Not So Marvellous Martin

23 June 2016 | Pic PR

Rough day to be Martin Odegaard.

The Norwegian footballer’s signing by Real Madrid – after an ostentatious, and somewhat farcical, whistle-stop-tour of England, Germany and Spain’s elite clubs – has been branded a “PR exercise” by their former manager, Carlo Ancelotti.

The Italian is one of the beautiful game’s most respected figures, so when he talks people listen. As a manager he has coached some of football’s biggest institutions (Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint Germaine, Real Madrid and will soon be taking charge of Bayern Munich).

As for Odegaard, to say he has underwhelmed at Los Blancos would be awfully kind, to say he’s disappointed would be to get somewhere nearer the truth.

Odegaard is a different type of footballer – less a natural talent and more a well-honed creation. His father was a youth team coach at various clubs in the Tipperligaen (the Norwegian Premier League) and he is said to be a product of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule (the theory that 10,000 hours’ worth of practice is what it takes to become world class at anything).

For better or for worse, Odegaard has become the poster boy for Gladwell’s theory, a theory which is now coming under intense scrutiny in the harshest of sporting environments – elite-level football at Real Madrid, one of the world’s biggest and most famous clubs.

And poor old Martin is failing miserably.

He was dropped to the bench of current manager Zinedine Zidane’s Castella team (B-side) after failing to adapt tactically to the players around him. There were talks of his contract having stipulations stating that he must train three times a week with the first team. This has stopped – in these sessions he has been said to have been found wanting, lacking the requisite technique. In fact, the future of the teenager, not long ago hailed as Norway’s “Next Big Thing”, is looking very much in doubt.

I don’t know if Odegaard’s signing was a PR exercise, as Ancelotti claims, but it would fit the bill of Real Madrid, and galactico-obsessed president, Florentino Perez. Odegaard’s tour of Europe’s giants (coming before he had even played in a senior competitive game) touting his potential and teasing his signature, was one of the most shameless PR tactics by a young player the game has ever seen. Nothing in his career so far has suggested he is an elite level talent, if anything, the opposite is now being proven. And now to be labelled as such by one of the game’s biggest and best, well, I’m not really sure where that leaves him.