FOOTBALL SUMMER SALE - 25%-75% off on Running & Lifestyle Products! SHOP NOW

header

Martin Ødegaard: Good Things Come to Those Who Work Hard

11teamsports was in London with Martin Ødegaard for the Nike Mad Ready Pack photo shoot and VERSUS magazine interviewed Martin on the occasion. If you want to read the original version of the interview, you can find it on the VERSUS website.

MØ’s story proves that patience is a virtue.

How much can life change in 10 years? Ask Martin Ødegaard; he’d say a lot. 

The year is 2024, and today—a rainy Thursday afternoon on the outskirts of London—our paths meet to hear his story. As we begin to chat, there’s an immense sense of familiarity, as though I’ve known him for years. Then I realised, in some way, I have; we all have. 

Norway is famous for its tales, and just shy of ten years ago, in Drammen, a fifteen-year-old was starting his own story—one that would change his life forever. He was the hometown hero turned worldwide wonderkid, and no one—not even him—could predict what would follow. The world was waiting: where would Martin Ødegaard go? Many called, but it was Real Madrid who presented an offer he simply couldn’t refuse.

But it’s never that simple, is it?

The story of a wonderkid can be truly unforgiving at times; the world of football often forgets that. Moving away from home is tough enough as it is, let alone across the continent, as a teenager, to the biggest club in the world, with millions of eyes firmly fixed on you—a fledgling of football not yet ready to take full flight. That was Martin’s reality, and in no time, many had foreclosed the fairytale and written him off before the ink had even dried. Meanwhile, he was writing his own story on his own terms.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Football tends to forget the person behind the player. Every season, the stage is set once again: more games, more eyes, more pressure. Learning from failure is no easy feat, let alone when your mistakes are under the scrutiny of millions. Approaching that reality as an adult is tough; as a teenager, it is twice the task.
For Martin, we’ve watched him grow from boy to man, seen his highs and his lows—the trials and tribulations of a ten-year journey we can all learn from. It’s a tale of resilience, perseverance, and proof that patience is a virtue. He stepped away to see the bigger picture, and, as his career enters full bloom, he’s finally receiving the flowers he deserves—leading club and country into new eras with success in sight. 

So, I ask again: how much can life change in 10 years?

VERSUS spoke to Martin – at a Nike ‘Mad Ready’ pack shoot with 11teamsports – about his journey, the hurdles he's overcome, and the role of being a leader on the world’s biggest stage.

Nike Mad Ready Pack

p2

VERSUS: Firstly, how are you?
Martin Ødegaard: I'm good. I can''t complain. Always good.

It’s important to get to know you, the person, as much as it is to know you, the player. So, if you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would it be? 
It''s quite hard. I think I’m a calm, chill person—someone who’s close to their close ones. 

And how does that translate to you on the pitch?
I think I put a lot of my personality into the pitch. But, at the same time, what you see on the pitch is different from who I am off it. I think you see a lot more aggression on the pitch, for one. Overall, though, I’m a calm person. I think I handle pressure situations well, and I’m always trying to make the right decisions. So, I think I use it in a good way. 

Throughout your career, and before it too, have there been any people in and out of football who''ve shaped the person and the player that you are today? 
There are so many who have helped me become who I am today: family, of course; my coaches; and teammates. I’ve learned so much from all sorts of different people, and I just try to pick up small things from the people around me. That’s how I’ve become the person I am today.

When you first broke out, labels were attached to you very quickly. How did you adapt to such a big change in life? 
It was quite a big step for me at that moment. You know, I was just 15 when I started playing in Norway and then also for the national team, so all of the attention was a big change for my life. One day, I was going to school and doing all the normal things, and then all of a sudden, I was everywhere. But I think I dealt with it in a good way just by focusing on what was important for me: working hard and enjoying my football—that’s how I dealt with it. 

Would you say that's shaped the person you are today?
Yeah, I think so. I think I''ve been through a lot. I''m still pretty young, but I think I''ve gained a lot of experience along the way. There''s been ups and downs all the way, but it’s definitely helped me become who I am today. 

p3

At 18, many were saying it was a 'make or break’ moment for you. However, I feel your career has disproved that and shows that patience is a virtue. How did you deal with the expectations put on you before your time at Arsenal?
Yeah, I think, as you say, people have been talking about me since I was so young. Then, when I went to Madrid, it was a big thing for everyone. And then, suddenly, I was in the Netherlands and everyone thought I wouldn’t make it to the highest level, you know? Everyone thought I was going to just go down and down and down. So I think that''s a part of football; it’s very reactionary, if you can say that. If you play well, you’re the best in the world; if you don''t, you’re the worst. There''s nothing in between. For me, I just try to deal with it in a good way and look at it with my own eyes and those of the people around me. I listen to the people who mean something to me, to my coaches. And I think that''s just my way of dealing with it. Just focusing on myself, the good people, and the right people—all while working hard. 

