By David Whitworth | @DCWh1tworth
Norwegian sensation Martin Ødegaard returned to Spanish football last summer with Real Sociedad and the Scandinavian prodigy has left his joyous mark.
The Ødegaard Origins
Despite the tender age of just 21, Martin Ødegaard has fit in a lot into his short footballing career. Long heralded as football’s bright young prospect since his impressive fledging performances for his Norwegian club Strømsgodset. That debut season he scored five goals in 23 appearances. The fierce race for his signature began in earnest. Ultimately, it was Spanish giants Real Madrid who secured the highly sought-after teenager. The Whites paying an initial €4 million euros for his services.
He was even awarded the privilege of a ‘Galactico’ style signing. The new kid on the block was flanked by the club’s legendary player and now head of International Relations, Emilio Butragueño. He was full of praise for him in a packed press conference covered by world wide media. He also stepped on the pitch too for photos; billed as Real Madrid’s new hope.
The Real Madrid Beginnings
Ødegaard would train with the first team and made his debut for Los Blancos (The Whites) in the final fixture of that 2014/15 season. It was a debut to remember to be part of a famous 7-3 victory over Getafe in the Santiago Bernabéu. The youngster would join the fun and make his debut from the bench in the 58th minute. In the process, he became the youngest footballer ever to appear for Real Madrid in their history. All this at just 16 years and 157 days.
But, as the footballing world followed his every move, curious to follow his progress, Madrid’s new hope didn’t turn out the way they planned – and subsequently went out on loan later with a spell at their academy team, Real Madrid Castilla which yielded a goal and seven assists in 34 games in second season with The Whites.
The Eredivisie Journey
The Netherlands would be his next destination – signing an 18-month loan deal with Frisian side Heerenveen. His time in Friesland would be crucial to his development both on and off the field, scoring two goals in 38 games. His next stop would be with fellow Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem, which was where he would really find his footballing feet. In 31 league appearances, he scored eight goals and assisted 11 times as his confidence skyrocketed.
His outstanding performances earned him a place in the 2018/2019 Team of the Year in the Dutch Eredivisie league. An impressive achievement given he was the only player voted outside of the top two teams; Ajax and PSV. He also became better known for his dribbling ability and his entertaining tricks and flicks. Just search his name online to see his own highlight reel.
Back To The Future in La Liga
And so returned to La Liga with another loan move – but this time to the Basque region and Real Sociedad. The Txuri-Urdinak (The Whites and Blues) saw enough progress to acquire him for this La Liga season. The deal also comes with an option for next season and the player is happy to stay in San Sebastián.
Subsequently, he linked up with another Scandinavian prospect with playing experience in the Netherlands in Sweden’s Alexander Isak. The two young guns have shown promising form this season with an exciting partnership forged; certainly one of the narratives of this La Liga season.
The Swedish striker has scored seven goals in 27 games in his debut season in Spanish Football. Meanwhile, Ødegaard’s star has continued to rise. Improving once again and raising the bar with four goals in 23 games with five assists and countless moments of magic.
Ødegaard Steals Show in Bernabéu Bright Lights
He even made his parent club step up and take notice when he dazzled on his return to the Bernabéu. A Copa del Rey match which was won by Real Sociedad in a thrilling match 3-4 with the Norwegian opening the scoring. Madrid were vanquished and Ødegaard was at the heart of it all, pulling the strings to knock out The Whites.
His slalom runs, driving from deep and the way he effortlessly glides along the pitch with the ball close to his feet make him pleasing on the eye and a candidate to be in the team of the season.
Both Isak and Ødegaard, the Scandinavian duo together are certainly ones to watch out for once La Liga resumes.
Glory for Norway
Back in Norway, his national team also wanted a piece of Ødegaard. He duly made his bow on the international scene. By doing this, he became the youngest capped player in Norwegian history. A ridiculous achievement at the age of 15 years and 253 days.
However, a further call up to the squad didn’t take place. A tactic done on purpose so he was able to be given the time to grow and hone his footballing craft away from the limelight of fans and media who followed and scrutinized his every move.
After a hiatus of 18 months in development, he returned to the international set up and now has 22 caps to his name, scoring one goal to date against Romania in Norway’s Euro 2020 qualifying match last June. Thanks to his improvements, the young prodigy now features for his country on a regular basis.
The problem of his enormous expectation proceeded him in his teenage formative years. But that burden has gradually eroded as he caught up with the hype which initially surrounded him. A boy changing to a man in the face of the footballing world must have been tough. To live in a goldfish bowl with unrealistic pressure at such a young age. However, in the frenzied world of football, it is the norm as supporters pin their hopes on the next big thing.
From Raw Wunderkid to Flourishing Talent
Martin Ødegaard took his time to fully prove himself on the big stage. Yet, he is now consistently showing signs of why there was such a big fuss about him years ago. He continues to solve the next big challenge and finds answers to the questions thrown his way.
A maturing prospect and a perfect symphony could be written by the Norwegian sensation by the end of this season. With that, he will continue to write his way into the record books with his very own ode to joy.