Real Sociedad's rising star Martin Ødegaard has started the new LaLiga Santander season showing just why he was tipped for the top right from the start of his career.
Still just 20 years old, Ødegaard has been lighting up LaLiga in spectacular fashion since his arrival in San Sebastian on loan from Real Madrid last summer. So much so that the txuri-urdin's midfield star was officially named September Player of the Month in LaLiga Santander, as his goals and assists drove his team towards the top of the table.
Born in Drammen, Norway in December 1998, Ødegaard has been setting landmarks all his sporting life. After coming through at local club Stromgodset, he became the youngest player to play in Norway's top division at the age of just 15, the Tippeligaen's youngest-ever scorer and Norway's youngest-ever senior international. A move to Real Madrid soon followed and in May 2015 he became Madrid's youngest-ever debutant [16 years and 157 days] when replacing Cristiano Ronaldo in a LaLiga Santander game against Getafe at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Competition for places at Madrid is always tough, so the teenager played 58 times for the club's Castilla youth team before joining Dutch team SC Heerenveen for 18 months in January 2017. That brought more regular senior experience, and he returned to the Eredivisie to spend another year at Vitesse Arnhem. 11 goals and 12 assists made him the only non-PSV Eindhoven or Ajax player to make the 2018/19 Eredivisie Team of the Season.
Last summer brought a return to LaLiga with La Real, who had an excellent transfer window with other young arrivals including his fellow Scandinavian Alexander Isak and French defender Modibo Sagnan. Txuri-urdin coach Imanol Alguacil immediately put Ødegaard into his starting XI for the 1-1 draw at Valencia on the opening day and he kept his place for the following weekend when he scored his first LaLiga goal in a 1-0 win at RCD Mallorca.
Playing mostly in an attacking midfield role, Ødegaard's technical ability and passing range have stood out, showcasing the tenacity and leadership skills of a player who has amassed significant experience at such a young age. His highest profile game so far brought a man of the match performance, including a fine goal and clever assist, as Atletico de Madrid were beaten 2-0 at the Reale Arena. There have also been assists against Basque neighbours Alaves – a real beauty of a through ball, if you haven't seen it… – and Sevilla, and he is the only La Real player to have completed all 720 LaLiga minutes so far in 2019/20.
October's international break should see Ødegaard add to his 20 senior caps for Norway in Euro 2020 qualifiers against Spain and Romania. Then it will be back to work with his club as La Real look to build on their excellent start to the season with games against Real Betis, RC Celta and Levante. Longer term he remains firm in his wish to triumph at Real Madrid, where he is under contract until 2022, but only after seeing through his agreed two-year loan at La Real.
Few players pack as much into their entire careers as Martin Ødegaard has already achieved. LaLiga's nordic rising star does not turn 21 until next December, but the best is surely yet to come.