MARTIN ODEGAARD made only his third Real Madrid appearance on Sunday night – over five years after his debut.
In May 2015, the Norwegian starlet became the club’s youngest-ever player when replacing Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench.
As much as anything, the decision to play Odegaard at just 16 years and 157 days old was a symbolic one.
Clubs around the world had competed for the attacking midfielder’s signature for months before he opted to leave Stromsgodset for Madrid.
Arriving in Real’s Castilla reserve team, managed by Zinedine Zidane, the youngster was told to train with the senior side but initially struggled.
Eyebrows were raised at giving the teenager such prominence, in particular by Carlo Ancelotti.
In 2016, the Real boss at the time of Odegaard’s arrival said: “The president decided that he would play three games with the first-team as a public relations exercise.
“He could be the best player in the world, but I don’t care because he was not a player who I asked for. That signing was to do with PR.”
A better 2015/16 campaign saw Odegaard earn his second senior outing and he left for a quiet 18-month spell with Heerenveen.
Further loans at Vitesse and Real Sociedad saw the player finally push towards the monumental potential many believed he had.
Madrid fought hard to bring Odegaard back to the Bernabeu, successfully recalling him midway through a two-year deal in San Sebastian.
And Odegaard started against his old club as they began their LaLiga title defence on Sunday night.
A 0-0 draw left Los Blancos with questions over their attack, with Vinicius and Rodrygo failing to convince.
Odegaard was replaced after 69 minutes as Zidane, without injured pair Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio, snubbed Luka Jovic to bring debutants Marvin Park and Sergio Arribas off the bench.
Speaking after the game, the 21-year-old insisted he has a lot to learn from the experienced stars around him, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos also starting.
He told Movistar+: “I understand them well but it’s always difficult at the start.
“They are players at an incredible level and that makes it easier for me.”
He added: “I feel good but we’re missing the win.
“It doesn’t leave me very happy, although it’s good to play for Real Madrid again. It was a game against friends and good people.”