Home » Martin Ødegaard, Alen Halilovic | Two very different destinies: – I don’t want to compare myself to Ødegaard

Martin Ødegaard, Alen Halilovic | Two very different destinies: – I don’t want to compare myself to Ødegaard

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Martin Ødegaard, Alen Halilovic |  Two very different destinies: – I don’t want to compare myself to Ødegaard

– Martin Ødegaard is one of the few who has broken the curse, writes the renowned website The Athletic.

There is a video about Ødegaard on the YouTube website which is constantly gathering new views.

The video was uploaded in 2022 and has currently been viewed around 1.6 million times.

However, the video is not only about the Norwegian Arsenal star. Croatian Alen Halilovic also plays a central role.

The video, which is a so-called “short”, has the title: “Halilovic vs. Ødegaard: Totally different destinies”.

The Norwegian and the Croat have a lot in common. They were both born sometime in the 1990s, they were both considered so-called child prodigies at a young age and they both went to Spanish football as teenagers. Halilovic to Barcelona, ​​Ødegaard to Real Madrid.

– Ødegaard is incredible

Halilovic, who is two years older, currently plays for Fortuna Sittard in the Netherlands. Ødegaard is chasing the biggest trophies with his Arsenal.

The suddenly different fates of the two midfielders are sensational.

– I don’t even want to compare myself to Ødegaard, Halilovic adds The Athletic.

– He has been incredible in recent years and is one of the world‘s best midfielders. I have a lot of respect for that and what he has done shows that young boys actually have to show patience, the now 27-year-old Croatian continues about the Norwegian.

A couple of weeks before a 15-year-old Ødegaard made his debut for Strømsgodset (April 13, 2014) in the Tippeligaen, Halilovic, then 17, signed a five-year contract with Barcelona. At the time, the Croatian had already played Champions League football with Dinamo Zagreb.

The attacking midfielder was hailed as the “next big in football”. A new Luka Modric or Ivan Rakitic.

However, life in Barcelona did not turn out as everyone had thought. He ended up playing only one official match for the A team.

– The mistake I made was that I did not follow the plan Barcelona had laid out for me. The first two years there were perfect, but I was waiting for a chance in the third year. But then I realized that Luis Enrique (then coach) didn’t want me there, he says.

– Thought: “Damn, rather”

In August 2015, he was loaned to Sporting Gijon, where he got more regular playing time, before returning to the Catalans.

– I was supposed to stay in Barcelona for another year and play in the EC with Croatia. I did very well. But when I didn’t get playing time, they wanted to send me out on loan again. I was frustrated by everything that happened, says the 27-year-old.

– I didn’t really want to go out on loan again, and thought “Damn it, I’m leaving here”, he says.

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As a teenager, Halilovic played 129 games, but after he left his homeland in 2014, there were 123 games over the next seven years. Only 60 games from the start. He played in eight different clubs and in six different countries – Germany, Italy, Belgium, England, Spain and Croatia.

The clubs he has been to are: Hamburg, Las Palmas (loan), AC Milan, Standard Liège (loan), Heerenveen (loan), Birmingham, Reading and Rijeka, before he signed for the Dutch top division club Fortuna in the summer of 2023, where he now plays Today.

Halilovic admits that after the high-profile transfer to Barcelona, ​​he perhaps got a little too “high on the pear”.

– I thought I would play in Barcelona, ​​and be selected ahead of Andres Iniesta, but when you are young, you have to understand that your time will come.

– It can actually take three or four years before you break through and you may have to wait until you are 21, or 25, like Ødegaard. He went from club to club and then he finally found the best place to be for him, a club that let him show the talent he has, says Halilovic.

Veland: – Nothing indicates that

Petter Veland has followed Spanish football for a number of years and well remembers the comparisons that were drawn between Halilovic and Ødegaard.

He believes that in many ways a somewhat artificial narrative was built up around the two teenagers.

– History shows, although it is easy to say with facts in hand, that what was built around Halilovic and Ødegaard fit a narrative then and there. There is really nothing to suggest that the two should be pitted against each other, says Veland to Nettavisen.

