Who Is Martin Odegaard? By Dan Smith
I’m not one of these gooners who is going to pretend that two months ago I knew who Martin Odegaard was. I don’t remember my peers ever mentioning him as an Arsenal transfer target until the media did.
I do remember the attention he got that all youngsters get when they sign for Real Madrid. Back then it was big sporting news in Norway as his latest move will be because this is a talent the country’s been obsessed with since he was a teenager.
As much as we need to focus on ability good enough to be at the Bernabeau in the first place, we have to question why now at 22 he’s failed to break into their first team! Equally while a loan at Real Sociedad was a success, why were stays in other parts of Europe not?
To give you an idea of the high hopes put on him at youth level; at the age of 10 his club Stromsgodet promoted him up by two age groups, which the Norwegian FA copied when organising district teams.
At 18 he was awarded the Statoil award which gave him celebrity status to those in his homeland even if they didn’t like football. Statoil are one of the richest companies in the world, who sponsor young talent with a prize of funding
At only 15, he became the youngest player to start and score in the Tippleligaen (Norway first division). This prompted a nationwide debate. Would it be unfair to put the pressure of international football on such young shoulders?
At 15 years, 253 days, Odegaard became the youngest to get a senior cap. Think how everyone talked about the emergence of Wayne Rooney in England. That was now the level of attention a 15-year-old was getting in Norway, with a ‘who’s who’ of football (including us) inviting him for trials.
At 16, Real Madrid paid 3 million – rising to 8 million, starting the kid in their B team, managed by Zidane at the time. It remains the biggest fee Stromsgodet have ever received, and if the midfielder wasn’t already a celebrity in Norway, he was now that he was joining the most famous club in the world.
There’s no disgrace to struggle to break into a midfield of Ronaldo, Bale and Modric. Real had always maintained he was a signing for the future, but the Spanish press (aware of the hype) were less patient. They started to write stories of the language and culture change being an issue.
He had to wait until the final game of the season (with La Liga won) to become their youngest ever player to feature in the League.
22 months after joining, he finally started his first game for the senior team.
At 18 it was natural he would be playing mostly for the B team but in the Spanish and Norwegian press it was built as some sort of failure on his part.
Cue stories about being home sick and not settled. For the first time he realised how ruthless the media can be, the same media that built him up. While not playing first team football he wasn’t considered for his national team either.
Real insisted plans to loan the player were all part of his development and not a reflection on his ability.
His form for Heerenveen and then Vitesse was enough to get him recalled for the national team.
A loan to Real Sociedad was make or break in terms of proving if he was now mature enough to adapt to Spanish football?
Up till the first lockdown, Sociedad were viewed as one of the most entertaining teams to watch in La Liga, with Odegaard at the heart of it. In a bizarre yet crucial moment in his career, he scored and was the star performer when he knocked his parent club out of the Copa Del Rey.
Disappointed to go out at the quarter finals, Madrid fans comforted themselves with the knowledge that one of the league’s best talents would be their player again in the summer. After all that was the intention of the loan.
It was assumed in pre-season that Real would break up their ageing midfield by using the likes of Ceballos and Odegaard. Part of the reason it is believed that Zidane’s job is on the line is his refusal to do so. With finances tight due to zero match day revenue, the president was hopeful of youngsters now getting a chance instead of reliance on the same old names.
Now in his 4th loan, by the time he returns to Spain he might have a new manager willing to break up the old guard.
Madrid have again stressed that this short-term deal doesn’t mean the end of his career.
Yet the Norwegian will feel he proved last season he was good enough, so if he were to light up the Premiership as well, at 22 he might not want to wait around much longer. He’s an example to youngsters of what can go wrong when joining a huge institution so soon.
He would have been better off being at a smaller club but playing all the time instead of at Real, who like to stockpile talent. They have no intention of starting Odegaard but are scared to let others have him just in case he achievs his potential.
There’s zero guarantees.
Arsenal’s recent record when it comes to loans has been poor. Suarez was a similar story. A player not playing at Barcelona who could reinvent himself at the Emirates. It didn’t happen.
Ceballos’s FA Cup final performance earnt him a second loan, but he hasn’t done enough for a permanent move or a place in Real’s first team.
Odegaard might take a while to struggle with the English culture like he did the Spanish? (his first choice was to stay in Spain)
What I do know is in terms of picking the right club to show case his talent we tick all the boxes. We are renowned for playing the style of football he’s used to and which Arteta insists he wants to play. We lack creatively so there is room in the team for him to be the main man.
Also it seems that Arteta and Edu are long term admirers of the player.
Would Arsenal have been interested if we had to pay a transfer fee?
With Arsenal 8th in the League, do I wish a Billionaire owner would show more ambition than loans?
Will we save money this January? Of course.
Yet none of that is Odegaard’s fault, and it doesn’t mean he can’t be better then what we have?
We can but hope.
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