Arsenal star man Martin Odegaard was called 'Norwegian Messi' and Pep Guardiola vowed to make him best in the world | The Sun11/03/2022
ARSENAL'S £30million splurge on Martin Odegaard last summer looks to be one of the best bargains in recent Premier League history.
The 23-year-old playmaker was instrumental in the Gunners' push for a top-four finish last season and has been a key cog in their well-oiled machine this campaign.
Odegaard's fine form this season – in which he scored four goals and provided five assists -has helped Arsenal top the Premier League table.
And the playmaker, once dubbed the 'Norwegian Messi', is not short of admirers – with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believed to have been desperate to sign him when he managed Bayern Munich.
While during his time at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo was wowed by Odegaard's left foot and promise.
International team-mate Erling Haaland has also revealed the joy he has playing for Norway with Odegaard being his chief supplier.
Odegaard was the wonderkid we had already heard about at 14.
The buzz around Odegaard as a young teen was incredible.
Astonishingly, he began training with the Stromsgodset first team aged just 13 and made his debut in Norway's top flight at 15.
He was invited to train with the top clubs around Europe, including boyhood club Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
In 2015, it was Real Madrid who had clinched a deal for the-then sought-after 16-year-old for a fee of around £2.3million.
Norwegian football pundit and former striker Jan Aage Fjortoft explained why Odegaard chose the LaLiga giants.
He said: “As you know, Liverpool was his favourite club, it was his favourite club as a child. I still think that the reason why he ended up at Real Madrid was quite simple, in my opinion.
“First of all, Real Madrid had a second team, the other three clubs did not. The second team (Castilla) coach was Zinedine Zidane. He is not a bad player, he is not a bad coach!”
PEP MISSED OUT
Guardiola wanted to work with Odegaard at Bayern Munich, according to Fjortoft – who now works as a journalist in his homeland after starring on our shores for Swindon, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Barnsley.
The Spanish boss was adamant he could turn the No10 into a world beater, and told Fjortoft so.
Fjortoft said on the Here We Go podcast that Guardiola relayed to his board: “You have to bring that boy (Odegaard) to Munich, you have to bring him to Munich! I will make him the best player in the world!”
However, Pep lost out to Real Madrid, although then-Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti wasn't impressed by the fanfare surrounding the boy wonder.
He alleged that the club's president Florentino Perez only signed Odegaard as a PR exercise.
“When Florentino buys a Norwegian footballer, you simply have to accept it," Ancelotti wrote in his book Quiet Leadership.
“Furthermore, the president decided that he would play three games with the first team as a public relations exercise.”
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE?
After making his Real Madrid debut at 16, Odegaard found it hard to break into the first team.
In 2017, he was sent on loan to Heerenveen – where he initially struggled to find his feet.
However, once he scored his first goal in his 15th appearance there was no looking back and he grew from game to game with the Dutch side.
The following season, Odegaard stayed in Holland for a year-long loan to Vitesse Arnhem.
Converted to playing on the right wing, he scored 11 times and provided 12 assists on his way to being voted the club's player of the season for 2018-19.
Odegaard returned to Spain for the 2019-20 season with Real Sociedad, his third loan in as many seasons.
And he starred in San Sebastian, scoring four times in 31 games – becoming a fans' favourite with his brilliant passing – chipping in with six assists as well.
His form encouraged Zidane to keep Odegaard around this season, but with just nine appearances for the club (mostly from the bench) he grew frustrated by lack of first team opportunities.
RATED BY RONALDO AND HAALAND
Bucking the trend of the naysayers, Cristiano Ronaldo was full of praise for Odegaard in an interview in 2015.
“You see many players with potential. I will mention Martin Odegaard of Madrid for example, at 16 he’s still young but you can see he’s a very good player," he said.
“He’s a great player, I think he’s a young boy, he can still grow.
“He has a good future ahead. We must give him time to learn, to take his best decisions. But I see a lot of potential in the player, he has got a good left foot.”
Odegaard, who has 37 caps for Norway and is captain, has also been praised by Borussia Dortmund hot shot Erling Haaland as a dream team mate.
Speaking after scoring three times in a 4-0 Nations League win for Norway over Romania in 2020, a game in which Odegaard teed up Haaland twice, the fierce striker was full of praise of his pal.
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"Yes, I can simply split it (the hat-trick) in two (and share with Odegaard). It's nice to play with Odegaard," he told the Mail.
"It will only get better in the years to come. We are still young."
Arsenal will be hoping Odegaard continues to blossom in North London, and help them back into the Champions League.
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