Martin Odegaard is a very mature footballer for his age, and he believes his time with several different clubs has set him up to be the player he is today.
Now officially named Arsenal’s captain, the 23-year-old is leading by example despite his age and the fact that he has only spent 18 months in north London.
Odegaard made his debut for Norway at the age of 15 and signed for Real Madrid when he was just 16.
He has endured an indifferent career, and we asked the Norwegian playmaker if his time in the Spanish capital has set him up for the rest of his career and made him a more mature player than his age shows.
“Yeah, but I don’t think it’s just Madrid, it’s everything that happened after that as well as before,” he told Football365. “I started playing when I was 15 in Norway, played with the national team when I was 15 and then I went to Madrid, experienced a lot there. Good things, hard things.
“Then I went to the Netherlands and I feel like I really grew up as a player and had to take more responsibility. I think everything that has happened to me after that has helped me as well.
“I’ve been through a lot, I’ve been in different countries with different players and managers. You learn from all the places and I try to use that in a good way and I feel like I have a lot of experience to use even though I’m young.”
On what dressing room figures have had a big influence over the years, Odegaard continued: “There are a lot of players and coaches and people in general. In every club you have a lot of characters, some are more fun and some are more serious. That’s the nice part about being in a team, you can deal with different people and you learn [from] different people.
“I don’t feel like I have one or two that were really crucial [in my career]. In every club, I’ve been there are people you can learn from in many different ways. I have been lucky to play with a lot of good players. I have learned a lot from all of them in different ways.”
Picking the Big Six clubs’ opening-day XIs: Same old Man Utd, Arsenal unchanged
At such a young age, Odegaard is not feeling the pressure of being a young captain at a big club hoping to rebuild the connection with their supporters.
“I think that’s normal when you play for a big club like Arsenal,” he explained. “A club that has won a lot of things, has had a lot of big players, big names. That’s a part of football and you have to deal with it.
“I enjoy that pressure and when you play with a bit of pressure you can perform better and you can push yourself every day, so I enjoy that.
“I feel like we are rebuilding a little bit here and it is nice with all the young players we have. It’s great to be a part of that.”
Fans have a huge impact on what happens at football clubs these days, and Odegaard believes it is “impossible” to ignore what supporters are saying.
He insists footballers must ‘protect themselves’ from what fans have to say and thinks players will become “very unstable emotionally” if they read social media after every game they play.
“Today it is impossible not to get anything. For players especially – and coaches – it is important to protect yourself a little bit,” the former Real Madrid man said.
“In football, you are either the best or the worst and if you listen to the media, or social media, or fans, every time you play a game you will be very unstable emotionally.
“When I talk about myself, I think they are too positive when I play well and too negative when I play bad. It is important to block it out a little bit, to keep your focus and listen to the right people.
“For this club and for all the players, the coaches, the manager, I feel it has been important to connect more with the fans. I feel like that has been the most important thing, to connect more to the fans, to understand them and to maybe be more open.
“We play on the same team, we want the same thing, we want the best for the club, we want to win every game and we need their support. Last year was brilliant in the stadium and I think they helped us a lot.
“Of course, you have to listen but sometimes you need to protect yourself so it’s a balance you need to find.”
As Odegaard emphasized, players need to protect themselves. If they read something negative online, it could have a negative effect on their mental well-being.
Arsenal are doing their best as a club to ensure their players and staff are in a good place mentally, which can be seen in the Amazon docuseries All or Nothing: Arsenal.
Odegaard believes the club’s work off the pitch had a large effect on the team’s success last season.
“I think what’s special about this club is the people,” he said. “It’s a lot of good people working here and they want the best for you and care for you and they really want you to succeed and when you do that all the things come naturally. When you don’t play well they talk to you, they help you.
“At the beginning of the season I was out of the team and I always felt the support from the team, from the club and they always wanted to help me to improve and try to calm me down when I was disappointed with not playing or not performing at my best.
“I feel like we have a lot of good people and special people. All that comes naturally, and they care for you and want you to succeed so I think that’s a good quality the people here have.”
Odegaard was speaking before the launch of All or Nothing: Arsenaland he thinks it will be brilliant for fans to see what goes on behind the scenes in the Amazon show.
“I’ve seen the Man City one and a little bit of the Tottenham one. I enjoyed those shows,” he said.
“When I was younger I always liked to see off-the-pitch stuff and things from players, what they do and how they behave. I think for people it will be great to see, especially for young people, they will enjoy it and to see a different part of our life and to come closer to us.”
On what it was like to be recorded by cameras for a whole season, Odegaard added: “Sometimes you were not too happy with the cameras and I am not the biggest fan of the cameras and the attention.
“Sometimes you don’t like it too much but they did it in a very good way, there were cameras on the wall so you didn’t think too much about it. Maybe a little bit in the beginning but after a while it was natural and when you got used to it it was completely fine. I felt like we could be ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Odegaard expects his Norway teammate Erling Haaland to be a success in the Premier League having joined Manchester City this summer.
Asked if he has spoken to the striker since he joined City, the Arsenal captain replied: “Yeah, we speak almost every day. We have a group on Snapchat with some of the guys from the (Norway) team, so we talk a lot.
“He’s a great guy, a great player. I think it will be, unfortunately for us, a great signing for them. For sure he will score some goals.
“I wish him all the best except for when we play them. It will be fun to see him in England.”
As a curious Arsenal fan, I couldn’t help but ask if he tried to bring Haaland to north London.
“Yeah, I tried,” Odegaard replied. “When the Arsenal fans were posting pictures of me and him in the (Arsenal) shift, I was sending them to him. I was always working, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
When asked if Haaland responded to his messages: “He was just laughing. He’s a funny guy so he was just laughing.”
You can watch All or Nothing: Arsenal on Amazon Prime Video.
Episodes 1-3 are released on Thursday, August 4.
Episodes 4-6 – Thursday, August 11.
Episodes 7-8 – Thursday, August 18.
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