YESTERDAY a relatively untried 16-year-old Norwegian signed for Real Madrid for £2.3 million and a reputed wage of £80,000 per week.
That’s obscene, of course, an example – as if any was needed – of the bloated and unreal money mania that percolates through the highest level of football.
Still, Celtic manager Ronny Deila was not blaming his former protégé Martin Odegaard for moving from his native Norway to Spain, or for exchanging the Tippeligaen for La Liga.
Nor has Deila completely ruled out working with Odegaard in the future, despite being recently rebuffed by the “new Messi” who was offered the chance to learn his trade at Celtic.
“It’s an exciting move,” said Deila. “It’s very hyped in Norway, the biggest thing that ever happened I think, the first Norwegian player to join Madrid.
“It’s a big thing. I’m happy for him. It’s going to be so exciting to see how far he can reach.
“I hoped to get him to Celtic, of course, but I knew it was going to be hard with all the options.
“I have a good relationship with Martin and his father. They called me the day they chose Real Madrid.
“There’s not many times in your life you get the option to go to Real Madrid. So, when you first have the chance, I think it’s good. It’s not going to ruin his career. It can’t be very bad. I understand his choice.
Deila revealed that he kept trying to sign the youngster up until the signature was on the Galacticos’ contract. “Yes, I was speaking with him,” said Deila. “I met them and talked with them but I knew all the way that it was going to be very, very hard. I didn’t put much into it. I just said that we’re an option. Here, you have a better chance to play. This is a ‘between’ step to the biggest clubs.”
Deila is confident that Odegaard will prosper because of that wondrous quality which managers always rate – attitude.
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“If I rated his attitude from 1 to 100, it is 100,” said Deila. “He takes very quickly to all the levels he has come to. He’s the guy who trains the most. He’s very humble and very, very mature as a boy.
“Money is not the issue for him. He has the attitude to succeed. It’s going to be so exciting to see what happens. He loves to play football.”
But will Deila ever get the chance to manage him, perhaps in a loan move so that Celtic can be Odegaard’s finishing school?
“You never know in football,” said the Norwegian. “We want to have loan players that have a big impact on the team like Jason Denayer is doing.
“This could be possible but we want players that we own or can make money from, of course. That’s the important thing.”
Then he cracked a joke – at least it sounded like a joke: “Maybe I have to go there,” referring to Carlo Ancelotti’s hot seat as Real Madrid manager.
Celtic went back to the top of the Premiership by beating Motherwell on Wednesday night, and now they face the trip to Ross County tomorrow for a lunchtime kick-off, with Aberdeen perhaps back on top if they can beat St Johnstone tonight.
The champions will have to manage without midfielder Charlie Mulgrew whose troublesome knee has been damaged again, but otherwise have a full squad and a manager brimming with confidence.
“I am more confident now than I was two or three months ago,” said Deila. “The levels are higher and I think we are growing more and more together and we understand what we expect from each other, the players and me. That gives me more confidence and I see more confidence in the players. They are much fitter than the were before, and sharper.”
Questions were asked of Celtic and his team responded, so does he think that Derek McInnes’s men can do the same? Deila said: “It is always when you are up fighting for titles that you have to bounce back quick, you can’t have long periods with bad results. You need to maintain a high level over a whole season.
“We will see if we can do and if Aberdeen can do it, Dundee United, Inverness or whoever.
“Confidence is a very important thing. When you win games you get more and more confidence. If you can show to yourself you can do it. The next game is always the most important. To win up in the north is so important now and it can give us confidence going into the Rangers game.”
Ah, that game. A week on Sunday, and it will be upon us. Does Deila get bothered by the fans anticipating the first Old Firm match for three years?
He said: “I’m home a lot, so I don’t get it so much. But I get it when I come here. I know what it is about. Again I have been in these situations before, I take it one match at a time. For me the league is the most important thing and the first target is beating Ross County.”