Ødegaard loaned to Heerenveen

Real Madrid has sent the Norwegian midfielder on an 18-month loan to the Dutch club

Photo: Bjorn S. Delebekk / VG
Martin Ødegaard practicing with the Real Madrid in late 2015.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

It’s been two years since Norway’s Martin Ødegaard signed with Real Madrid as a promising 16-year-old. While the attacking midfielder went on to make history on May 23, 2015, as the youngest player to represent the Spanish club, he has primarily played for the reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla. In fact, in his two years in Spain, he made only one more appearance for Real Madrid during his first ever start for the elite club on November 30, 2016.

Real Madrid has given him the opportunity to train with some of the best footballers in the world; however, he has lacked the first-team starting opportunities he feels are necessary to develop his skills and his career.

Therefore, it was no surprise when it was announced on January 10 that Real Madrid was sending Ødegaard on an 18-month loan to Dutch club Heerenveen, a team that is known for developing young talents.

“I’ve been thinking for awhile that it should happen now,” said Ødegaard to TV2 Sporten. “I have focused on what I should do, and this came up recently. I had good conversations with the club and visited them after my last match. It went well and I think this will be good for me.”

With Heerenveen, the Norwegian is expected to have more chances to play elite-level soccer than if he had stayed with Real Madrid or gone to another league in Europe.

Photo: Bjorn S. Delebekk / VG
Martin Ødegaard when he was signed by Real Madrid.

“I see this as a good opportunity to play first-team football. I’m looking forward to it,” he said to NRK. “Dutch football seems like a very good place for me.”

Heerenveen is currently ranked fourth in the Eredivisie, the elite soccer league in the Netherlands. While the club currently has many young talents, Ødegaard will still be their youngest player, and most likely their highest-profile player as well.

“Martin is an excellent player, and Heerenveen is a club where talents can prosper. We are extremely delighted to have him here, and we’ll do everything to develop his talent even more,” said Heerenveen’s Technical Director Luuc Eisenta to TV2 Sporten. “It is a special day. We’ve had excellent players here before in the club, but when a talent like this joins the club, of course that feels special. It’s a talent that is adding quality to the league here, that’s for sure.”

In fact, the Dutch press has started referring to the Norwegian as “wonderboy.” Ødegaard is not quite so sure about his new nickname though. “I don’t see myself as a wonderboy. I look at myself as a normal guy, and I don’t really pay attention to what other people say of me,” he said.

Ødegaard will be joining the ranks of several Norwegian footballers who have played for the Eredivisie side. Previously, the team has been home to Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Tarik Elyounoussi, and Christian Grindheim, as well as coach Trond Sollied.

“I think the mentality of this part of Holland and Norway are quite similar. They seem to fit in pretty well,” said Eisenta of the Norwegian players.

This season, 18-year-old Dennis Johnsen is competing for the youth team, while 20-year-old Morten Thorsby will be teammates with Ødegaard on the A-team.

“It is a club that is very good at taking care of young players. I’ve also had that experience. I’ve gotten lots of confidence and feel I’m developing well. I’m incredibly happy,” said Thorsby to NRK, adding that he expects Ødegaard to thrive on the team.

If everything goes as planned, these 18 months with the Dutch will give the young footballer the playing time and development he needs to take the next step in his career.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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