Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal discussed Martin Odegaard ahead of Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Norway, whom the Arsenal playmaker captains aged 22
Louis van Gaal heaped praise on Martin Odegaard as Netherlands prepared for the visit of Norway on Tuesday night.
But the Dutch manager also highlighted a transfer mistake the Arsenal playmaker, 22, made earlier in his career, insisting Real Madrid was never the right destination to give him the “best education”.
Odegaard moved to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2015 after a highly-publicised transfer saga which saw numerous clubs across Europe chasing his signature at the age of 16.
He would only make 11 appearances during his lengthy stint with Los Blancos and it took a short-term loan at Arsenal last season to help resurrect his career.
Odegaard sealed a permanent transfer to the Emirates in August for an initial £30million and Van Gaal has been impressed by his 10 appearances for the Gunners this season.
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Van Gaal responded: “I shall choose between and Odegaard and [Genk midfielder Kristian] Thorstvedt. Odegaard is very creative and has very good passing. He can play the ball where he wants.
“When the player demands the ball in a good position he can give the ball. And he’s a team player. He stays a team player, that is very good.”
Despite his youth, Odegaard serves as Norway’s captain and he is an experienced senior professional thanks to his loans at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad prior to his time with Arsenal.
Indeed, he spent the early stages of his career trying to make an impact away from Real Madrid when opportunities in the Spanish capital were scarce.
Van Gaal believes Odegaard would have been better off moving to the Netherlands to develop as a teenager all those years ago, and picked out his former clubs Ajax and AZ Alkmaar as two ideal options.
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“It is a simple answer. Ajax would be the best education,” Van Gaal added. “AZ is also a very nice place for young Norwegian players to go to.”
Van Gaal had two spells as Barcelona manager, so it is not entirely surprising to see him aim a subtle dig at Real Madrid.
He led the Catalan giants to two La Liga titles in the late ’90s, but he is best remembered for his glittering spell with Ajax between 1991 and 1997 during which he led the club to the Champions League.