Arsenal will step up their mission to sign Martin Odegaard – but his reported £300 million break clause at Real Madrid is a huge stumbling block.
On-loan Odegaard was a revelation in the Gunners’ fightback from 3-0 down in 32 minutes to draw 3-3 at West Ham on Sunday.
His virtuoso display at No.10, showcasing all the qualities Mesut Ozil brought to the role when his gearbox was not jammed on autopilot, was a number-crunchers’ delight, notably his 93 per cent pass completion, nine crosses and four chances created.
And Odegaard’s best display for Arsenal left Gunners fans clamouring on social media to make the Norwegian playmaker’s move permanent.
Even for a club who could afford to pay Ozil £350,000 a week without playing him for a year, the finances of signing 22-year-old Odegaard – who has two years left on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu – are prohibitive.
But manager Mikel Arteta wants to sign him – and the players are equally impressed with his range of skills and temperament.
Defender Calum Chambers, who supplied two assists in the six-goal thriller London Stadium, said: “He has done brilliant. He is a great lad if you speak to him and I get on well with him.
“He feels at home here, he’s doing well and he works incredibly hard – in training and games. I think everyone is really pleased and I hope he continues this form.”
Arteta credited Odegaard with setting the tone for Arsenal’s remarkable comeback at West Ham, saying: “When everyone was a little trembling, he gave us that stability, that composure on the ball, and he created chance after chance.
“I love talented and creative players that all the time are willing to take the ball and make that happen, that are mobile and as well hard-working. He is one of them.
“The way he steps on the pitch, he always wants the ball, the way he commands the pressing. He’s been really influential.
“I think we’ve all been a little bit surprised because he looks really shy and humble, but when he steps on that pitch he’s a real character and he loves to play football.”
Although Arteta was deeply unimpressed with the “two faces” of Arsenal on show in east London, there is now scope for him to form a holy trinity of Odegaard, Bukayo Saka (19) and Emile Smith-Rowe (20) behind the main striker.
And he is relishing the chance to unleash all three against Liverpool when the fallen champions visit the Emirates on Easter Day.