English Premiership

Norwegian prodigy undecided

2015-01-07 08:51
Martin Odegaard (Getty)

Oslo - Norwegian prodigy Martin Odegaard, one of the most hunted players in Europe's winter transfer market, is keeping potential suitors hanging on his every word and every pass.

The 16-year-old has been linked to nearly every major club between Manchester and Madrid in recent weeks. But the midfielder's dazzling dribbling and anticipation is being matched by his discretion about where he will go and when.

"There's been a lot of noise surrounding Martin and we decided to not contribute to it by refusing to feed the rumours," his father Hans Erik Odegaard, himself a former professional, told AFP.

"The only thing that matters is that he can develop as a footballer," the father added.

Odegaard, already a Norwegian international, fueled speculation about a move from his hometown club of Stroemsgodset by going on a grand tour of Europe's football giants in England, Germany and Spain around his 16th birthday on December 16.

While the professed Liverpool fan trained at and carefully inspected facilities, press reports had him linked one day with Ajax Amsterdam and the next to Real Madrid in a $14.3 million deal.

He could also plump for Bayern Munich, whose president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has named him "the talent of the century."

Like Barcelona forward Neymar, another former wonderkid, the Scandinavian is spoiled for choice.

"He has a future wherever he goes," said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique.

The Catalan club would like Odegaard but they are banned from signing players until January 2016 after breaching rules on signing under 18s.

More than 30 clubs have expressed an interest: Manchester United and City, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund are also on the list. But English Premier League leaders Chelsea are not among them.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said he would not get involved in an "auction" for the teen.

"I have heard from him and he can go to 25 clubs. I want to know what club it is going to be, but we will not go into battle with all these clubs."

It has been less than a year since the left-footed Odegaard's talent first came to light.

In April 2014, he started playing for Stroemsgodset, in his home town of Drammen, where he became the youngest player and scorer in the Norwegian Premier League. In 23 games he has five goals and seven assists under his belt.

Videos of the young player running rings around opponents have gone viral and soon came to the attention of Norway's national team.

In August, Odegaard wore Norway's red and blue shirt for the first time in a friendly against United Arab Emirates, aged just 15 years and 253 days, a national record.

In October, he became the youngest player ever to appear in a European Championship qualifier, coming on as a substitute in a match against Bulgaria.

"He has developed enormously in a short time. He brought down barriers that I think neither he nor anyone else imagined would fall," Norway manager Per-Mathias Hoegmo told the Aftenposten daily.

"His way of playing, his talent, his ability to make choices and think, all of this is impressive," he added.

However, even though the appeal of joining a Champions League club may seem irresistible, some are recommending Odegaard, technically still under contract with Stroemgodset for the 2015 season, wait to gain more playing time and even more centimetres in height.

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