1995 was the year that Jari Litmanen was the most cerebral attacking midfielder in the world, yet the least celebrated. Barcelona fans were of the opinion that the Finnish midfielder could have won the Ballon d’Or -has he not been undermined. By virtue of his birth in Lathi, Finland, his destiny was shaped. Nevermind the Ballon D’Or, he didn’t even win the European Player of the Year award. The footballing fraternity couldn’t take a Finnish seriously, much in the vein, one can’t take a sports car from Azerbaijan seriously.
Being the thinking man he is, he charted his career path much in the way a young executive plots his way to the top of a Multi-National Conglomerate – going on an European tour to find the best club for his development. He met his intellectual equal in Johan Cruijff, who, without a moment’s hesitation, recommended Ajax to sign him. The ill-fated stay at Barcelona followed, while, despite his injuries he carved out a cult-hero status at Liverpool.
For the most part, 17-year-old, Norwegian wonder-kid, Martin Odegaard’s career has been following the same trajectory. He took on his own version of a Euro trip, hopscotching from trails at Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich, to Manchester City and then, finally onto Real Madrid – who turned his head with a paycheque of $120, 000 per week – finds himself, like Jari, under-appreciated amongst the excess of one of the most successful clubs in Europe, and at a crossroad.
According to The Telegraph, while Valencia, Leverkusen, Sevilla and Hamburg are lining up for him -it’s Liverpool who are favourites to be his escape route, on loan – and may be given the go-ahead in the next 48-hours.
Resident hipster, and Scandinavian fanboy, JD, dissects the undoubted talents of boy-wonder, Martin Odegaard, and what he’d bring to Herr Klopp’s sexy Liverpool team in the following paragraphs.
Much like Jari, Martin revels in an aura of languid anonymity, being more of a facilitator than an individualist – which has understandably put him out of favour at Real Madrid. Clever with a natural spatial perception – he invokes in himself a feeling of wizened understanding that is uncanny for a 17-year-old. He does, however, comes with the full roster of flicks, feints and drags of the modern YouTube footballer – something that he has been type-casted with. Likes to work in the channels, he has shown the tendency to make the brave pass instead of the easy one.
When marked tightly, he tends to run square too often, looking to manufacture space while compromising on the verticality of his forward play. At 5’9” he may find it hard to cope initially, with the hustle of the Premier League.
In spite of his apparent frail built, he displays sufficient bodywork and a hunger to learn to accentuate the fact that he’ll most probably get better at shielding the ball. In Juergen Klopp, Odegaard would have one of the very best facilitator of young talent in Europe.
The learning curve is a dizzy one. The boy would have to add to the concentration levels and defensive groundwork that is required in the Premier League. A facet of the game that Real Madrid school of attacking tend to overlook. Patience would be a virtue for the 17-year-old, and if he’s given that, unlike Jari, he may realise the full extent of his talents. A win-win for Liverpool.