Arsenal club captain Martin Odegaard has explained why he originally decided to join Real Madrid over the Gunners, back in 2015.
Currently a key member of Arsenal’s title-chasing squad, Martin Odegaard had the chance to move to north London many years earlier, when Arsene Wenger was still the manager.
The Gunners were one of a number of clubs in for the young midfielder, and Odegaard admits they were among the front runners.
“We went to Bayern, Dortmund, Man Utd, Liverpool, Madrid, Arsenal too,” Odegaard recalled. “We got flown around in private planes and made to feel special
“I’m not just saying this … I was actually close to choosing Arsenal.
“When we went there, I got to train at London Colney. I met Arsene Wenger. He took me and Dad out for dinner. That was cool, but strange too.
“It’s Arsene Wenger, you know? He’s this legend I grew up watching on TV, and now I’m sitting across from him eating steak.”
But in the end, the then-teenager joined Real Madrid instead.
Explaining the decision, Odegaard pointed out the B-team system in Spanish football, among other factors.
“They were the Champions League holders with the best players in the world,” Odegaard said. “Back then, I loved Isco — he was so smooth on the ball.
“But the really key thing about Madrid’s offer was that they had a B team where I could play competitive football immediately. And the manager of that team? Zinedine Zidane. It felt like the total package.”
As it turned out, the B-team system didn’t work out for Odegaard as well as he’d expected. He felt caught between the two sides, unable to really excel in either.
Yet you can still understand the logic behind his decision. Youth players who play in countries with B teams in professional leagues do seem to have an edge over young players playing youth football in England.
That’s why the loan system is so important in the English game. Yet loans come with the drawback of unpredictability and impermanence.
Arsenal may have missed out on a few years of Odegaard’s career, but it’s hard to say whether he would have become the player he is now without taking the path he took.
Perhaps he would’ve spent a few years around the Arsenal academy and out on loans, broken into the team, and then joined Real Madrid!