The Norwegian playmaker joined Arsenal permanently from Real Madrid this summer and his former boss praised the player for the way he handled his time in Spain.
Former Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari believes Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard “showed character” and did well to handle “a lot of expectations” during his time in Spain.
After making his senior debut at just 15 for Norway’s Stromsgodset team, Odegaard made the high-profile stint in the Spanish capital the following year.
He first played in Madrid’s reserve squad in Castile – then led by Zinedine Zidane – and split his training time between them and the Los Blancos first team.
In May 2015, the Norwegian became the youngest debutant in club history at 16 years and 157 days when he replaced Cristiano Ronaldo in a La Liga victory over Getafe.
Zidane’s promotion to first-team boss the following year to replace Rafael Benitez saw Solari named to the Castilla hotseat and overseeing Odegaard’s progress.
He made a total of 62 appearances for the Castilla squad as well as sporadic appearances for the Madrid first team before loan spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad.
Solari – who went on to make a stint in the Madrid first team – believes the media spotlight on him upon his arrival at Real Madrid as well as his lack of stability between training with the club’s senior team and the squad. from Castilla demanded character.
Solari spoke with European football journalist Guillem Balague for The Pure Football Podcast, available tomorrow via Spotify, where he praised Odegaard’s progress and gave him a prognosis for a bright future at the Gunners.
The Argentine said: “He came to Real Madrid so young, 15 or 16. He struggled because he wanted to train with the first team, which none of his age did.
“It was a talent of course, but sometimes it’s easier for them to start building relationships with kids their age than it is to go with the first team.
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“You learn other things all the time because if you’re with the first team you learn from the big guys and the geniuses, but then he had to come back a few times and play for Castilla and sometimes it’s very difficult if you don’t train with these players all the time.
“He was growing as a footballer, he was also growing as a person.
“He didn’t have it easy at Real Madrid at the start, he showed character. There were so many expectations on this young child.
“Handling that kind of pressure from the start, and he talks about it really well and I’m really glad he grew as a player and as a person, going first to Real Sociedad and then coming back and then playing for Arsenal.
“I hope he’s happy. Yes, of course I spent a lot of time for him and the other players, if he got one thing from what I tried to teach him, and it’s good for him, I am happy.
Odegaard impressed on a loan deal with the Gunners in the second half of last season before leaving the Spanish giants for good this summer.
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