Norwegian whiz-kid Martin Ødegaard has finally made a decision on his future, and has chosen Spanish giants Real Madrid as the club he feels will allow him to reach the lofty heights that are now expected of him.
The 16-year-old attacking midfielder has been Europe’s most sought after prospect in recent months, and has racked up the air miles since turning 16 back in December. He is rumoured to have visited and/or trained with up to 30 European clubs including Manchester United, Ajax, and boyhood club Liverpool.
Following one of the most protracted transfer sagas in recent years, Ødegaard has penned his first professional contract and will ply his trade in the Spanish capital, but it won’t necessarily be for the 10 time European Champions. Ødegaard will now have his sights set on rubbing shoulders with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, but for now he will have to make do with Raul de Tomas, Alvaro Medran and Scottish prospect Jack Harper – under the tutelage of the legendary Zinedine Zidane.
He is expected to begin life in Madrid with Real’s B-team, Real Madrid Castilla. Castilla play in the Spanish third division following their relegation in 2013-14, which poses the question – Is the Spanish 3rd tier the best place for this undoubted talent to develop? Or will the lack of competition and players of similar ability stifle his development?
Down the years, Castilla have been responsible for producing Real’s next crop of talent, and notable graduated include the great Raul and Iker Casillas, as well as Alvaro Arbeloa, Juan Mata and Roberto Soldado. However, more recently only Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata (now at Juventus) have successfully made the step up to the Bernabeu.
Having made the decision to move to Madrid from Strømsgodset, Castilla is probably the best avenue to aid his development. If he were to be thrust straight into the first-team, the pressure and expectancy to deliver at the highest level could cripple his confidence. However, simply training with the first-team on a daily basis, watching Ronaldo and Bale hone their skills, would have its obvious benefits. But that alone wouldn’t be enough.
Is Madrid the best decision for his immediate future? Probably not. Of the interested teams, Ajax would have been the best move for Ødegaard, given their reputation for developing and nurturing raw talent, while the Eredivisie is still competitive enough to prevent stagnation of his development.
Has this been a footballing decision on the part of Ødegaard and his representatives? Again, probably not. But to be fair to him, if you are sat down in a room with Zinedine Zidane, in an office with pictures of footballing greats such as Alfredo di Stefano, Raul, David Beckham, Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo, being told ‘one day Martin, your picture can be up there…’, it’s hardly surprising that the young man’s head has been turned.
Hopefully Martin Ødegaard can fulfil his potential and reach greatness, rather than being chewed up and spat out into the abyss of the football wasteland.