Having made his debut for Real Madrid almost seven years ago, it feels like Martin Odegaard should be a seasoned professional by now.
But when you remember that the Arsenal midfielder is still just 23, you can understand why it has taken so long for Cristiano Ronaldo’s prediction to come true.
After Odegaard first stepped foot onto the Santiago Bernabeu pitch as a 16-year-old in January 2015, the footballing world was fascinated with the young Norwegian’s story and what the future held.
One of those was his Real teammate, Ronaldo, who later that year named Odegaard as one of five players destined for greatness in an interview with BT Sport, alongside Eden Hazard, Memphis Depay, Paul Pogba and Neymar.
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Real Madrid via Getty Images)
“You see many players with potential,” the current Manchester United superstar explained. “I will mention Martin Odegaard of Madrid for example, at 16 he’s still young but you can see he’s a very good player.”
Ronaldo added: “He’s a great player, I think he’s a young boy, he can still grow.
“He has a good future ahead. We must give him time to learn, to take his best decisions. But I see a lot of potential in the player, he has got a good left foot.”
At the time, Odegaard was way behind the likes of Hazard, Depay, Pogba and Neymar, but his recent form for Arsenal suggests that their level is one he could reach.
The Noway maestro, who made his international bow at 14, has been unplayable throughout December and helped the Gunners rise to fourth place in the Premier League, above Ronaldo’s United.
Odegaard boasts six direct goal contributions as many league games, capping his month off with two assists in the 5-0 Boxing Day battering of Norwich City.
No Premier League player betters his output in December, while his underlying numbers affirm that his form is no fluke.
According to statistical gurus Squawka, the 23-year-old has also created more chances (20), more big chances (4), and played more through balls (8) than his peers in December.
But the most glittering indictment of Odegaard’s form is the fact that he has relegated Arsenal player of the season candidate Emile Smith Rowe to the bench by taking his No.10 role.
The creator-in-chief has built on a fairly quiet loan spell during the second half of last season, one which was enough to convince manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu to sign him on a permanent basis this summer, costing £29.5million.
Following the aforementioned 5-0 thrashing, Arteta heaped praise on Odegaard, who is playing “fantastically well.’
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“He helps us a lot,” the Gunners boss told Arsenal.com at Norwich. “He glides the team together and I am really pleased with him.”
Odegaard’s mettle will truly be tested in January when Arteta’s side face league leaders Manchester City, bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool (twice) amid an FA Cup Third Round clash with Nottingham Forest and the visit of Burnley.
But what better way to go into a new year than by proving one of football’s greatest-ever players right?