On 21st January 2015, Real Madrid won the hotly contested race to sign Norwegian ‘wonderkid’ Martin Ødegaard for a fee in the region of €4 million with Ødegaard himself set to earn approximately £80,000 a week at the Bernabéu. However, little under three months later and the deal seems to be turning sour. Ødegaard has reportedly upset teammates and manager Zinedine Zidane at Madrid’s ‘Castilla’ with his attitude and has been subsequently dropped for two games. So what does the future hold for Ødegaard?
Whenever I hear the term ‘wonderkid’ I immediately think of one of my favourite console game ‘Football Manager’. In the current edition of the series, Ødegaard’s father had to give the developers permission to use his son’s image due to his age. So Ødegaard joins a long list of players to be crowned ‘wonderkids’. The problem with wonderkids is that they are just that, kids, and often don’t live up to the expectations placed upon them. Just five years ago, Football Manager 2010 produced a list of wonderkids that would one day rule world football. A full list of the wonderkids can be found here.
This article focuses on the outcomes of the players that were playing for English clubs at the time. 44 wonderkids were plying their trade in England in 2010. Table 1 shows the number of wonderkids per club in Football Manager 2010.
Just over half of the wonderkids are plying their trade in one of Europe’s top tier leagues i.e. in England, Spain, Italy, France or Germany. These include the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and self proclaimed future Ballon D’or winner Nicolas Bendtner. 34% of players have never reached their potential and are playing in second tier and below of Europe’s top leagues. Players in this group range from one time Man United hopeful Federico Macheda to players who never reached the top of their profession such as Chesterfield’s James O Shea.
7% of 2010’s wonderkids now play outside of Europe with Pedro Botelho (Athletico Minero), Miroslav Stoch (Al Ain) and Vladimir Weiss (Lekhwiya SC) all earning a living in outside of the top tier. Finally, and most worrying for any potential wonderkid, 7% of 2010’s wonderkids are without employment by a professional club. Ched Evans has just served a prison sentence on charges of rape, Michael Johnson once the future of Manchester City has retired from the game at the age of 24, while Jack Collison has been unable to find a club since leaving Ipswich in December 2014.
It’s fair to say the wonderkids of 2010 have seen a mixed bag of results. For every Gareth Bale there is a subsequent Michael Johnson. Football is often a fickle sport with today’s star only an injury away from being tomorrow’s forgotten man. Martin Ødegaard is the current wonderkid but perhaps he should consider putting his head down or risk ending up as little more than the current flavour of the month.