In April 2014, a boy debuted for the club Strømsgodset IF in the first Norwegian league, which was then 15 years and 118 days old. His name: Martin Ødegaard.
The skinny midfielder was thus the youngest footballer ever to play in Norway's top flight. A few months later Ødegaard made his first international match for Norway's senior national team. At the latest at that time he was considered a "talent of the century", and the most prestigious European clubs wooed for his services.
An extraordinary fixed salary for a teenager
Real Madrid won the contract. The transfer of the highly talented Norwegian shows how the logic of professional football is now permeating the youth academies of top clubs. And it shows what the bosses of Real Madrid are prepared to do when it comes to giving the club an advantage. The Football Leaks' documents reveal that.
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26.08.2019, 17:13 clock
Rafael Buschmann, Michael Wulzinger
Football Leaks 2: New revelations from the world of professional football - A SPIEGEL book
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On January 22, 2015 Martin Ødegaard signed his first employment contract with Real Madrid, which was valid until the end of 2018. The boy from Drammen, a town near Oslo, was supposed to play in Real's U19 selection in the first six months.
The fixed salary that lured Madrid was exceptionally high for a teenager who had just turned 16 at the signing of the contract: two million euros a year by the summer of 2016, 2.5 million in the third season, then three in the fourth season Millions.
The transfer fee for his old club Strømsgodset: four million euros fixed plus four million variable premiums. The fee for his advisors, a Norwegian and an Italian: one million euros. They flowed into the account of a company with address on the Guernsey low-tax island in the English Channel.
Three and a half year contract as a youth coach
And then there was Ødegaard's father Hans Erik. In an early Football Leaks release in December 2016, SPIEGEL described him as a man of social conscience, as a man of morality. A law firm representing many Real Madrid players had also calculated for its son how the toll on advertising revenue could be downsampled to the tax authorities with the help of a dedicated firm.
imago / Age pictures
Martin Ødegaard's father Hans Erik (left) and brother Kristoffer (right) in January 2015 at the Bernabéu Stadium
But dad Ødegaard was against it. Martin would, he wrote, "earn a lot of money anyway, so it's a moral question how much trouble he should try to save a few taxes if other people struggle a lot more with their bills numbers."
That was in December 2015, barely a year after the young Norwegian moved to Real Madrid. At that time, Father Ødegaard had obviously already done his job. Because he also benefited financially when transferring his son.
The only question was: how? The answer can be found in the data of Football Leaks.
Real Madrid's General Director José Ángel Sánchez and Manuel Redondo, the governor of President Florentino Pérez, had an idea. On the same day that her 16-year-old wish player signed his three-and-a-half-year contract, father Ødegaard also signed a contract with Real Madrid, also valid until June 30, 2018. The paper on four pages is called "Professional Sports Employment Contract" , It says that Real Madrid hired Hans Erik Ødegaard as a youth coach.
100,000 euros annual salary, three million euros premium
Papa Ødegaard entered a job at the "Alevín B" grade at the "La Fábrica" junior performance center. The children who play there are eleven years old. They are very proud of the club and themselves. On the homepage Real Madrid presents every single kicker, the boys say sentences like from the football poetry album: "For the team I do everything I can." Or: "I like to celebrate goals with my teammates." And: "I like to score goals or play the last pass." "I love wearing the jersey of Real Madrid."
Hans Erik Ødegaard received an annual salary of 100,000 euros from Real Madrid for work with the children. In addition, the club secured him a premium of three million euros, according to the contract payable 30 days after signing. Converted to the contract equivalent to 957,143 euros per season. By comparison, Zinedine Zidane, who was head coach of Real Madrid's U23 at the time, cashed 600,000 euros a year for this job.
Three million euros for the father of one of the most sought-after young footballers in the world can hardly be reconciled with the spirit of Fifa regulations for the protection of minors.
Neither Real Madrid nor Hans Erik Ødegaard responded to a request for comment. One of the questions was whether the contract for father Ødegaard as junior coach was nothing more than a covert fee for the transfer of his then underage son.