We take a look at the career so far of Norwegian footballer Martin Ødegaard, Arsenal midfielder and captain of Norway.
After being unable to break into the Real Madrid team over the last few years, Norway's men's football team captain Martin Ødegaard has joined Arsenal.
As a 16-year-old, Martin Ødegaard was the name on the lips of every football fan (or at least, those who could pronounce his name) when he signed for Spanish giants Real Madrid.
It brought to the end months of speculation on who the Strømsgodset star would sign for, with Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all said to be interested.
Since then, Ødegaard made a series of loan moves away from the Spanish giants, most recently to Premier League side Arsenal. Now he has joined the London club permanently. Here's the story of one of the most talented Norwegian footballers.
The early years of Martin Ødegaard
Born in Drammen, Ødegaard is the son of former Norwegian footballer Hans Erik Ødegaard, who played as a midfielder for Strømsgodset and Sandefjord. He was still attending a local lower secondary school when he made his professional debut for his home town club, Strømsgodset.
He began training with the first team at the age of just 13, and made his league debut at the age of just 15 years and 118 days, becoming the youngest ever player to play in the Norwegian football league.
The dream move to Real Madrid
Following the big move to Spain, the BBC reported that Ødegaard “says it is not important whether he plays for the first or second team, believing Real Madrid is the best place for him to develop both on and off the pitch.”
It was indeed the second team where Ødegaard spent much of his time, scoring five times in 62 appearances for the ‘Castilla”. Despite playing for the reserve side, he spent much of the time training with the first team.
Opportunities were limited, but he did become the club's youngest ever debutant when he replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in a La Liga game against Getafe. His only full appearance for the first team came in a Copa del Rey match against lower league side Cultural Leonesa.
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Pundits were impressed with his performance but it was Zinedine Zidane's son Enzo who stole the headlines with a goal on his senior debut.
Ødegaard's Dutch adventure
In January 2017, Ødegaard joined Dutch top flight side SC Heerenveen to get regular first team football in a competitive league.
“It was a good chance to play,” former Norway international Tore Pederson told the New York Times. “The culture is similar in Holland to Norway, so it is easier to settle, and Heerenveen has a good record with Scandinavian players.”
Although he started poorly, the Norwegian has featured throughout the 2017-18 season and become a regular starter. His form earned him a recall to the Norwegian national team, but some Dutch pundits have stated that he has shown only glimpses of his true ability.
“It's his first year in top-level football and while he has shown that he can be a game changer, it's also true to say that he lacks something,” the Norwegian journalist Arilas Ould-Saada told GiveMeSport. “He's not the finished product which can deliver goals and assists.”
At the start of the 2018/19, Ødegaard made another move to the Dutch league and signed a season-long loan deal with Vitesse Arnhem.
It was a move that gave him the opportunity to build on his previous season in Eredivisie, with Heerenveen, and further develop his talent trough regular game time.
His single season at Vitesse was a hugely successful one for Ødegaard. The midfielder finished the season with ten goals in 35 appearances (league and cup) and even picked up the club's player of the year award from the fans.
A return to La Liga
In July 2019, Ødegaard moved to Real Sociedad on loan for the season. It provided a real opportunity for the Norwegian to impress in a competitive league–and he took it.
He scored his first La Liga goal in just his second start for the club. The following month, he won the player of the month award for the entire league.
Real Sociedad wanted to keep Ødegaard for a second season, but Real Madrid recalled him. However, despite starting some games early in the 2020-21 season, the Norwegian struggled to keep his place in the team.
A move to England
Another loan moved followed for Ødegaard, this time to the Premier League. He scored twice in 20 appearances for Arsenal, impressing fans and pundits alike.
Despite returning to Madrid, he joined Arsenal on a permanent basis shortly after the start of the 2021-22 season.
Ødegaard and the national team
Ødegaard also holds the record as Norway's youngest ever national team player. At 15 years and 253 days, he played the full 90 minutes in a friendly against the UAE in Stavanger.
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He made his competitive debut as a substitute in the 2-1 win over Bulgaria, becoming the youngest ever player to play in a European Championship qualifier.
Six months later, Ødegaard became the youngest player to start a European Championship qualifier at the age of just 16 years and 101 days, although it wasn't a happy experience as Norway were well beaten 5-1 by Croatia.
Since then, Ødegaard has become an important part of the national team setup. His composure on the ball and the dribbling technique he possesses has claimed many a victim.
In 2019, he scored his first international goal, a determined effort in Norway's 2-2 home draw with Romania. In March 2021, Ødegaard was appointed as national team captain by the new manager Stale Solbakken.
The future of Ødegaard
Despite successful loan spells, Martin Ødegaard didn't quite make it at Real Madrid. The move to Arsenal is a positive one.
The club admired him following his loan spell in the 2020-21 season, the fans seem keen on the Norwegian, and he will be joining a club in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
He seems likely to get a run in the side, which could be what Ødegaard needs to prove he's capable of playing at the highest level.