Written by Josh Kotecha
Martin Odegaard has been named as the new Arsenal captain. He has proven to be a key leader in the Arsenal dressing room and vital to Arteta’s system. However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the Norwegian as he has had to fight hard against adversity and media pressures. Starting off his career at Stromgodset he broke many records that year becoming the youngest ever debutant in the Norwegian league’s history. Only 34 days later he became the league’s youngest ever scorer and went on that summer to become the youngest ever debutant for the Norway national team, playing a full 90 minutes against UAE. A player hyped and compared to the legend Lionel Messi, there was a load of expectations for this kid and with that came many of Europe’s elites battling it out for his
signature! Instead of the player trying to impress the clubs, it was the clubs trying to impress this teenage boy to come to their club. In the end Odegaard finally got his big move as he moved to arguably the greatest club of all time, Real Madrid for a fee of £2.3m.
On 23rd May 2015, Martin Odegaard was the youngest La Liga debutant as the world eagerly watched to admire this talent who had been lauded with praise over the past year. It wasn’t exactly the dream start for the Norwegian. Whilst training with Real Madrid’s first team he played matches with Real Madrid Castilla. He never trained with the team he was playing for on match-days so he struggled to get a good chemistry with the team and from the outside, it seemed like there was a little bit of envy from teammates. They saw a player who earnt more than they could dream, had more attention and media attention despite being the youngest, and seemed more interested in playing with Ronaldo and the Madrid first team than helping the Castilla squad. It was a tough move for Martin as it would be for anyone never mind a kid. This was a kid with the world on his shoulders. His performances weren’t anything special or anything close to the expectations at Madrid. He needed a move away in which he could come back ready to handle the demands of Los Blancos.
Odegaard was loaned to Dutch side Heerenveen on an 18 month loan. He put in a series of average midfield displays struggling to even compete in the Eredevise. It was truly upsetting for the world to see this kid struggle to live up to the hype and potential he had, being crushed by media expectation and massive judgement at every move he made, after all he was just a kid. Despite a slightly
disappointing loan the head coach of Heerenveen was very optimistic about the youngster saying “It was very nice working with him. Every day he became better. At ages 17-18 when he came you could see in his mind he grew up”
At Arsenal we have seen the Odegaard is a versatile player who can be used at CM or even RW. This versatility was developed by some great coaching on his loan at Vitesse. Manager Leonid Slutsky gave him the confidence to play his own game and took the Madrid loanee from the attacking midfielder position to right wing. This allowed him to flourish and produce his best performances.
Odegaard had a very successful season bagging 9 goals and creating 12 assists. He was voted the clubs POTY and was statistically better than De Jong’s time at Vitesse. His loan at the Dutch side stirred up excitement amongst Madrid fans. They were starting to see glimpses of the player he was hyped up to be, some even claiming he was to start for Zidane’s team.
However his fantastic loan at Vitesse was followed up with a spectacular tenure at Real Sociedad, a move much closer to home. He became an instant fan favourite producing fantastic displays on a regular basis winning La Liga POTM in September proving he was one of the most talented in the division. To make things sweeter he came back to haunt Real Madrid, helping Sociedad knock his
parent club out of the Copa Del Ray with a goal in an amazing 4-3 win. After consistent displays of brilliance and demands from Madrid fans his loan was cut short with Real Madrid recalling the youngster. There was massive excitement. He had returned as an incredible player and fans convinced he was good enough to play on the big stage and starting 11 at the Bernabeu. Despite being given many chances to prove himself and starting the campaign in the starting 11 he again struggled to impress. The Norwegian continued to experience difficulty to perform under Zidane and after a poor run of games and an injury he was quickly removed from the team. It was also unhelpful that Zidane was reluctant to play a 4-3-2-1 formation in which Odegaard had flourished the most. It
seemed there was no place at Real Madrid for Odegaard and perhaps it was time to commit fully to a new club.
Meanwhile in North London Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal were trying to get out of a nightmare run of form. Pressure mounting from fans to sack the manager, club sat 15th in the league a handful of points away from relegation, 1 win in 10 games and a squad crying out for creativity with the Arsenal team clueless on the ball and Mezut Ozil frozen out of the side. That January Odegaard was brought in on loan to the Emirates with the hope that if he impressed he could be bought on a permanent deal. Arsenals form massively increased as they managed to claw back the positions to 8th winning 5 out of their next 6 games and conceding only 2. Entering a side on the up and in need for a creative player Odegaard and Arsenal seemed to be a perfect match. He showed moments of excellence most notably his equaliser in the North London derby. However Martin took time to adapt to the premier league but since the deal was made permanent for £31.5m he has become increasingly influential in Arteta’s system and is the manager’s clear favourite in the no10 role being compared to peak Mezut Ozil! During his time at the Emirates the Ex Madrid flop has shone producing fantastic performances in style with little flicks and tricks coming with his impressive stats. This player just oozes class and with great power comes great responsibility although he took his new responsibilities with great enthusiasm. Odegaard was rewarded in 2021 becoming Norway captain and later on being engraved into history with names such as Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams as he was named Arsenal captain at just 23! An exciting future awaits for the player who was thrown into the deep end which forced the transition from a boy to a man.
The inspiring story of Martin Odegaard definitely provides optimism to the next generation of upcoming young prospects. With the balance of hard work and smart career choices you can overcome rejection and forge a successful career at the highest level.