Dani Olmo is not a name that many will be overly familiar with.
In fact, it’s a name not many outside of Croatia would have heard of before. And why would they? After all, we’re talking about a young 21-year-old Spanish midfielder playing his football for Dinamo Zagreb in the capital of Croatia, a city of only about 800k people in total.
But something about this kid oozes potential. He is a special talent that’s been already catching the eye of some big fish around Europe. But who exactly is Olmo and what makes him so special?
The young Spaniard is the product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, a place which he joined from their heated city rivals Espanyol. It didn’t take long for him to make a case for himself but for one reason or another he decided to leave Catalonia for Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia’s biggest and most successful club, in a rather surprising move.
It’s safe to say that, despite their domestic glory, they’re hardly a club for the biggest of stages. But Olmo looks to be a player for exactly that type of scenario.
Even at such a young age, he is exceptionally skilful and technically gifted. The numbers clearly support this thesis as Olmo registered a total of 12 goals and nine assists in 44 games across all competitions in the 2018/19 season. But as good as the figures make him look, especially considering these are the numbers of a midfielder, they hardly do him justice.
His passing capabilities vary from game to game, but according to the stats provided by Wyscout, his average completion rate stands at 77.9%. But that doesn’t really give us the full picture. Upon analysing those statistics in more detail, we can see that he also sends 5.66 passes into the final third and 2.7 into the box.
What makes him particularly indispensable is the fact that he can fuel the build-up as well as set up his teammates with fantastic passes into the danger zones. He will regularly drop deep into midfield to help progress the ball forward and his resistance to the press means he rarely loses the ball.
Let’s see how that translates onto the pitch. In the example below, we can see him initiating a swift transition despite being collapsed upon by multiple markers. His exceptional dribbling ability, which averages at around 7.24 dribbles per game, ensures he can keep the ball, shake off his marker and then play a through ball to his teammate.
We can also see that he is dangerous even when contained to a relatively small area of operation. This trait also complements his great awareness and creation of space. For that reason, he excels inside the final third and is fantastic at setting up his teammates.
In the next example, we can see him between the lines, receiving the ball from one of his teammates. The opposing defenders once again try to squeeze the space but their efforts are undone by the awareness and intelligence of Olmo.
The 5ft 10 midfielder is quite the asset going forward by either assisting the ball progression and fueling the build-up, starting swift transitions and distributing killer passes in and around the opposition’s box. But there are more strings to the bow of this gem beyond his attacking prowess. In fact he is also quite efficient when defending, too.
One of his strongest defensive traits is his ability to win the ball back and turn defence into attack within seconds. Last season, he averaged 6.57 recoveries of the ball per game, with 58.6% happening in the opposition’s half. He also wins an average of 57.8% of all defensive duels.
At Dinamo Zagreb, his defensive responsibilities vary but are mostly confined to cover shadowing and pressing the opposition in a hunt to retrieve the ball in dangerous positions. Olmo will often be deployed higher up the pitch and tasked to make the opponent either clear the ball blindly or make a risky pass.
But what is even more admirable is the aggressive nature of his defending, meaning that Olmo will always look to track back and participate in his defensive duties. This is especially true if he is the one losing the ball in the first place. An example below shows that kind of a situation unfolding in a game for Dinamo Zagreb.
Even though the young midfielder is still playing his football at a club that may soon become far too small for his appetite, he’s been able to showcase his quality and attract some big suitors.
For now, though, it still remains to be seen what exactly will happen to this Spanish gem in the future, but if these early signs are any indication it seems like it’s going to be a bright one indeed.