A complete unknown only a year ago, Norwegian prodigy Martin Oedegaard’s transfer to Real Madrid has set his fledgling career soaring towards the stratosphere.
The young midfielder had long been courted by some of Europe’s top clubs. Real, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Liverpool were all, according to press reports, in the race to sign the teenager.
Finally, a deal with the Spanish giants was announced Thursday, clearing the way for him to join a star-packed squad.
Norwegian press sports suggested the teen would spend the spring playing for Castilla — the club’s youth team, coached by former world champion Zinedine Zidane — and join the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez after the summer.
It is a dream come true for a boy who only celebrated his 16th birthday on December 17.
The rapid turn of events will not be unfamiliar to Oedegaard, who already has three international appearances for Norway to his name.
When he turned out for Stroemsgodset in April 2014 he became the youngest player to feature in the Norwegian first division. A month later he became the league’s youngest scorer.
Oedegaard scored five goals and provided seven assists in his 23 games for the club.
His prowess quickly drew attention as videos of the then 15-year-old running rings around opponents created an online buzz that spread to the Scandinavian sports press.
– ‘Talent of the century’ –
He was soon called up to the national team, where he broke new records.
Oedegaard became the youngest Norwegian international in history in August — only 15 years and 253 days old — and later the youngest ever to feature in a European Championship qualifier, in October against Bulgaria.
“He has developed enormously in a short time. He brought down barriers that I think neither he nor anyone else imagined would fall,” Norway manager Per-Mathias Hoegmo recently told the Aftenposten daily.
“His way of playing, his talent, his ability to make choices and think, all of this is impressive,” he added.
His gifts did not go unnoticed around Europe. Many of the continents’ greatest clubs have reportedly been interested in signing the Norwegian.
Press reports linked Ajax with an imminent deal, while others said Bayern were first in line. The German team’s president, the legendary Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said Oedegaard was the “talent of the century”.
The teenager and his father Hans Erik — himself a former professional — toured several clubs over recent months to visit facilities and meet senior representatives.
Hans Erik’s demand was for his son not to spend time with the reserves of a top team, but to train and play with the best.
According to sports media, Zidane played a key role in convincing the Norwegian to start out at Castilla in the Spanish third division before joining the first team.
His future teammates already await his arrival.
“A good player. I think he’s a young boy, he can still grow,” Ronaldo said of his new teammate.
“He has a good future ahead. So we must give him time to learn, to take the best decisions but I see a lot of potential in that player,” he added before picking up his third Ballon d’Or award.
“So we must give him time to learn, to take the best decisions but I see a lot of potential in that player. A good left foot”