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Martin Odegaard is finally at a club that truly loves him – his Dream Team returns say it all

Still just 23 years old, it feels as if Martin Odegaard (£3.1m) has lived an entire career already.

The stylish midfielder first set tongues wagging in 2014 when he made his debut for Norway aged just 15.

One year later he signed for Real Madrid, who beat off competition from Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and both Manchester clubs, to much fanfare.

While there was much hope around Odegaard, the weight of expectation would have been heavy on his young shoulders, even if he maintained an impressive level of professionalism throughout the saga.

Los Blancos diehards were quick to hype up the teenage talent with many touting him as the Spanish capital’s answer to Lionel Messi – an unrealistic standard to set for any player since the Argentine forward’s ascension.

Odegaard’s formative years were uniquely scrutinised

Odegaard’s formative years were uniquely scrutinised

And so, when Odegaard flourished into tidy midfielder (very tidy as it turns out) instead of a world-beater, there was a sense of mild disappoint at the Bernabeu.

Loan spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad aided his development but still he was not deemed the right fit at Real Madrid, a club that has enjoyed the luxury of Luka Modric’s enduring ability beyond what was expected.

In 2021 there was a feeling that Odegaard needed to take a decisive step to progress his career and start afresh – he needed a proper, permanent home.

Sensing an opportunity, Arsenal recruited him on loan in January.

In recent years the Gunners’ decision-makers have provided Mikel Arteta with technically sound, tactically intelligent players as the club steadily moves towards era finally free from the wicked hangover of the post-Wenger years – Odegaard fit the bill perfectly.

While he didn’t pull up any trees during his first six months in north London, he won over more and more admirers on a weekly basis as fans recognised the value of an creative presence in midfield who prioritises smart football over audaciousness.

Odegaard believes it’s best to systematically break down a defence with a series of strategic passes rather searching for a magic ball that may never come.

That doesn’t mean he’s overly cautious in possession – he’ll attempt an eye-catching throughball if he genuinely believes it’s on – but generally he likes to exchange passes with team-mates and move opponents out of position half a yard at a time before going for the jugular.

Mature beyond his years

Mature beyond his years

Recognising Odegaard’s attributes both with and without the ball, Arteta concurred that the deal should be made permanent in the summer.

And Arsenal’s No8 quickly became an automatic selection in midfield.

In 2021/22, he scored seven goals and five assists though few would be foolish enough to judge him on goal involvements alone.

Just a few weeks ago, Odegaard was named new club captain following the departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

This decision was partly influenced by the Gunners’ remarkably young squad and Granit Xhaka’s (£2.5m) disciplinary history but that doesn’t mean Odegaard had not earned the accolade – it’s representative of his maturity as both a footballer and a human.

Evidently buoyed by this show of faith, he has started this season in fine form, scoring three goals in his last two outings to help maintain Arsenal’s 100% record.

After the profile propulsion that accompanied his transfer to Real Madrid and the years of uncertainty spent out on loan, it feels as if Odegaard has firmly established a home thrilled to have him.

Odegaard captains Arsenal this season

Odegaard captains Arsenal this season

In regards to Dream Team, Odegaard is currently the second-best asset in his position having banked 31 points from four outings so far.

Only the in-form Pascal Gross (£2.7m) is above him in the rankings among midfielders.

It’s early days but at £3.1m he looks to be great value and a popular recruit – his ownership of 16.2% is sixth-highest among midfielders.

Nailed on to start the vast majority of games when fit, he will feel confident of registering more than the 13 goal involvements to achieved last term.

Expect his price to rise in the coming weeks.