Martin Odegaard is Arsenal’s main man in Mikel Arteta’s revolution in the club’s quest to win a first Premier League title since 2004.
But he could have counted Pep Guardiola as his mentor had he not rejected the Manchester City boss in 2015.
The 24-year-old has been a revelation at the Emirates since his temporary loan spell from Real Madrid in 2021 was turned into a permanent stay.
Last year, he was handed the captain’s armband where he became Arsenal‘s youngest skipper since Cesc Fabregas in November 2008.
It’s been a remarkable journey for Odegaard, who broke into Norwegian side Stromsgodset’s line-up at the age of 15.
His dazzling displays led to him being courted by Europe’s elite, with the midfielder ultimately opting to join Los Blancos.
One of those clubs he rejected was Bayern Munich – managed by Guardiola – who were confident at securing his services following his week-long trial in December 2014.
Speaking at the time, Bayern’s former CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated he hopes the Bavarian outfit prove to be ‘the best looking groom’ in the race to snap up the ‘beautiful bride’.
He said: “This young man needs time to make the right decision. No decision has been made. He is an interesting player, and we are out for him.”
“Obviously a beautiful bride, and many grooms are waiting on the door step. Maybe we are the best looking groom.”
Odegaard, who made his Norway senior debut ages just 15 years and 253 days, had spoken of his inspiration for the Bundesliga giants.
He told Sport Bild: “I follow the Bundesliga, and it’s a very strong league. You can see that in the way their teams play in the Champions League.”
Explaining his decision in February to The Players’ Tribune, he remarked he was close to picking Arsenal over Bayern, but chose Real due to their European pedigree and being able to play in their reserve team.
He remarked: “My dad handled everything with the clubs, and there were a lot. We went to Bayern, [Borussia] Dortmund, Man United, Liverpool, Madrid, Arsenal too. 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.”
Odegaard continued: “So, why Real Madrid then? I talked about it a lot with my dad and the rest of my family. In the end, Madrid is Madrid. They were the Champions League holders with the best players in the world.
“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.”
It was a decision that disappointed Guardiola, who claimed in April that he needed just ‘five minutes’ to know he was a special talent.
He stated: “I remember perfectly, he came with his father for two or three days of training sessions.
“I needed five minutes to think, ‘this player plays good’. I think he made a tour all over Europe, training for however many clubs.”
Guardiola’s loss has ultimately proven to be Arsenal’s gain, with the playmaker one of the Premier League’s top players.
Named in last season’s PFA Team of the Year, Odegaard has started this campaign on fire – chipping in with three goals and one assist in seven top-flight matches.
And he will be looking to show Guardiola once again exactly what he missed out on when Arsenal face City on Sunday at the Emirates.
With Arsenal having the chance to leapfrog City in the table should they emerge victorious, Odegaard knows he will have to deliver another standout performance if Arsenal wish to come out on top.
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