Martin Odegaard might have gone from being Real Madrid’s first Galatico teenager to little boy lost at the Bernabeu, but three years after his fanfare arrival in Spain there are finally signs that he might be about to start fulfilling his potential.
Odegaard moved on loan to Heerenveen in January of this year and after struggling in the Eredivisie at first he has finally become a first choice regular. He has played all of the side’s eight games so far this season, and clocked almost 700 minutes on the field.
Madrid are monitoring his progress and want him back at the end of his loan period next summer so that he can link up with £40million Brazilian 17-year-old Vinicius Juinor, who is also on loan with Flamengo and also due back at the end of this season.
Martin Odegaard cuts a grown-up figure as he plays for Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie
The Norwegian was just 16-years-old when he was treated to a presentation at Real Madrid
MARTIN ODEGAARD – THE KEY STATS
Chances created: 12
Key passes: 15
Passes per game: 46.6
Pass accuracy: 84%
Dribbles completed: 25
Odegaard is playing on the right-hand side of Heerenveen’s front three and the Dutch side are going well. They were thumped 4-0 by Ajax before the international break but it was a blip in a perfect start to the season and they stayed above them in the table, just four points off the lead.
It’s the continuity that he craved at Madrid and, still only 18, the Spanish club believe he is back on course to justify the financial effort they made to bring him to Spain back in 2015.
El Mundo revealed his contract include a payment of €50,000 (£44,000) for every game that he played and there was a €10m (£8.8m) signing-on fee.
Odegaard will start for Norway’s Under 21 side against Germany on Tuesday night having played in the 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland last week.
Odegaard originally hit the headlines after breaking into the Stromsgodset side at 15
He became the youngest star in European Championships history at 15 years and 300 days
But he struggled at Real Madrid after being sent to play with the Castilla B-Team
Odegaard would have hoped to make an impression under Zinedine Zidane (right)
He scored a sensational free-kick earlier in qualifying against Kosovo and his return to the Under 21 fold, after making his debut for Norway’s senior team aged just 15, is another sign of a deliberate slowing down of his career after the heady heights came so soon.
Norwegian journalist Joachim Baardsen of the newspaper VG told Sportsmail: ‘Lars Lagerback said that he was really close to being involved in the squad although he tends to prefer more physical players, and plays with a 4-4-2 system, so the senior team as it is right now doesn’t suit him that well.
‘But he has great for Heerenveen this season and, if he continues the progress, it will be very difficult to not include him in Norway’s senior squad next year.’
The Madrid nightmare is still fresh in the memory. He was training occasionally with the first team – because his contract demanded it – but stuck in the footballing backwater that was Spain’s regional third division playing for Castilla.
Odegaard trained with superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid
He is starting to show his true potential in a Heerenveen side performing above expectation
Odegaard now looks a physical match for his opponents despite his relatively young age
He played 62 games for Madrid’s B-team and scored just five goals. There was some resentment from team-mates when he disappeared to train with the first team during the week and former Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti wrote in his book: ‘It was a PR signing. I did not ask for it.’
But despite sending him out on loan, Real Madrid renewed their commitment to him this September by extending his contract until 2021 and now believe they are starting to see signs that he will make it at the Bernabeu.
They paid big money for him three years ago. It might still yet turn out be very well spent.