UPDATED: Norway’s talented young football player Martin Ødegaard went on board a private jet at the Rygge airport south of Moss early Thursday, bound for Madrid and the world’s largest football club. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” wrote the commentator for Norway’s biggest newspaper Aftenposten, just before the teenager from Drammen was about to make sports history.
It wasn’t the money that commentator Ola Bernhus was writing about, but rather Ødegaard’s age (just turned 16) and his club, Strømsgodset, located in a working class town southwest of Oslo. The transfer of such a young player from such a small club to a powerhouse like Real Madrid is, Bernhus stressed, remarkable in every way.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) had reported early Thursday that Ødegaard, his father Hans Erik and “a small group of around three or four others” were taken to the waiting jet on the tarmac out a back way, shortly after 7am, to avoid waiting reporters. Ødegaard, who also has shown himself to be remarkably composed for his age, was later presented formally as a Real Madrid player, at a carefully staged event at the club’s training facility. It was considered such a major event in Norway that NRK carried the press conference with Ødegaard live on national TV. Other media were offering live coverage as well.
‘Blown people away’
After weeks of speculation, both Real Madrid and Strømsgodset had confirmed during the night that Ødegaard would be Real Madrid’s newest player. The club seemed proud that “the 16-year-old midfielder” had “already made his debut with the national team” in Norway, and called him “one of the most talented and promising players around at the moment.”
The club went on to write on its website that Ødegaard “has already blown people away on the European stage. He is the youngest footballer in history to play in a European Championship qualifier.”
Real Madrid CF and Strømsgodset Fotball announced they had reached an agreement for the transfer of Martin Ødegaard, which the club spelled with a capital “O” instead of the Norwegian “Ø.” After undergoing a medical exam, Ødegaard fielded questions from an international press corps using simultaneous translation. Ødegaard answered in Norwegian, saying that his father had meant a lot to him, that his transfer was “a dream come true” and that he didn’t mind that he’d initially be playing for Real Madrid’s B-team because he gets to train with the A-team, which features some of the most famous players in the world. He also said he only knew a bit Spanish but had taken a course in the language at school.
Spanish media have also reported that signing Ødegaard will cost Real Madrid at least EUR 4 million (NOK 35 million). The money will be shared by Ødegaard and his old club, Strømsgodset, while the “big” money for Ødegaard will come through the huge amounts of sponsorship income that a club like Real Madrid attracts. Strømsgodset also stands to get another NOK 35 million-40 million if Ødegaard does well with the Spanish club. That will be gauged by how many A-team matches he gets to play over the next few years.
Strømsgodset officials, meanwhile, said they’ll miss Ødegaard, as will his teammates. “We are incredibly proud to be a part of his career and his development,” the club’s sports chief Jostein Flo told NRK. Business manager Erik Espeseth said he was rather awed that “such a big club wanted to buy one of our great talents. The world’s most powerful club director was sitting on the other side of the table (during recent negotiations), but he was nice, down-to-earth and professional.”
NRK reported that Ødegaard’s contract with Real Madrid is for three-and-a-half years with an option for extension. “It’s all something to gasp about, but fortunately Martin Ødegaard has a firm grip on the railings,” and hasn’t let all the hype and his huge accomplishment go to his head, wrote Bernhus. Earlier transfers of top Norwegian players like John Carew, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Tore André Flo and Steffen Iversen may have involved more money, he added, but Ødegaard’s spectacular success at such a young age makes his transfer bigger than them all. Especially in Norway.