Martin Ødegaard’s Real Madrid debut

Young midfielder becomes first Norwegian to sign with elite Spanish club

Photo: Vegard Grøtt / NTB Scanpix / NRK Martin Ødegaard, making history by playing in a European Championship qualifier earlier this year. At 15, he was the youngest player ever to do so.

Photo: Vegard Grøtt / NTB Scanpix / NRK
Martin Ødegaard, making history by playing in a European Championship qualifier earlier this year. At 15, he was the youngest player ever to do so.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Martin Ødegaard once again makes international headlines after signing with esteemed Spanish soccer club Real Madrid at the age of 16. He became the first Norwegian to ever sign with the club when Real Madrid announced its decision on January 21.

The young Norwegian and his former footballer father, Hans Erik Ødegaard, had toured the top European clubs of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester, and more. Real Madrid caught Ødegaard’s eye, and luckily for Ødegaard, the Spanish club reciprocated his interest.

“It was the best option for the development of my career as much in the sporting sense as personally. This club has the best possibilities,” commented Ødegaard in a press conference. “It’s a dream come true. It is a bit unreal that I’m here at the biggest club in the world. It’s huge for me, an honor,” the 16-year-old continued.

The Spanish media reports that Real Madrid paid approximately three million euro (about $3.4 million) for the Strømsgodset midfielder, with high hopes for his contribution to the team and his future ahead.

Ødegaard is currently playing for the club’s reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla, coached by French legend Zinedine Zidane, but also gets the opportunity to train with the elite members of the first team.

“It’s an advantage that Real Madrid has a second team with a coach who was one of the best players in the world,” notes Ødegaard. “My challenge is to become the best player I can be, and it’s not important if I’m in the first or second team.”

Ødegaard first represented Real Madrid Castilla on February 4 in a friendly against Beijing Guoan FC. The midfielder started the game and spent over 60 minutes on the field alongside his new teammates, providing two out of the three assists in the 3-3 match.

On February 8, the Norwegian made his competitive debut for Castilla in the match against Athletic Bilbao’s B team at the age of 16 years and 53 days. Ødegaard subbed for Alvaro Medran midway through the second half for 20 minutes of playing time. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

“I am very happy to have played my first game for Real Madrid. It was good to get a few minutes here. It was a tough game, but we should have won,” said Ødegaard in an interview on Real Madrid TV.

Ødegaard may not have come out with a victory in his first feature for Real Madrid, but he certainly is popular among his fans; the Madrid spectators erupted in applause when he began warming up along the sideline.

It’s hard to know what’s in store for the Norwegian talent, but it is possible that he could break yet another record soon, becoming the youngest player in the Champions League. After his success in the friendly, Ødegaard was named as a member of Madrid’s 25-man squad that will take on Schalke 04 on February 18 and again on March 10 for the reverse fixture. Making it onto the field during either Champions League match would secure him the record. This title is currently held by Nigerian Celestine Babayaro, who debuted for Anderlecht against Steaua Bucharest in 1994.

Will Ødegaard add this title to his already long list of successes? Stay tuned to find out!

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 20, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.