In the last 12 months, Norwegian Wonderkid Martin Odegaard has become what a loud-mouth New York realtor would call “hot property.” Despite still being two years off the legal drinking age (that’s right, you can get smashed at 18 in Europe), the attacking midfielder has become a regular for Norwegian Premier League side Stromsgodset IF (scoring five goals in 23 appearances this season), as well as the youngest ever player to be capped by Norway at 15 years and 300 days old.
Back in November, Odegaard also became the subject of computer gamers' considerabe ire when the 2015 iteration of Football Manager failed to include him because of his age (programmers duly requested the permission of Odegaard’s father to include his son in a later version).
Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t taken Europe’s biggest clubs long to start the battle for Odegaard’s signature. This winter, he’s spent his holidays touring Europe’s footballing capitals, stopping off to visit Bayern Munich, Liverpool FC, Manchester United and FC Barcelona (among others) for trials and first team training. And it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about: his quick feet, close-quarter control, ability to pick a pass and somewhat lackadaisical style are all reminiscent of a young Zinedine Zidane.
So, who will win the race to sign the slightly-built midfield technician in the January transfer window? According to reports from Norway, Odegaard is set to snub the European elites in favor of a move to Ronald Koeman’s Southampton.
Which, in The18’s humble opinion, makes eminent sense. The Saints have a strong track record in developing young talent, with their academy having produced, among others, Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Callum Chambers in recent years. Odegaard could expect immediate first team exposure at St Mary’s, which is considerably less likely to be the case at the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City or Bayern Munich.
Of course, wherever he ends up, nothing guarantees success at such an early stage in a player’s career: for every 16-year old Wayne Rooney, there’s a dozen Freddie Adus. Odegaard clearly has the talent; only time will tell whether he has the work ethic and mental fortitude to go with it.
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