Spanish cameramen and photographers at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo on Saturday will be looking for one image in particular as they focus on Spain’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Norway – the embrace and possible shirt swap between Sergio Ramos and Martin Odegaard.
Ramos would have been one of those senior players slightly baffled by the presence of the 16-year-old Norwegian in first-team training sessions at Real Madrid in 2015.
It was an uncomfortable situation, especially for the teenager who had just arrived from Stromsgodset.
All eyes will be on Sergio Ramos and Martin Odegaard as the pair face off on Saturday
Odegaard’s Norway are set to play Ramos’ Spain in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers in Oslo
Ramos was one of many confused Madrid players when Odegaard trained with Real Madrid
MARTIN ODEGAARD 2019-20
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He used to train with Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo through the week and then play with the B-team Real Madrid Castilla at the weekends.
It was a difficult arrangement that led to him failing to fit into either environments. The seniors couldn’t understand why the youngster was playing alongside them, even going on the pre-season tours as his contract also specified.
And the B-team players didn’t appreciate him not taking part in training sessions but then being first choice. His arrival coincided with a drastic downturn in their form.
But that was then. Four years on Odegaard has more than earned that precious commodity that nobody gave him in 2015 – respect. Everyone at Madrid, and no one more so than Ramos, who is old-fashioned when it comes to things like football and hierarchy, admires the way Odegaard broke free from the protectionism afforded him at Madrid, honed his trade in the Dutch league and is now leading Real Sociedad’s surge up the table.
Odegaard joined Real Madrid in a high-profile deal from Stromsgodset in January 2015
The youngster flitted in between the first team squad and the youth team and didn’t settle
Odegaard alienated himself from his Madrid B team-mates as he trained with the first team
His spells at Heerenveen and Vitesse have helped make him a midfield athlete with the engine to cover the entire pitch. He now looks like the complete midfielder.
He can play the perfect passes to the forwards, he can win the ball back, he can run beyond the strikers and arrive in the area to finish himself and he can get up and down the pitch for 90 minutes.
He’s still a number 10, but he can operate wide where he usually plays for Norway, and he could even play in the two in a 4-2-3-1 where he operated in some games in pre-season for Real Sociedad.
He has a two-year loan deal at Real Sociedad and has already bought a house in the region.
That sort of commitment has made him hugely popular with Real Sociedad supporters and his displays have convinced the Basque club’s fans that they could even get back into the Champions League places this season.
Odegaard spent a couple of seasons out on loan in Holland to refine his style of play
After a spell with Heerenveen, the Norwegian played for Dutch side Vitesse last season
What seems least likely to happen over the next two years is that he moves to England.
Various stories linking him to a move have surfaced in recent weeks. One suggested Wolves were considering a 20million euros bid. Madrid would want five times that sum if they were to sell him and even then it’s unlikely they would allow him to leave.
Odegaard has done the hard bit. He takes huge credit for not allowing those early experiences at Real Madrid to destroy him. The loans labyrinth could also have swallowed him up, but it didn’t.
Since returning from Holland, Odegaard has been in scintillating form for Real Sociedad
The youngster has been a big hit with fans and he has already bought a house in the area
Odegaard lifts his La Liga Player of the Month award after a brilliant start to his loan spell
At the end of last season he also made a brave decision. Bayer Leverkusen were offering him Champions League football but Odegaard had watched Real Sociedad play and liked what he saw. Those close to the 20-year-old say if he were not a footballer he would still be a football fan watching as many games from as many leagues as he could. He had studied Real Sociedad and he felt he could fit into the way they played.
His agent Bjorn Tore Kvarme played for the club and told him the move would be good for him. Odegaard’s father, Hans Erik – no longer his agent but still hugely influential – also advised him to turn down Champions League football in Germany and return to Spain.
It is being back in La Liga that has put him back under Real Madrid’s nose. It was the best way possible to prove to them that he was still on course to end up as a first choice player in them.
Wolves are interested in Odegaard but will have to pay far more than the reported €20million
Odegaard turned down Champions League football with Bayern Leverkusen for Real Sociedad
Ramos might have not paid much attention to him had he gone to the Bundesliga. Instead he has seen him on every highlights package this season as one of the stand-out players in La Liga.
‘It is always good to play against good players like him,’ Odegaard said this week. ‘It will be a special meeting.’
It’s a reunion of sorts that could be played out again in the summer.
‘I have a contract at Madrid and sometimes they write to me and tell me how they think I am doing. They have said they are happy with me and they have congratulated me for my start to the season,’ he said this week.
The Norwegian is in close contact with Real Madrid, who are keeping tabs on his progress
Asked about when he will go back to Madrid, he said: ‘The idea is to respect my two-year loan agreement with Real Sociedad. I am happy and want to stay here until the two years are up.’
But La Liga does not allow two-year loan deals so although Odegaard has a 24-month agreement with Real Sociedad he could rip it up if Real Madrid come calling.
They will be rivals in Oslo on Saturday, but most in Spain expect Odegaard and Ramos to be team-mates once again before very long.