Touted as one of the hottest prospects in the game, it was only a matter of time before he left his home in Norway for pastures new. After months of speculation, Stromsgodset prodigy Martin Odegaard has finally signed for Real Madrid for a reported fee of around 3m Euros. A formal announcement and unveiling is expected today at the Bernabeau as the 16 year old is presented to the Spanish media. The Norwegian wonder kid has chosen to move to the European champions ahead of various other lucrative offers including ones from boyhood favourites Liverpool, Manchester United, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Madrid rivals Barcelona. But the draw of working with Carlo Ancelotti and being part of the new generation of Galatico’s was too good to refuse. Ancelotti has already spoken about his delight in getting the deal done proclaiming that Odegaard is a kid with exceptional talent and personality.
Born in December 1998, Odegaard was always destined to be a footballer as his father was a huge influence on him in his early years. Hans Erik Odegaard, a former player himself, has nurtured his son throughout his childhood and instill a strong work ethic into him, regularly encouraging his son to train for a minimum of 20 hours per week, even as a small child. Many have criticized Hans for being a pushy parent but he insists that Martin always dreamed of becoming a footballer much like other boys his age so all he was doing was encouraging his development into one. And what a job he did. Martin’s endless hours spent practicing and perfecting his technique have made him into one of the most exciting players ever to emerge from Norway. Hans would also provide Martin with his first step into the game by landing him a trial at his old club Stromsgodset who quickly snapped up the youngster before any one else could. As the bigger teams across Europe started to get wind of this talented 12 year old, Stromsgodset with the help of his father pulled the player closer and encouraged him not to become distracted with their interest and to focus on his career in Norway which would start by breaking into the first team. His progression was quick with Martin joining first team training sessions aged 13 before eventually making it onto the subs bench two year later.
Odegaard became the youngest player ever to play in the Tippeligaen at aged 15 years and 117 days when he was handed his Norwegian league debut for Stromsgodset against Aaelsund. Then manager Ronny Delia, now head coach at Celtic in Scotland, saw something magical in the boy and decided it was time to let him shine. Appearing as a substitute in the 72nd minute of the game, Odegaard wasted little time in showcasing his natural ability by dancing round four players before playing an inch perfect pass to fellow substitute and teammate Thomas Sorum to score. One month later he would score his first goal for the club in a 4-1 victory over Sarpsborg, making him the league’s youngest ever scorer, a record that had stood for over 100 years. Two months later he would make his European debut in the Champion’s league second qualifying round defeat to Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti. By now speculation was mounting over how long it would be before the wonder kid was called up to the national team. Having starred in Norway’s Under 17 team in a tournament played in Scotland back in early 2014, it was expected that Odegaard would be made to wait and move slowly through the ranks before making his full debut. However with manager Per Mathias Hogmo under increasing pressure to freshen up his under performing squad ahead of the start of the European Championship qualifying stage, Hogmo accelerated Odegaard’s progress and handed him his full debut in a friendly against Saudi Arabia. A month later he became the youngster ever player to play in a European Championship qualifier as he rose from the bench to replace Mats Moller Daehli in the 2-1 win over Bulgaria.
Carrying the label of the next Lionel Messi is a heavy burden for someone so young but his father is confident that his son will be able to cope. Having spent hours working on his first and second touches plus running at pace with the ball, Hans believes his son has the tools to emulate his idol and become a player of similar stature. Fellow professionals agree calling him a phenomenon and a player with unbelievable talent, the best that Norway has ever produced. High praise for a player who is still only 16 and has a lot to prove in the game. But at Madrid, Odegaard will get the best coaching that money can buy and has the best chance of becoming the player that many hope he will. His father, who has protected his son well and kept him grounded, will be beside his son all the way on his journey after accepting a youth coaching role with Real Madrid as well. Both Odegaards are now looking forward to the next chapter in their lives with Hans determined to make their time in Spain a success. Success comes in various forms but for his son getting into the first team and playing for Madrid is the dream. With an already talented squad, it may be a harder and longer road for the young player but a journey he is prepared to take as he looks to become the next Lionel Messi.