Ødegaard called back to Real Madrid

Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
No hard feelings. Martin Ødegaard (21, left in dark uniform) of Real Sociedad exchanges greetings with his former and future teammates at Real Madrid after the Nov. 23, 2019, game won by Madrid 3-1. Madrid loaned Ødegaard to Sociedad this season and are now receiving him back. The season opens Sept. 19 with Madrid playing at Sociedad.

JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
Oslo

Real Sociedad has confirmed that Martin Ødegaard’s two-year loan deal has been cut short, and the Norwegian playmaker will be returning to Real Madrid for the 2020-21 season.

Sociedad had seen Ødegaard as one of its own and would have liked to see him play one more season at Anoeta Stadium, but the club confirmed the exit in a press release.

“Ødegaard will leave us to return to Real Madrid, but we will never forget all he did for us this unforgettable season,” the statement read. “His goals, his game, his character, his effort, and his humility have made Martin someone who will be remembered fondly by everyone at the club.”

In a video posted on Sociedad’s website, Ødegaard also expressed his thanks to the club and their supporters.

“It has been an unforgettable year for me,” Ødegaard said.

Ødegaard, 21, was one of the best midfielders in Spain’s La Liga last season, with seven goals and nine assists. He was named Player of the Month in September and earned a place on Madrid-based newspaper Marca’s Team of the Season. He is expected to fight for a place in the Spanish giant’s first 11 in the coming season. The fact that both Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez are set to leave the club due to lack of game time, opens a place for Ødegaard in midfield.

The Norwegian first arrived in Madrid when he was 15 years old in 2015 in a deal with Strømsgodset believed to be worth between $3.5 million and $4.7 million. He had already been the youngest player to play and score in Eliteserien, then known as Tippeligaen.  At the time, he was “the next big thing” in soccer but failed to live up to the unrealistic expectations put on his shoulders. Ødegaard made two appearances for the first team and spent most of his time with the second team. After a season and a half with the second team, he was sent to the Dutch league on loan.

This time, however, the situation is different. He seems to have built up the mental strength needed to perform at Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid’s home grounds, has proved himself to be a top-level La Liga player, and is expected to bring much-needed creativity to Real Madrid’s aging midfield.

Ødegaard will compete for minutes in central midfield with the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić, Federico Valverde, and Casemiro.

Ødegaard is seen as a potential successor and backup to 34-year-old Modrić, as they both play in the right-center-midfield position and have a similar style of play. Ødegaard might start the season on the bench, but, because of COVID-19, Real Madrid’s 60-game season will be played in less time than usual. This increased the need for squad depth and player rotation, and he will most likely get more than one chance to prove he is worthy of a place in the first 11.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Jo Christian Weldingh

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

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