Dreams about playing for your National Team at an overly young age would hardly come true, would they? A colossal amount of hard work and dedication goes into achieving something as majestic as this. Fighting for a spot in a senior National Side against fellow senior countrymen requires extra-ordinary amount of talent and nous and very few come close to reaching this feat of defying all odds despite of a highly tender age.
Those of the ‘very few’ includes a 15 year old Norwegian Martin Odegaard, who has burst upon the scene after becoming the youngest player in the history of the European Championship as he came on as a substitute in Norway’s 2-1 win against Bulgaria. According to the latest transfer rumours, top premier league clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United are fighting for his signature. Is this 15 year old star is that good enough to lure interests from top clubs? Let’s find out by analyzing him,
Career so far..
The phrase ‘Career so far’ would certainly be nothing short of ironic for someone as young as Odegaard, but here’s when his talent brings down all the ironies and shortcomings. Ødegaard, who played for Strømsgodset’s junior team and the club’s third team, began training with the Strømsgodset first team in 2013, aged 14. After doing so, he made short training visits to both Manchester United and Bayern Munich but it was later decided that he’d join the Strømsgodset first team in 2014. Although, a formal contract wasn’t agreed upon but as part of the agreement, he trained two evenings a week with Mjøndalen IF, where his father is one of the coaches. He made his debut for Strømsgodset in a match against Aalesunds FK in April 2014. Aged 15, he became the youngest footballer ever to play in Tippeligaen. After penning an official contract in May, he made history again after he scored the fourth goal for Strømsgodset in a 4–1 home victory against Sarpsborg 08 FF making him the youngest person to score a goal in Tippeligaen.
A European debut was on the way as the 15 year old was brought on to play the final five minutes of the club’s 1–0 home defeat to Steaua Bucureşti in the Champions League second qualifying round. His breakout seemed to have dawned upon him in an away game against Sandnes Ulf when he was thoroughly involved in three of his side’s goals, scoring one and assisting once. It was after this stellar showing that people and the experts alike started considering him for an International selection.
Odegaard was selected for the Norway U-21 side back in January and played full 90 minutes as a striker against Portugal, but was unable to avoid a 2-1 defeat. He was called up for Norway’s European Championship qualification matches against Malta and Bulgaria and made his debut in the latter, after replacing Mats Daehli. At the age of 15 years and 300 days, this made him the youngest player to ever play in the European Championship qualification.
What kind of a player is he?
The teenager can function equally well on any of the three positions behind the striker, or often even as a striker. His low centre of gravity and impeccable technique has drawn comparisons with Lionel Messi and Odegaard has been heralded as ‘The Norwegian Messi’ quite frequently. He’s usually deployed as a free roaming midfielder who’s got the license to score and create opportunities at any level in an impressive way. Almost like a kid’s innocent tendency, this little man is an adventurous player who’s got a bundle of youthful tricks up his sleeve which he can try out anywhere on the pitch.
For Strømsgodset, he’s time and time again used as an orchestrator and a forward thinking architect and is quite fond of picking out an incisive pass to a running team mate. Another interesting aspect about his play is that he’s never reluctant to correct his mistakes and learn from them in one single game. For Example, if he loses the ball in a key area, he will ensure that he doesn’t repeat the mistake he committed earlier.
He’s always more than willing to have a run at defenders, especially down the sidelines. He tends to pick out a key and cheeky pass to split open defense and create a goal scoring opportunity. Although, he isn’t exceptionally quick but his pleasing on the eye ball control gives a look of as if the ball is glued to his feet and his small frame allows complements him in those abilities. He has got a knack for turning players inside out with his skill, as evident from a section of the video below and the surprising part is, he can pick a killer pass after that. He’s a composed left footed little assassin, who’s unselfish when needed and a deadly finisher in other cases.
One big disadvantage is his lowly physicality, which is exemplified by his lissome frame. It may all be due to his tender age but it’d come as a certain disadvantage if he moves to the Premier League or the Bundesliga but to a slightly lesser extent. After all, exceptional skills won’t help if you’re up against a burly built centre half. He’ll be hustling and harrying you with all his might and if he’s up against a little 15 year old, he’ll shrug him off easily.
Another disadvantage could be his tendency to execute spectacular dribbles almost every time he receives the ball down the flank. It’s like he tries to do a Messi-esque thing, isolating the men in the box and although he picks out an inch perfect pass for a simple tap in, this somewhat selfish mentality leaves others frustrated.
What does the future hold for him?
This question, I presume is something which isn’t worth asking. A 15 year old with enormous amount of skill is always destined for something big in his career. And with huge clubs sniffing around him, you could see him move to one of them but get loaned back to Strømsgodset for acquiring further experience and exposure. Even though he is linked with top premier league clubs, Eredivisie is somewhere where he’ll really shine. A notable amount of Scandinavian players made a name for themselves in the Eredivisie before carrying on their talents forward to the Premier League including Christian Eriksen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sami Hyypia, Soren Lerby and Jari Litmanen. A move to one of those Eredivisie clubs would suit his abilities, physique and career.
This lad is one hell of a wizard on the ball or I’d say he’s way too good for someone of his age. Shattering 4 records in less than a year is never easy, especially if you’re 15. He certainly makes the cut for the ‘Player To Watch Out for’ list for the next 10 years.