Martin Odegaard may have trained with Liverpool this week but they are not the only club in for the 15-year-old Norwegian midfielder, who is one of the most in-demand youngsters in world football.
At 15, Odegaard has already broken records by making his debut for Norway but not much is known about his phenomenally quick rise into Stromsgodset’s senior team as well as his national side.
There’s So, with that in mind, we got the chance to speak with Drammens Tidende journalist Magne Jordan Nilsen to offer our readers some insight into Odegaard and just why he is so revered across Europe.
Hi Magne. Can you introduce yourself to the readers please?
My name is Magne Jordan Nilsen. I am working for Drammens Tidende, a local newspaper in Martin Odegaards hometown Drammen. For the last 17 years I have been covering Stromsgodset.
Martin Odegaard is one of Europe’s most talked about teenagers. Can you give us some insight into his career to date and how he has progressed through Stromsgodset’s academy.
Martin have been a remarkable talent as long as I can remember. He played for a small local club Drammen Strong until the age of 12. Then he became a member of Stromsgodsets youth academy. His father Hans Erik played over 240 games for Stromsgodset, and it was a natural thing for the boy to follow in his fathers steps. It has always been Martins dream to play for Stromsgodset. He have always trained a lot on his own, and with his father. Together they have laid the foundation. The key factor behind Martins talent is the amount of hours on the pitch – and the quality of training. Hans Erik have focused a lot on technique, balance, tempo and perception.
When did people start sitting up and taking notice of him? What was his breakthrough moment?
In Drammen we have heard about Martins talent since he was a kid. But I guess people first paid attention to him two and half years ago. At the age of 13 (!) he made his debut for Stromsgodsets first team in a friendly against local rivals Mjondalen (where his father is assistant coach). Last year he played mainly for the third team at the fourth tier in Norway, but also some matches for the second team at the third tier. Around this time last year we first heard about the massive interest from the top clubs in Europa. He visited Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart between the end of last season and start of this season. After this Martin was offered his first pro contract at Godset. His first involvement with the first team was as substitute in a friendly in January. A couple of weeks later Martin was instrumental, again as a sub, when Stromsgodset bet Astra 1-0 to win Copa del Sol at La Manga. I was there when he started his first match, against Hungarian side Videoton in Estepona. We could not believe what we witnessed. Martin was the best player on the pitch, just to months after he turned 15. The kid was just a class act. At that moment we all knew that Martin Odegaard was something very, very special.
At 15, he is already so composed on the ball. Have you ever seen such a gifted footballer at his age?
No. At that age I think he is up there with the biggest talents this planet has ever seen. But it is of course difficult to compare different players, and especially from different decades. The one thing we do know is that very few players at 15 have played regular at the highest level in their country. Not only that, Martin has been one of the best players in Tippeligaen. In my opinion, Stromsgodsets manager David Nielsen has done a great job turning this wonderkid into an effective team player.
Martin seems to adapt to every level and every new challenge that comes along his way. Martin is as we know the youngest ever player in Tippeligaen, the youngest goalscorer in Tippeligaen, the youngest player for the senior national side and the youngest ever to have played a European Qualifier. Martin started the year as U17 player for Norway. He will end the year with three senior caps. This is extraordinary.
Is Odegaard just as revered inside Norway from the fans and press as he is across Europe?
Yes. Martin Odegaard is one every ones lips and in the media limelight on a daily basis. People turn up at the national arena just to see him play for Norway. It is safe to say we have a Martin Mania here. When he is subbed at away games for Stromsgodset, the home fans are applauding him. It is in fact difficult for us Norwegians to absorb the great talent this nation got in Martin Odegaard. We are not used to this. We are used to ordinary footballers running up and down the pitch chasing the ball. Therefore the attention on Martin is huge.
Can any 15-year-old kid turn down an offer to be in the first team squad of Real Madrid? The Odegaard family have a big decision to make. A big decision.
So many youngsters such as Freddy Adu and Bojan Krkic are hailed as the ‘next big thing’ in football but don’t fulfil their potential. Are you confident Odegaard won’t fall into that bracket?
You never know in football. There are many things that can happen. At 15 he isn’t yet fully physically developed. He will grow and in this process there can be injuries. But if he comes trough all that I think Martin could be the next big thing at the international stage. Everything is in place. He is in good hands. He obviously got the talents, but he also got the right attitude. Martin and his family have good and positive values in life. The are very grounded and humble people. Martin isn’t getting carried away by all the hype and interest. Nor is his father. Hans Erik Odegaard doesn’t want a agent for his son, because then there will be agendas and money talk. They only want to focus on development. Martin should not be at his best now, but in ten years time.
If you had to compare Odegaard to an established footballer now, who would it be?
You will always have the Messi link because that is his role model and the play in the same position. But personally I see a lot of David Silva in Martin as well. They are both creative players that makes their team mates better. The open defences and tend to dictate the attacking play. They are always looking for that breaking pass.
From your perspective, where do you think Odegaard should move to?
I would like to see him at Barcelona or Ajax. Clubs that know how to develop big talent into world class senior players. The have done it over so many years. They give the players time to develop. At Barcelona, Martin will follow in the footsteps of the best player the world has ever seen. He could not possibly have better role model than Messi. He can train with the first team and watch and learn from Messi and matches for Barcelona B will be a good arena for him in the start.
The reason for choosing Ajax is to play first team football at what is still a very good level for him. Keep in mind he is not Messi or Ronaldo just yet. Ajax know what to do with Odegaard and then he can move along to one of the big clubs in 2-4 years time if he carries on like this. That being said, can any 15-year-old kid turn down an offer to be in the first team squad of Real Madrid? The Odegaard family have a big decision to make. A big decision.
To finish, United have a great history of Norwegian players with the likes of Solskjaer, Berg and Johnson. What’s your favourite moment by any Norwegian player in a Manchester United shirt?
I am a Leeds United supporter. I have no answer to that question.