Don't compare Odegaard to Messi, says Fjortoft

EXCLUSIVE: The television pundit has stressed people cannot expect the Scandinavian teenager to be at the same level as the Argentine
By Christoph Kockeis

Former Norway international Jan Aage Fjortoft feels it would be wrong to compare new Real Madrid signing Martin Odegaard to Barcelona star Lionel Messi and has warned that the 16-year-old should be given time to develop.

The youngster is regarded as one of the most exciting talents around and Madrid beat off stiff competition from clubs such as Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Arsenal, Liverpool and Ajax for Odegaard's signature.

The attacking midfielder has even been compared to Messi by some due to his style of play, but Fjortoft has moved to downplay expectations following his compatriot's transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu this January.

"Comparing Odegaard to Messi is nonsense from the media. Messi is a player who can make the difference and Martin can do the same, but any comparisons should not be taken seriously," Fjortoft told Goal at the Snow Football World Cup in Arosa.

"Martin is only 16 years old and he should be allowed to behave like someone of his age. He should be able to develop gradually and one step at a time. He has already shown that he is ready to take on new challenges.

"Martin does not feel any extra pressure. Let's compare his situation to that of established stars like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos. They were all cheered by the media at some stage and they are role models now.

"The footballer of the future does not only need talent, but he should also work hard, be disciplined and put in more effort than others. You have to follow your goals and stay professional."

Fjortoft believes Real Madrid was the right choice for Odegaard and feels the presence of Zinedine Zidane at the club could prove to be a major advantage.

"The bigger picture was decisive for Martin. Real Madrid are the right choice for him. They have a strong reserve side that is coached by Zidane. It's definitely not a bad thing for a midfielder to be working with Zidane...

"Other teams were unable to offer something similar. Everybody can make all kinds of promises that he would be part of the first team right away, but Martin is a sensible guy.

"Bayern were a good alternative and working with Pep Guardiola is something every young player dreams of. Martin had some great teams to choose from. But Madrid won in the end and he is there because he deserves it.

"Nobody knew him some 11 months ago. His development has been phenomenal.

"He has become a regular with the national team. We didn't invite him because of the media hype. He has made the national team because he is good enough."