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Friday August 9 2019
Martin Odegaard primed for La Liga stardom

Martin Odegaard is back in Spain - on loan at Real Sociedad from Real Madrid - and David Whitworth explains why the Norwegian is set to shine.

Norwegian sensation Martin Odegaard is back in Spanish football this summer with Real Sociedad and the Scandinavian prodigy intends to leave his joyous mark.

Despite being at the tender age of just 20, Odegaard 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, the fierce race for his signature began, and ultimately it was Spanish giants Real Madrid who secured the highly sought-after teenager - paying an initial €4m for his services.

He was even awarded the privilege of a ‘Galactico’ style signing, flanked by the club’s legendary player and now head of International Relations, Emilio Butragueño, who praised him in a packed press conference covered by the world’s media. He was also paraded on the pitch too as Madrid’s new hope.

Odegaard would train with the first team and made his debut for Los Blancos in the final fixture of that 2014/15 season - a 7-3 victory over Getafe in the Santiago Bernabéu. The youngster would come off the bench in the 58th minute and in the process became the youngest ever football to appear for Real Madrid in their history at 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 two seasons later after an underwhelming spell with their academy team, Real Madrid Castilla.

The Netherlands would be his next destination – signing an 18-month loan deal with Heerenveen. His time in Friesland would be crucial to his development both on and off the field, scoring three goals in 38 games. His next stop would be with fellow Eredivsie side Vitesse Arnhem, which was where he would really find his footballing feet. In 31 league appearances, he scored eight goals as his confidence skyrocketed.

 

His outstanding performances earned him a place in the 2018/2019 Team of the Year in the Dutch league. 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.

And so he is back this season with another loan move - but this time in Spain. Basque side Real Sociedad saw enough progress to acquire him for this forthcoming season and the following one. He will link up with another Scandinavian prospect with playing experience in the Netherlands in Sweden’s Alexander Isak. The two young guns promise to form an exciting partnership, which could be one of the narratives of this La Liga season. One to watch out for.

Back in Norway, his national team also wanted a piece of Odegaard. He duly made his bow in the international scene – becoming the youngest capped player in Norwegian history at the age of 15 years and 253 days. However, he would not be called up again to be given the time to grow and hone his footballing craft away from the limelight of fans and media who had followed and scrutinized his every move.

After a hiatus of 18 months in development, he returned to the international set up and now has 18 caps to his name, scoring one goal to date against Romania in Norway’s Euro 2020 qualifying match this past 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 – living in a goldfish bowl with unrealistic pressure at such a young age. However, in the frenzied world of football, that is the norm as supporters pin their hopes on the next big thing.

Although Odegaard has still much to prove, he is now consistently showing signs of why there was such a big fuss about him years ago. A maturing prospect, a perfect symphony could be written by the Norwegian sensation this season – and with that, write his way into the record books with his very own ode to joy.

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