– Apart from the fact that one ended up in Barcelona and the other in Real Madrid at roughly the same time, that they played in more or less the same position and that Norway met Croatia in European Championship qualification around that time, the La Liga expert continues.

He points to the comparison of Erling Braut Haaland and Swedish Alexander Isak as a similar narrative, although the Swedish forward has by no means suffered the same fate as Halilovic, Veland emphasizes.

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– It’s easy to draw parallels, stories like that come up all the time, some are correct, but in the vast majority of cases we see that one career can take off, while the other is left standing still. Here, Ødegaard managed to stand out in a positive way, says Veland.

– On a general basis, it is completely natural. There are few who get through the narrow eye of the needle in football and many are weeded out on the road. The vast majority do not even get as far as what Halilovic has done, the expert believes.

Veland believes Ødegaard made good choices for his career throughout, even if he was occasionally criticized for his choices.

– It’s about coincidences, mental strength, qualities and the choices they make. Halilovic went on loan to Sporting Gijon at a slightly too young age, a vulnerable and important age. Martin chose the Netherlands with loans at Heerenveen and Vitesse, recalls Veland.

– It seems that Halilovic is having a little self-examination. The older Halilovic looks back on what the younger should have done differently. Ødegaard perhaps made more good choices throughout and was a little better at having his feet planted on the ground in the first place. It is one of many things that come into play and helps to define why Ødegaard succeeded and Halilovic failed.

– More is required in Real Madrid

Halilovic is far from the only one to suffer such a fate. The football world is full of players who are promoted to be so-called child prodigies at a young age, but who never quite manage to take the final step up among the very, very best players and clubs.

It is this “curse” The Athletic claims Ødegaard is one of the few to break.

Another example of someone who never quite reached the top is the Spaniard Sergio Canales. At the age of 19, he signed for Real Madrid.

The 33-year-old, who currently plays for Monterrey in Mexico, never quite made it at the giant club either.

– Mine and Ødegaard’s journey are quite similar, because neither of us was properly prepared to be in a big club at such a young age. Today, young players are more prepared for the life ahead. When I signed for Real Madrid I was just a child, mentally and physically, he says.

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– I had always been a good player, but it required much more to be a player at Real Madrid.

Canales got a total of ten games for Real Madrid. In comparison, Ødegaard ended up in eleven games for the capital club.

– I saw Ødegaard at Real Sociedad and he was a decisive factor there. Then I realized that it was only a matter of time before he had his breakthrough. Now I think he is one of the best midfielders in the world, says Canales.

– I like him very much. He is good technically, but I really like the mentality and personality he shows when he plays.

Canales eventually had a pretty good career, but perhaps never reached the heights many had predicted. He has played club football in both Valencia, Real Sociedad and Real Betis, before going to Mexico in 2023. He has also recorded 11 international matches and one goal for Spain.

The case of Hachim Mastour

Of other players who have not completely overcome the so-called “teenage curse”, The Athletic also highlights former AC Milan player Hachim Mastour. He was born in 1998, the same year as Ødegaard, and was brought to AC Milan as a 13-year-old.

He never played a senior match for the club, but went on various loan spells in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Greece.

The world saw Mastour when former AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf picked him up in the A team for the last game of the 2013/14 season. He never got on the field, but the attention around the youngster became great as a result of this.

For example, Mastour, who is 25 years old today, has a whopping 585,000 followers on Instagram. Today he plays in his native Morocco.

Via his Instagram account, Mastour constantly receives questions from fans and followers about “what really went wrong for him?”.

The “Scottish Messi”, Ryan Gauld, who was brought to Sporting in Portugal at a young age, and EC sensation Renato Sanches, who went to FC Bayern at a young age, are other players around the same age as Ødegaard, who are mentioned in the case of The Athletic.

Gauld now plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, while Sanches has had an upswing after an unsuccessful stay at the German big club, and later a loan at Swansea, and has been at clubs such as Lille, PSG and Roma (loan).

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