The Norwegian prospect is starting to live up to his enormous promise, with Los Blancos watching on closely
Over four-and-a-half years since first signing for Real Madrid as a 16-year-old, Martin Odegaard has finally started shining in Spain – but for Real Sociedad and not Zinedine Zidane’s side.
Now no longer a teenager and at a point of his career when potential must start turning into end product, the midfielder opted to join Imanol Alguacil’s side on a season-long loan over the summer.
It’s a move that has paid off immediately with Odegaard scoring twice across his first four appearances in La Liga and having a decisive impact for Sociedad, who currently sit seventh in Spain’s top flight.
The Norwegian’s contributions have been crucial to date as he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Mallorca in August, before opening the scoring in a 2-0 upset of Atletico Madrid last weekend.
Odegaard’s first goal in La Liga came late in the game against Mallorca, with the 20-year-old starting the play and calmly converting when the ball was returned to him at the edge of the box.
Two weeks later against Diego Simeone’s side, Odegaard once again stepped up. He demanded the ball in the middle of the park before slotting home in the 58th minute, before swinging in a free-kick to the back post minutes later which Nacho Monreal ended up scoring from after an initial save.
All in all, Odegaard has wasted no time showing his new Sociedad team-mates that he can make a huge difference this season – in the process reminding everyone why Madrid signed him in the first place.
“We have all become familiar with Martin’s talent,” winger Mikel Oyarzabal told VG.
“He is very different. He is the type who makes the difference on his own. The most promising thing is that he has a lot to build on.
“I hope we can enjoy him for a long time to come, because he is very valuable to us.”
Full of confidence, he has also impressed for Norway in Euro 2020 qualifying with a goal and two assists to his name across six appearances.
While these promising performances haven’t come in the pearly white shirt of Real Madrid, Odegaard is showing signs that he can still one day step up for Los Blancos.
Having trained with the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Manchester United after turning heads with Stromsgodset in late 2014, it was Real that won the race to sign him.
Initially lining up for Madrid’s reserve side, Castilla, Odegaard is no stranger to working under Zidane, having been blown away by the club legend’s skill when he first moved to Spain.
“I trained with the first team and played games with the reserves when Zidane was our coach” Odegaard told AD in early 2019.
“It was great to be coached by Zidane but sometimes it wasn’t good for your self-confidence – when he showed us how we should do certain things in training…what technique!”
Having made an exciting start to life with Sociedad, it’s safe to say Odegaard is putting himself back on Zidane’s radar having nearly dropped off it completely.
Odegaard’s time with Real started off quite poorly, with the talented prospect relegated to Castilla’s bench in his first season after reportedly struggling to adapt to his team’s style of play.
In the two years that followed, he’d eventually find his feet with Madrid’s reserve team but he made just two first-team appearances before being loaned out to SC Heerenveen in January 2017.
Once again, Odegaard would take time to settle. He slowly started to improve over the course of an 18-month loan spell before linking up with fellow Eredivisie side Vitesse.
A year ago, though, many were questioning whether he’d ever live up to the hype. It was then, at Heerenveen, that he delivered a timely reminder of his talents.
Ending the 2018-19 season with nine goals and 12 assists to his name, Odegaard was named in the Eredivisie Team of the Season – the only player outside of Ajax and PSV to crack the first XI.
With a commendable campaign to his name, he opted to return to Spain and he has admitted that breaking into Real Madrid’s first team in the future remains a top priority.
“My goal is still to play for Real Madrid. That’s why I signed for them, because I want to play there someday,” Odegaard told TV2 in September.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot in the last two years. I think I’m a better player and I’m more mature, older and a little stronger.
“I feel better now than when I first came to Spain. At the end of last season, I felt like it would be best for me not to return to Madrid
“At Madrid, there are lots of big-name players and there is a lot of competition [for places]. It was obvious that it was better for me to ask for a new loan.”
That decision could well prove pivotal to his longer-term dream of playing for Real Madrid as the baby-faced Odegaard shows he’s well and truly growing up.