“In a couple of years I will stop scoring as many goals and you need to take over,” was Cristiano Ronaldo’s message to new Real Madrid signing Martin Odegaard, according to Stromsgodset team-mate Martin Ovenstad, who spoke to Norwegian television channel TV 2 (h/t AS).
Though Ronaldo’s words would have likely been delivered in a friendly nature—rather than as an order—the hype surrounding Odegaard, the video clips that exist everywhere, the publicity that’s followed him and the destination he’s chosen have fuelled a frenzied level of expectation.
For a 16-year-old footballer, his profile is as high as they get.
So the question now becomes: Can he meet the expectations? Is he really the natural heir to Ronaldo at Real Madrid?
If it were down to talent alone, the answer would be yes. An emphatic one. Those who’ve watched the Norwegian play will tell you he’s an extraordinary talent.
From a technical standpoint, he’s outstanding. In close quarters, he’s exhilarating. His vision and flair are tantalising. In front of goal, he looks natural and at ease. And when unveiled at Real Madrid on Thursday, he looked remarkably comfortable.
Indeed, there’s good reason why. According to the Guardian, a player who’s been likened in style to Lionel Messi attracted the interest of clubs such as Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United,Arsenal, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart in addition to Real.
But as Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian neatly put it, “Those who come through first are not necessarily the best.” The development of young footballers isn’t straightforward. Nor is it linear. There’s more than just talent that goes into reaching the level attained by a player like Ronaldo. Much more.
Throughout his journey at the Bernabeu, coaching, application, attitude, injury, management changes, team-mates, first-team circumstances and all that comes with fame will shape Odegaard’s progress.
And not all of those influences will be within his control; replicating Ronaldo—or Messi, for that matter—will require a reasonable dash of luck, too. And frankly, achieving even half of what that pair have would be considered a resounding success.
Is it distinctly possible? Yes.
Yet it will also be arduously difficult.
Now that he’s in place at the world’s most powerful football club, there will be those who might ponder whether Odegaard is being elevated to stardom too soon—whether stepping, amid such fanfare, into the bubbling cauldron of scrutiny and pressure that is Real Madrid might be too much for a 16-year-old.
That his first contract at the club will reportedly pay him £80,000 per week, according to Ashley Clements of the Daily Mail, is only likely to reinforce that view. Particularly when, initially, he’ll still be playing with the B team, Real Madrid Castilla, per AS.
What’s interesting to consider, however, is that the pressure in this situation isn’t solely on Odegaard. Real Madrid, as a club, as an institution for development, will be under the spotlight as well. For this isn’t like nurturing skilled young players such as Nacho, Daniel Carvajal, Jese and Alvaro Medran into the first team; this is an opportunity to develop a talent so exciting he’s being compared with some of the best footballers of all time.
Do it well and the reputation of Real Madrid’s academy will soar.
Do it indifferently and the perception—whether rightly or wrongly—will be that Real Madrid is not the pathway for young talent, just the eventual destination.
Accustomed with such pressure, one feels Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti and B-team coach Zinedine Zidane will embrace the opportunity to play a leading role in Odegaard’s progression. So too might Ronaldo, who’s already spoken of the Norwegian’s future.
“[He is a] good player. He’s a young boy who can still grow—he’s 16 years old,” Ronaldo said of Odegaard at the recent Ballon d’Or gala, per Thomas Jacobs of the Daily Mail.
“He has a good future. We must give him time to learn and to take the best decisions, but I see a lot of potential in the player.”
It was telling that the Portuguese mentioned decisions. For he, better than anyone, knows that talent isn’t the only part of the equation—he knows that it’s taken unwavering drive, an incessant desire, to scale such dizzying heights. It’s those qualities that have driven Ronaldo’s decisions, and, therefore, his path.
Only time will tell if Odegaard possesses something similar, if he can be the heir to Ronaldo.
Immensely exciting? Definitely.
The task daunting? Absolutely.
Source: Bleacher Reports