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Spain’s newest prodigy walked away from football’s most famed academy and snubbed Europe’s biggest clubs

Sometimes, you’ve got to step outside of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith.

Just ask RB Leipzig’s new signing Dani Olmo, who walked away from football’s most famed academy as a teenager and turned his nose up at some of Europe’s biggest clubs, all in favour of his own development.

And it’s paid off big time.


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Sign on the dotted line

RB Leipzig
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Sign on the dotted line

In Olmo, Leipzig have snapped up one of European football’s most exciting young prospects, and in turn he’ll be competing in an environment that is perfect for a player with lots of ambition.

Like many other Spanish starlets, Olmo started out at Barca’s famed La Masia academy, which developed the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi into the world-beaters they are today.

But just like a few before him, Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin, for example, Olmo turned his back on his hometown club to move abroad in search of first-team opportunities.

It was through the advice of his father, Miquel Olmo, a football coach in Spain’s second-tier, who believed moving away from Barcelona and joining a club that will grant his son first-team action would positively aide his development.

So, at just 16, he turned his back on the world’s most famous club and joined up with Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, the same side that helped breakthrough the careers of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic.

Zagreb allowed Olmo the perfect environment to flourish

Getty - Contributor
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Zagreb allowed Olmo the perfect environment to flourish

It turned out to be a very wise decision, as he was almost immediately fast-tracked into Zagreb’s first-team squad, made his league debut as a 16-year-old, and quickly found his scoring boots.

Since then, the Spain U21 starlet was named Croatia’s Player of the Year and earned glowing reviews for his performances in this season’s Champions League, which saw him notch two goals and an assist.

Accolades and opportunities like these just don’t come around as often when you’re waiting around at a club that’s already brimming with star names.

Carlos Alena, for example, who was in the same year group as Olmo at La Masia, found game-time at Barcelona hard to come by this season and, after a growing frustrated, finally decided to leave for Real Betis earlier this month.

Barca even had the gall of taking away the young midfielder’s No.21 jersey at the start of the campaign, handing it instead to summer signing Frenkie de Jong without any forewarning.

Alena moved to Betis in January

Getty Images - Getty
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Alena moved to Betis in January

There have been no such problems for Olmo, who’s only decision in recent months have been which club he should move to next.

His meteoric rise meant he’d reached the ceiling at Zagreb, and a move this season was always on the cards.

Barcelona, typically, came calling, as did AC Milan and a plethora of other footballing giants, including the usual suspects from the Premier League.

But his eyes were firmly on the Bundesliga and the German league’s extraordinary recent record of nurturing young talent.

Olmo is Spain’s latest prodigy

AFP or licensors
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Olmo is Spain’s latest prodigy

Bayern, who’ve always had the better of their top-tier rivals when it comes to signing players, were adamant the 21-year-old would choose them, as so many others had before.

But it’s the player’s move to Leipzig, to work under the genius of Julian Nagelsmann, that further shows off his footballing values.

Rumour has it Bayern were so desperate for the player that they were willing to give Dinamo significantly more money than Leipzig, but the final decision was reportedly all down to the player himself.

In a last ditch effort, Bayern contacted Dinamo four times in the eleventh hour in an attempt to hijack the deal, but Olmo was unfazed.

Next move…

RB Leipzig
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Next move…

The traditional route to stardom isn’t for everyone, as Olmo’s journey demonstrates.

Perhaps this is as a lesson to some of the game’s youngest stars still waiting for their first-team break, such as Phil Foden at Man City?

Sometimes, it’s worth taking a leap of faith.


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