo isn’t the man. But if he wants to use the ways in which he brought smiles back on the faces of United faithfuls, Olmo fits right in.

By Kaustubh Pandey (@Kaus_Pandey17)


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