At the age of 16, Martin Odegaard of Norway was snapped by the club Stromsgodset in January 2015. Odegaard was hailed as the next big thing and his talent did not go unnoticed by two of the most powerful clubs in Europe: Real Madrid and Barcelona. In the end, Real Madrid took the talent under their wings. On 21 January 2015, Real Madrid reached an agreement to sign Odegaard from Stromsgodset, for a fee reported by Spanish media as around €3 million. He would train with Real Madrid’s senior and Castilla side. At Castilla, he was under the supervision of Zinedine Zidane.

Media and fans created a lot of hype about the 16-year old prodigy. The pressure came on Carlo Ancelotti, the then manager of Los Blancos, to play Odegaard in the senior side. Ancelotti demanded patience and expressed that he did not want to hurry with Odegaard. On May 23, Ancelotti would play Odegaard, who came on as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo. He became the youngest debutant in the history of the club at 16 years and 157 days old.  Real Madrid crushed Getafe by 7-3, but the impact of Odegaard would not be seen. A section of media mocked at him, even though he was impressive at Castilla.

Not all can be like Pele to shine at the age of 16 or 17. Odegaard needed time and Real have always been supportive towards him. They decided to play him on loan at Dutch clubs SC Heerenveen and Vitesse in 2017 and 2018 respectively. On July 5, 2019, he was loaned to Spanish club Real Sociedad. On 25 August, he scored his first La Liga goal in a 1–0 victory over Mallorca. That 16-year old wonder kid has started to show his qualities five years later. And, his best, so far, would come against the defending champions of La Liga – Barcelona and their king, Lionel Messi.

After beating Inter in the Champions League with a second-string side, the clash against Sociedad was expected to be a one-way-traffic. A team, with Messi, Luis Suarez, and Antoine Griezmann, were expected to script a dominating victory. But Sociedad proved to be a tough nut.

Surprisingly, the big names of Barcelona, especially Lionel Messi looked lost and short of energy and idea. Messi, widely regarded as an Alien by many of his fans, awaited like a normal human-being for things to happen rather than making things happen. Surely, someone not from planet earth does not do such. Perhaps, time and again, under pressure, Messi reminds many of us, how badly he needs the help of players who would possess the caliber of  Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Dani Alves, and Neymar.

Sociedad were on the front foot from word go and punished Barcelona. They took an early lead and despite trailing by 2-1 at one point, they stormed back to equalize and deny the Blaugrana full points. Moments of individual brilliance did not help enough as a well-motivated and cohesive unit Sociedad ended the day with a smile on their faces.

While the best player in the world according to a controversial FIFA and Ballon d’Or jury board, was sluggish and unfocused, Odegaard had a sensational match.  Odegaard had more shots than anyone else on the pitch (more on that in a bit) and created the most chances (3) of anyone else too. His fluid movements and drafting in between and behind the lines of Barcelona midfield left the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets clueless. In the second-half, he dared to unleash the long-range shoots. It might not have hit the target, but the 20-year-old’s boldness against the champions must have sparked the eyes of Real Madrid hierarchy, who never gave up on the boy.

Odegaard outweighed Messi and still, it is too early to get excited about the Norwegian talent. Gradually his talents are transforming into deeds and it is expected, the talent would shine more in the coming days.

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