Amid a frenetic opening at Newcastle, the midfielder retains his composure and resolve to keep his team’s faint title hopes alive

Last year, Martin Ødegaard returned to Drammen, the small town in Norway where he grew up. He went back to the pitch where he first learned to play and found that the gravel surface he remembered had been replaced with astroturf. The kids kicking a ball about on the pitch, he observed, didn’t seem as committed as he had been. In his day, these games had really mattered.

The tone couldn’t have been more middle-aged. Of course things were better in his day, of course they were tougher. They didn’t have these fancy facilities and it didn’t do them any harm, did it? Ødegaard might be the oldest 24-year-old in the world. Some prodigies never grow up: Theo Walcott, Anthony Martial and Jack Butland still feel as though they’re in their late teens just waiting to explode into the full majesty suggested by their potential. Others feel as though they go from prospect to elder statesman overnight.

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