Arsene Wenger has revealed he was desperate to sign Martin Odegaard when the Norwegian was only 15 and says he’s very happy to see the midfielder now flourishing at Emirates Stadium.
A fully-fledged international player at 15, Odegaard, then on the books at homeland side Stromsgodset, held talks with most of Europe’s big clubs before finally deciding to join Real Madrid for a fee in the region of €4 million.
While the Spanish giants turned a considerable profit when they sold Odegaard to the Gunners in the summer of 2021, he failed to fulfil his potential at the Bernabeu and played most of his football on loan at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad before a six-month spell under Mikel Arteta’s tutelage.
He’s not looked back at Arsenal, winning the hearts and minds of the fans with his energy and creativity and the admiration of his manager and teammates who were happy to elevate him to the captaincy.
On Boxing Day, Wenger returned to Arsenal to watch his former side in person for the first time since May 2018. Odegaard put on a show, making two assists, as the Gunners ran out 3-1 winners over West Ham.
Afterwards, Wenger visited the dressing room and reminded Odegaard of their previous meeting.
“When he was 15, I talked to him. I actually spoke to Martin about it after the game on Boxing Day,” he told TV2.
“I was desperate to sign him. Fortunately, he is here now. He really is like a young Cesc Fábregas. I think he has developed into a complete player.
“He is a very calm player who analyses the game well. He has his feet firmly planted on the ground.
“I am super impressed. He really is a down-to-earth and nice boy. The way he analyses the game. He also did that as a 15-year-old…the sharpness! I am really impressed. He will do well.”
Despite losing out to Real Madrid, Wenger continued to monitor Odegaard’s development.
“I was worried about Martin. I think he lost a bit of his creative attitude. Creativity stagnated.
“After he came to Arsenal, he has found his creativity back. He plays amazingly well and masters everything in the game. He is complete, I like him in every way in the game. Defensive and offensive.
“He makes decisions quickly, and always optimally. It is remarkable! I like him and the way he makes football look so easy.
“He has developed very well. It’s really amazing. His decisions, he is also a leader in the team. You see that Norway is now getting more top-class players, and I hope they can do well internationally in the years to come.”
High praise from Wenger. And richly deserved by Martin.