Is it time Martin Odegaard returned to Madrid?
Background image: Elemaki/Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Martin Odegaard is only 20 years old. A fact which seems ridiculous when you consider how long he has been in our footballing consciousness.
He started training with Norwegian side Stromsgodset at the tender age of 13 - which, again, seems ludicrous when you factor in the life of a normal adolescent entails nothing but cartoons and crisps. Odegaard made his league debut just two years later and he'd sign his first professional contract just a month after that.
It only took a further eight weeks for Stromsgodset to hand Odegaard his European debut when he came off the bench in a 1-0 defeat to Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League third qualifying round.
He was destined for big things and regarded by many as the future of Norwegian football. Odegaard was the player they hoped could lead The Lions out of the doldrums. Born in December of 1998, Odegaard has not seen his country qualify for a World Cup in his lifetime - and was only one when the Scandanavian outfit made their last European Championship appearance. In France 2000, they were knocked out in the group stages...
Odegaard had trials with a number of top European clubs towards the end of 2014 and shortly after, the then-teenager signed for Real Madrid.
Under the guidance of Zinedine Zidane, Odegaard played for Castilla, Madrid’s reserves, but to date has only started once for the first team.
When a club makes the kind of statement about a young player’s talent that Madrid did, expectation inevitably follows. In a squad packed full of midfield talent, in which there was no room for the Norweigan, Odegaard was sent out on loan to Holland; first to SC Heerenveen and then Vitesse.
Impatience is rife in football, no more so than at Real Madrid. After the youngster's failure to break into the first team, despite the fact he was only a teenager, many assumed that the move to bring Odegaard to the Bernabeu was a career-blunder. He was being regarded as another talented youngster who failed to improve and would eventually fade away completely...
There have been many that fit that mould. Freddy Adu's name springs to mind.
While Real Madrid was racking up Champions League title after Champions League title, Odegaard was putting in some hard graft in Holland.
During his loan spells, he racked up 82 appearances and 15 goals for Heerenveen and Vitesse and was rewarded with a place in the Eredivisie Team of the Year at the end of last season.
This term Odegaard finds himself back in Spain with Real Sociedad and his Dutch education seems to be bearing fruit. His name is back in the headlines and the excitement surrounding him, which had waned, is beginning to build once again. Sociedad sits second in La Liga after six games, ironically just a point behind Odegaard’s parent club.
Spain based football writer Sid Lowe, like many others, sang Odegaard’s praises after his recent performance against Alaves when the Norweigan created ten chances in the match; the most by a single player in a La Liga game since 2016, including a sumptuous assist for Mikel Oyarzabal.
After shelling out over £200million during the summer transfer window, Madrid should be content in the knowledge that they have a talent on their books that they can call on if needed without having to spend a penny. This year will surely be Odegaard’s last as a loanee. He will be 21 by the time the 2020/21 season kicks off and finally ready to take his place in the Los Blancos first team. Who knows, the young man could be the natural successor to an ageing Luka Modric, who's now 34...
The re-emergence of the young Norwegian could be bad news for Spurs’ want-away playmaker Christian Eriksen who has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid. At 27, Eriksen still has a lot of football left to play but it would make more sense for Madrid to look at someone they already own before dipping their toes into the transfer market.
If he does end up back in the Spanish capital next term, Odegaard will be one of a number of exciting young talents that could shepherd in a new era for Madrid.
Brazilians Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, aged 19 and 18 respectively, were on the scoresheet as Los Blancos maintained their unbeaten start to the season against Osasuna on Wednesday, whilst Eder Militao, another young Brazilian, started at centre-back and looked impressive.
Real Madrid is renowned for its unpredictability and volatility. The question mark is no longer over Odegaard’s ability; but rather if the club can look past its own drama and recognise the sense in bringing back a player who's one of the most exciting youngsters within the sport...