LONDON : Martin Odegaard's short yet eventful career has been defined by high expectations and moderate achievements but after joining Arsenal on a permanent deal the Norwegian now has a stable platform from which he can finally live up to the hype.
The midfielder impressed on loan with Mikel Arteta's side in the latter half of last season and the Gunners have shown huge faith in his ability by signing him from Real Madrid for a reported 35 million euros (US$40.88 million).
Odegaard has been in the spotlight since he made his international debut aged 15.
Top clubs soon began circling and Real won the race to sign him from Norwegian side Stromsgodset in January 2015, a month after he had turned 16. He made his debut that May to become the club's youngest ever player.
Two years later he embarked on the first of several loan spells by joining Dutch top-flight side Heerenveen and then fellow Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem, but it was his 2019 loan at Real Sociedad when he really began to impress.
Odegaard's sensational season with the Basque side reminded everyone in Spain why Madrid had been so keen to snap him up as a teenager, and the Norwegian, then aged 20, looked to have finally found his level in a dynamic, attractive side.
"Sometimes it can be hard being Martin Odegaard. As I started so young, there were unrealistic expectations," he told ESPN in 2019, describing Sociedad as "the perfect project" for him.
He was Sociedad's standout performer in a flying start to the campaign as they challenged for the top four and then reached the Copa del Rey final, netting seven times and providing nine assists.
Highlights included scoring in a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid and a 4-3 Copa del Rey triumph over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Odegaard was recalled by Real before the start of the 2020/21 campaign, a year earlier than he or Sociedad had expected.
He was given several starting berths but failed to make an impression and Zinedine Zidane soon lost faith in him.
Odegaard had to go on loan again to get the minutes he needed to keep developing, and Arsenal and former Sociedad player Arteta were grateful recipients.
Odegaard made 20 appearances in all competitions and while he may have not set the world on fire, he finished strongly as Arsenal ended a terrible season on a high with five consecutive wins.
With a permanemnt deal in place, it is now up to him to realise his full potential.
(US$1 = 0.8562 euros)
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Peter Rutherford)