Since arriving in North London, you’ve very much come into your own. You’re a young captain working with a young manager in Mikel, and for club and country, you’re central to two growing projects. What does that mean to you, and how exciting is that for your career as a whole? 
What’s happening—both here and on the national team—is so nice. Before I joined, the boss [Mikel] told me everything he wanted to do with the club, which was one of the main reasons I came here; I wanted to be a part of that. When he spoke to me about his plan for the team, for the club, and for myself, I felt it was the right step to take. I’ve been so happy since I arrived, and I’m happy with what we’re doing as a club.

As a captain, your role extends beyond the club. How does it feel to be such a key part of what is a passionate culture on and off the pitch and in the stands, too?
I think the club just suits me with the culture we’ve built here and everything we’re doing together: the fans, the players, and the staff. Everyone is just so together now, and I think that''s one of the key things to our success. That’s why we’re doing so well. The atmosphere around the club and in the stadium is unbelievable. So it''s just something we do together, and I think it''s important to keep that going. Everyone around the club is important, and they need to feel important. 

When you first joined, you did so during the pandemic, when stadiums were empty. Now, however, the atmosphere is back to its best. It feels like the fans have adopted you as though you were born and bred in North London. How does it feel to call this place home, and how important have the fans been to the resurgence of the club?
Yeah, I think the fans have been so important for us. As you say, when I came here, it was lockdown; there were no fans. The fans give us so much, and to play there without the energy and passion they bring was sad. We''ve seen now, especially in the last few games, just how much they give us in terms of energy and power to just keep going and pushing all the time. So yeah, it feels amazing to play there every time and get that support. I feel at home here. It''s a special feeling and something I don''t take for granted.

Arsenal is known for producing great talent, and the near and distant futures of the club look so bright. How do you nurture the success of yourself and those around you, and what lessons have you learned that you could pass on to the future leaders of the club? 
One of our main goals is to win trophies, and that’s what we want to do. Arsenal is a club that should be at the top, and that’s where we all want to be. So that's what we''re all chasing now. That’s the big dream, and it’s what we’re working towards. We have a lot of young players who get better and better, so yeah, it’s a great sign for the future of the club. Even though we are a young team, we have experience, and all the players have been through a lot already. It’s a joy to play with them; they’re unbelievable. Hopefully, we can achieve some really good things together.

It’s a historic club with historic players, many of whom are captains: Tony Adams, Patrick Viera, and now yourself. Being a captain offers you even more of a chance to leave a legacy at the club. So, let''s say 20 years from now, how would you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered for winning trophies, of course. That''s the goal. That''s what we all want. So, that''s the main thing for me. But, hopefully, people will remember me as a good player, a good person, and a good leader too. 

p3

You’re playing more football than ever, which can sometimes come with problems both physically and mentally. From the outside, many brush it off, but I think there’s more to it than that. How do you manage these challenges?
I think, first of all, we are lucky. We’re living the dream—playing football every week on the biggest stage—and I’m lucky to do all of these things, so I don’t like to complain too much. I love playing football, and yeah, sometimes it can be a bit mixed up when things are busy and a bit mad. Sometimes it can be hard, and you get tired and all this, but yeah, you just have to deal with it and keep pushing.



And, away from the pitch, what do you do to unwind?
Just really normal things: Netflix, PlayStation, you know. I try not to think about football too much when I’m not training or playing because there’s so much all the time, and I like to just do things differently when I’m not working. I enjoy being at home with friends or family. 

Away from the pitch, fashion is one thing that players are adopting as a way of expressing themselves, and we saw you at London Fashion Week with Bukayo the other day. How do you engage with that side of the game?
Well, to be honest, it''s not always been a big thing for me personally. My family has always been into fashion, and there’s some history there with them having their own shop back home. It was cool to be there with Bukayo, and we had a great time. 

As a player, your achievements are often closely linked to being on the pitch. But, is there something away from football that you''re proud of that you rarely get the chance to speak about?
That's a good question. I would just say my relationship to the people around me. I have a lot of the same friends I had when I grew up, and the relationship I have with my brother, my sisters—the people around me. That’s the most important thing in life. So yeah, it’s something I’m proud of.

Martin Odegaard wears the Nike ‘Mad Ready’ pack, which is available now via 11teamsports.

Nike Mad Ready Pack