Norwegian football sensation Martin Ødegaard is already training with top players at his new top club, Real Madrid, but he wasn’t tapped to debut on its B-team, Castilla, during his first weekend in Spain. His transfer from a small club in Drammen was approved by international football association FIFA and the 16-year-old was ready to play when called upon.
Ødegaard reported for training as a Real Madrid player for the first time late last week, and photos from the carefully guarded Spanish training field showed him in action with the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos. Spanish journalists reported that Ødegaard seemed comfortable on the field and was well-taken care of by the older players on the team.
Approval of his transfer from Strømsgodset in Drammen to Real Madrid made him eligible to play in weekend matches against Real Sociedad and Trival Valderas. Expectations are enormous but commentators claim it’s no major downturn if he doesn’t play this season. At 16, they say he has plenty of time to become an established player for the world’s largest football club.
Ødegaard officially said goodbye to his former teammates in Drammen earlier last week before moving to Madrid on Wednesday. It was, he told reporters, “a bit strange to move away from everyone here at home.” He said he was well aware he was leaving the “safe and secure” environment around Strømsgodset to start a life “completely different” from what he’s had in Norway.
“But I think it will be very good,” he said. “I had a really good feeling when I was there.” His father, Hans Erik Ødegaard, is moving with him.
“I am only 16,” he said with a grin. “I don’t think it would be good for me to live there alone.”
He and managers at Strømsgodset refused once again to talk about his pay or his start status. His annual salary has been estimated at NOK 15 million-20 million (as much as USD 2.5 million). “He won’t answer questions about pay, that doesn’t concern him,” said Strømsgodset’s sports chief and former pro player Jostein Flo at a press conference last week. “Any other questions?”
Asked what he thinks is his best attribute for adjusting to life at Real Madrid, Ødegaard said he’s “not a guy who’s ever satisfied. Not with getting to Real Madrid either. I always want to be better. I won’t be resting on the fact I got into such a club.” He wouldn’t say exactly when he decided to accept Real Madrid’s offer: “It was part of a process. We visited some clubs, which became quite well-documented (in the media). The decision was made after those visits and we landed on Real Madrid. They have the best daily training and a coach who has been one of the best players in the world.”
Flo, of Strømsgodset, said Ødegaard’s departure was both sad and great at the same time. “We’ll follow Martin and visit him,” Flo told newspaper Aftenposten. “And he is most welcome to train with us when he’s in Norway.”