Scouting – The Scandanavian Wonderkid : Martin Ødegaard
Welcome to the fourth episode of Goalden Times’ scouting series, The Next Big Thing. This time, Debopam Roy at Goalden Times profiles the Martin Ødegaard , the Scandanavian Wonderkid.
Martin ØdegaardThey say that some are earmarked for greatness and to others greatness comes to earmark their arrival. When you are the youngest ever player in your league, youngest goalscorer of your league, youngest debutant for your nation and youngest player ever to feature in a European competition, then you are someone special. Even The One, Leo Messi had not racked up the achievements of Martin Ødegaard (pronounced ødəɡo:r) at this age.
Club: Real Madrid
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Date of Birth: 17th December 1998 at Drammen, Norway
Height: 1.76 meters
Preferred Foot: Left
Born in the small riverside city of Drammen, Norway, Martin initially played for his local sports club Drammen Strong which his father co-founded and even coached in. His talent first came to the fore while he was playing in the youth ranks of Strømsgodset. In June 2011, the best clubs of Norway had sent in their U-15 teams for a tournament and Martin was playing for Strømsgodset. Almost three years younger than anyone else in that tournament, Martin proceeded to display the kind of control, finesse and passing ability that would see him make his national team debut at the age of 15 years and 253 days breaking the record of one Tormod Kjellsen by almost 100 days and one which was set in 1910. But even though that journey from the U-15 tournament to his full debut only took three years, a lot had changed. His time at Strømsgodset was well utilised. He had developed pace, close control and shooting prowess which belied his age. The stature was short but then when was stature an indication of greatness.
Career so far:
2014 was a pivotal year for Martin. He made his debut for Strømsgodset in April aged 15 years and 118 days – youngest ever in Norwegian top division. In May, he signed his first professional contract and soon scored his first professional goal for Strømsgodset becoming the youngest ever goal scorer in Norwegian top division. In July he made his debut in Europe, playing in the Champions League qualifier for Strømsgodset. And then the national team came calling. Already in the previous two years, Martin had played for U15, U16, U17 and even U21 teams so it was only fair that he would get into the national team after scoring five goals and providing six assists in the 2014 season for Strømsgodset which took his club to fourth spot.
The scouts were always there and some of the best clubs wanted Martin’s signature – he had trained with Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and finally Real Madrid. Finally on January 21, 2015, Real Madrid reached an agreement to sign Ødegaard from Strømsgodset, for a fee reported by Spanish media as around €3 million. Norwegian media reported, however, that the fee was 35 million kroner (approximately €4 million), which could rise to 70-75 million kroner (approximately €8-8.5 million) on certain conditions. It is a huge step up – from the backwaters of Norway to the supply lines of the most decorated club in Europe. For one so young, it is doubly challenging. The skill development and honing would happen for sure, but could Martin handle the pressure to perform for such a decorated club?
Strength and Weakness:
Martin is predominantly left footed and can play anywhere from midfield to a withdrawn forward. His strengths lie in his mastery of technique and first touch. Mentally he is strong, highly determined, fairly sporting, very ambitious and spirited. For one so young, he has composure belying his age. He still needs to improve on his finishing and movement if he is to break into the Madrid first team. His 23 matches for Strømsgodset yielded five goals and provided six assists – thus being responsible for a goal every 131 minutes of matchplay. That prolific nature has decreased after he joined Madrid and has scored a single goal in his 561 minutes across nine matches in the second tier of Spanish league. That goal was the opener in a crushing 4-0 win for Real’s B side Castilla over Barakaldo. Martin exalted afterwards: “It’s great to score my first goal here.I feel very comfortable here. It’s easy training with the best players in the world.”
Martin’s under massive pressure , especially since rumours of a £80,000 a week salary spread like wild fire, thus putting his performance under closer scrutiny . Besides,he will always be compared with the other prodigies .. And so is he the next Messi or the next Ronaldo or the next Rooney or just the next Freddy Adu? All of them were prodigies. But these comparisons can wait for another time. For now, Martin Ødegaard deserves to grow and reach his full potential and only then those comparisons maybe answered.