Real Madrid have unveiled new signing Martin Odegaard — the 16-year-old Norwegian who became the youngest player to ever appear in a Euro qualifier last year and attracted the interest of every major club in Europe. He will reportedly be paid a whopping €80,000 and his transfer fee was between €3–8 million. Though the financial specifics haven’t been disclosed by the club, they did announce that Martin’s father, Hans Erik, will also join Real Madrid as a youth coach.
On the surface, this appears to be a familiar story of too much too soon facilitated by a shady, backroom deal to curry favor with the parents of an overhyped child. But both contracts might be more deserved than many will assume.
Shortly after Martin earned his historic call-up to Norway’s senior national team at 15, Hans Erik went on Nordic television to explain that his son’s meteoric development was no accident.
(Turn English subtitles on if they don’t automatically appear)
Though Martin’s natural talent is undeniable, Hans Erik says that intense and very specific training starting at the ages of five and six have taken the family to this point.
“There are three key factors,” says Hans Erik, himself a professional footballer until 2003 and assistant coach with Tippeligaen club Mjondalen for the last five years, told C More commentators. “1) You have to train a lot. 2) You have to train well. And 3) You have train the correct way. Martin has done all of that.
“First and foremost, he has trained an incredible amount of hours. Secondly, we have trained what I call the correct way. We never train without a football. We have spent an enormous amount of time working on his touch, getting away from pressure. We have worked a lot with what we call quick steps to get away from pressure. We have worked extensively with orientation. When Martin was 8–9, we started doing drills where he worked on his vision.
“His good vision and ball handling is what keeps him from being caught up by the pace of the game. That’s why I’m not worried about him taking on new challenges, new levels. Even though he’s small [5’9”], they don’t get to him. And I have always demanded high tempo in team training sessions.”
But it wasn’t just Martin and his father involved in these intense, childhood training sessions. His brother was added to the mix too, in an effort to improve Martin’s vision of everyone else on the pitch.
“We started when he was 7–8,” Hans Erik says of these types of drills. “I was standing here with the ball, Martin was over there and his brother behind him. His older brother was pointing right or left, I passed the ball to Martin. He was then supposed to turn the direction his brother was pointing or the opposite direction. This way he learned to perceive the field. One thing is to see, but you have to react to what you see.”
And that’s just the beginning of what Martin and his father did together. But another area where Hans Erik differs from many parents of talented (and not so talented) children is that he has no delusions of his son already being god’s gift to football.
When asked how Martin can improve his game, Hans Erik says, “There are a lot of things. He has quick feet, but needs to be faster on longer sprints. But I’m not worried about that, he’s 15 years old. That comes naturally when your body grows. He should score more goals. His left foot can get even better so he can orchestrate the field with long and short passes. He’s good on short passes, but can improve the long crosses. He has a job to do with his defense. He can improve every part of his game, but these are the most important ones.”
He said all of that on television. Pointing out his son/winning lottery ticket’s flaws for all interested clubs to hear. Of course, none of those words really hurt your case when this is what you see while watching Martin play…
So to recap, if you want to get lucrative Real Madrid contracts for both you and your 16-year-old child, be an ex-professional footballer yourself, train your incredibly talented and driven kid from the age of five using the techniques you have learned to be the most valuable and have an older child who can be used as a cog in your training drills. It’s that simple! Maybe.