The Norwegian playmaker joined Arsenal on a permanent basis from Real Madrid this summer and his former boss has praised the player for how he handled his time in Spain
Former Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari believes Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard “showed character” and did well to manage “many expectations” during his time in Spain.
Having made his senior debut aged just 15 for Norwegian side Stromsgodset, Odegaard made the highly publicised switch to the Spanish capital the following year.
He initially played in Madrid’s reserve Castilla side – then managed by Zinedine Zidane – and divided his time training between them and the first-team squad at Los Blancos.
In May 2015, the Norwegian became the youngest debutant in the history of the club at 16 years and 157 days old when he replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in a La Liga win over Getafe.
Zidane’s promotion to first-team boss the following year to replace Rafael Benitez saw Solari appointed in the Castilla hotseat and oversee the progress of Odegaard.
He made a total of 62 appearances for the Castilla side alongside sporadic appearances in Madrid’s first-team before loan spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad.
Solari – who later had a stint in Madrid’s first-team hotseat – believes the media spotlight on him upon his arrival at Real Madrid coupled with his lack of stability between training with the club’s senior squad and Castilla side required character.
Solari was talking to leading European Football Journalist Guillem Balague for The Pure Football Podcast which is available tomorrow via Spotify, where he praised Odegaard’s progress and tipped him for a bright future at the Gunners.
The Argentine said: “He got to Real Madrid so young, 15 or 16 years old. He had it difficult because he wanted to train with the first team which none of his age were doing.
“He was a talent of course, but sometimes it is easier for them to start relating with the kids their age than going with the first team.
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“You learn other things all the time because if you are with the first team you learn from the great guys and geniuses, but then he had to come back many times and play for Castilla and sometimes it is very difficult if you do not train with those players all the time.
“He was growing as a footballer, he was growing as a person as well.
“He did not have it easy at Real Madrid at the beginning, he showed character. There were so many expectations on this young kid.
“To manage that sort of pressure from the very beginning, and he talks great about it and I am really glad he grew as a player and as a person, first going to Real Sociedad, and coming back then going to play for Arsenal.
“I hope he is happy. Yes of course I dedicated a lot of time for him, as well to other players, if he got one thing from what I tried to teach him, and it is good for him, I am happy.”
Odegaard impressed on a loan deal at the Gunners in the second half of last season before making the permanent move from the Spanish giants this summer.
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