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What Real Madrid paid for Martin Ødegaard doesn't have to matter

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Money only sets footballers up for failure if we let it, and that's a very strange thing to do.

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As transfer sagas go, the adventures of Martin Ødegaard did at least take in some exciting cross-continental travel. But after visits to Liverpool, Manchester, Barcelona and Munich, the Norwegian boy wonder has pitched up at Real Madrid, and in the doing so, has occasioned quite the commotion. It turns out, you see, that he will be paid quite a lot of money.

-- Oh, gosh, are you OK? No, no, take a moment. Have a seat, get your bearings. You'll be okay in a second. There we go.

Nobody seems to know quite how much money, though reports are suggesting a figure of around £80,000 a week. Which is obviously ridiculous by the standards of the wider world, albeit kind of unsurprising for football. Some kid was going to get stupid money at some point, and at least this one's got some fun punctuation in his surname.

Nevertheless, people are concerned. Some are concerned that moving to Real Madrid isn't the most sensible move, given their tendency to lean towards the monetary splurge when it comes to building a squad. Others are concerned that the money could lead the youngster astray, into a life of fast cars and shiny distraction. (Both probably nonsense, but there we go.) And peculiarly, some are concerned that the very act of accepting the money has inevitably ruined things before they've even got going.

Take this, from the Telegraph:

Through no fault of his own Ødegaard is now almost certainly destined for failure. Unless the teenager becomes one of the greatest players of all time he will be a disappointment. An under-achiever. A waste of money. Because money is what it now comes down to. As soon as Real Madrid decided to pay a reported annual salary in excess of £4 million to a boy who is not allowed to drink spirits in his home country for another four years they placed an almighty bounty on his head.

How can Ødegaard even vaguely justify that sum? How can he justify the private jets that have flown him from one European footballing superpower to another? How can he justify the fact that his father Hans Erik has been made a Real Madrid youth team coach as part of the deal to bring the teenager to the club? How can he justify Madrid lining up Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to greet him on arrival? How can he justify being put up in the presidential box to watch the Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon?

To which the obvious answer is: why should he have to justify it all that?

If the continent's superpowers want to lay on private jets, and if his preferred of those superpowers wants to pay him an awful lot of money, offer his father a job, line up superstars to meet him, and offer him a seat in the presidential box to watch a game of football, why is any of that Ødegaard's to justify?

The money is Madrid's. The risk is Madrid's. Those private jets were the trailing coattails of the rest of Europe, rejected in favour of the prettiest, and should Ødegaard fail to emerge from Zinedine Zidane's B team into be the greatest footballer of all time, then the miscalculation will have been Madrid's as well. In essence, all Ødegaard has done is permit several of the biggest football clubs in the world to make their cases, then picked his favourite. It seems a little weird to then relocate the club's risk onto his slender shoulders.

How, then, to deal with the seeming inevitability outlined above? Are we not trapped? Trapped in the face of this onrushing, unavoidable, unstoppable, unanswerable fact: that any level of achievement beneath luminous transcendence will -- Must! Can only! -- amount to failure, disappointment, misery, loneliness, contempt, despair, the rending of garments, the gnashing of teeth, the tears, the endless tears, the endless rivers of tears, the endless rivers of tears flowing down to vast dark salt oceans.

No, we're not, and the solution is simple: Stop worrying about it.

This is Real Madrid, after all, the club that didn't sign Ronaldinho because he had funny teeth

Think about what this weird, self-imposed measurement amounts to. "My assessment of this footballer's achievement will be based around the amount of money Real Madrid felt appropriate to exchange for his services at the age of 16." Now, think about the fact that this being a reasonable approach hinges on two hilariously unstable things: the judgement of a footballer's ability at the age of 16, and the appropriateness of otherwise of Real Madrid's transfer dealings. Because here's a secret:

Real Madrid don't always spend their money very wisely.

And, while we're blowing your mind, here's another shocking revelation:

Football clubs -- that's all of them -- don't always spend their money very wisely.

So therefore, we would venture to suggest, it is slightly peculiar to allow one's expectations to be set by those football clubs and their money-spending. This is Real Madrid, after all, the club that didn't sign Ronaldinho because he had funny teeth that wouldn't do well in emerging markets. Whether that calculation was right or wrong, it does rather suggest that at best they're not just running themselves on a purely football-centric basis. And you're going to let this club's cash handling define what will and will not amount to disappointment?

The transfer market is ridiculous. There is a lot of money in some places and not much in others, there is a lot of desperation everywhere, there is a lot of competition and one-upmanship and 'right, we'll double it'. At the top tend, where Real Madrid shop, it starts to get really weird, as transfer fees swell and stretch, as the whole thing gallops towards some kind of financial event horizon, some point of no return. Later in that same piece, the Telegraph compare Ødegaard to a previous Real Madrid signing who also came with a large price tag:

[Gareth Bale] did not ask for the Spanish giants to spend £86 million to buy him, but as soon as they did he had to prove he was worth it -- a near impossible task.

Which provokes the thought that perhaps we should stop allowing these large sums of money to set footballers near impossible tasks on our behalf? That seems like a weird way to organise the world. As though a price tag were some kind of intrinsically, inherently accurate dipstick, as opposed to, say, the fevered product of an overheated market populated, in the large part, by men acting like dipsticks.

"Because money is what it now comes down to." Only if you let it. Stop caring about the receipts: that's not football; that's accountancy. Resist the tyranny of the zeroes, and render unto Real Madrid's moneymen the thing's that are theirs. Let footballers be footballers, and let Ødegaard be Ødegaard.