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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Young star keeps his head down

Martin Ødegaard, Norway’s young football star who’s been dubbed the top talent in the world right now, has had quite a week. After being whisked off in a private jet to visit top Spanish club Real Madrid on Monday, he trained on his own Tuesday for his club in Drammen and only reluctantly met reporters who’d been clamouring for his attention, too.

Martin Ødegaard played his first match on Wednesday for the national team, against the United Arab Emirates in Stavanger. The match ended 0-0 but the 15-year-old comet is under consideration for more national team matches. PHOTO: NTB Scanpix/Terje Pedersen
Martin Ødegaard will be back in action for Norway’s national team next week. PHOTO: NTB Scanpix/Terje Pedersen

Ødegaard characteristically kept his head down and his voice low as he spent five minutes answering reporters’ questions. They were only supposed to talk about his next football matches in and for Norway, but talk inevitably drifted to his sudden trip to Spain.

“I can’t comment on the interest (in him) from various clubs,” Ødegaard said. As far as he’s concerned, his personal playing situation is “unchanged,” and he’s still playing for Drammen club Strømsgodset. The 15-year-old also been chosen to play again for the national team matches next week against Estonia (a friendly) and Azerbaijan, which is a more serious qualifying match for the European Championships.

Just a few months ago, it was a sensation that Ødegaard had been chosen for national team play at such a tender age. Since then he’s received some very special attention and treatment by top clubs, not least Real Madrid, and more club visits are expected. The young Norwegian isn’t only on the radar of top clubs around the world, he’s blinking out many others.

Yet he stays humble and insists he’s really not spending much time thinking about his future. “If I did that,” he told reporters, “I wouldn’t do anything else.”

“What I can say is that the interest (of the top clubs) is very nice and flattering,” Ødegaard continued. “I will finish playing the season here, and I’ll visit some clubs. Then I’ll think about it some more.”

Norwegian football commentators generally agreed that when a 15-year-old Norwegian player is fetched in a private jet by one of the biggest and most-winning football clubs in the world, “the Spaniards are serious” about him. Also when the car driving him “is big and black and followed by paparazzi.” The young, modest junior-high-school student from Drammen was treated like either a rock star or a top politician. He merely conceded that it was fun to get to watch Real Madrid play Liverpool that evening, and he supported Liverpool, his favourite club.

British Teamtalk, a football website, has just published a list of the world’s 50 most promising football talents, and Norway’s Ødegaard topped the list. “There’s hardly anything sensational anymore regarding Martin Ødegaard,” wrote Aftenposten’s football commentator Ola Bernhus on Wednesday.  Now it’s up to the young man and his parents to ultimately decide what’s best for him – whether to keep playing at home in Norway or take an offer that may come from a major club. He’s being advised that the road ahead can still be long and full of disappointment, and patience will be a key quality to possess. staff



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