Martin Odegaard turned down the chance to sign for Arsenal in 2014 despite Arsene Wenger “rolling out the red carpet” for him, says the club’s former youth recruitment chief Steve Morrow.
Odegaard, 22, joined Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid in the January transfer window, signing with Mikel Arteta’s side until the end of the season after growing frustrated with his lack of first-team opportunities in Spain.
The Norwegian has spent seven years at Madrid, who won the race for his signature by forking out £3million to prise him away from Stromsgodset.
Yet according to Morrow, Arsenal came very close to signing Odegaard before he snubbed them to join Los Blancos.
The former Gunners player, who spent a decade working on youth recruitment in north London, claims Wenger even took Odegaard out for dinner in an attempt to sign him at the age of 15.
“We had permission from Stromsgodset to invite the player over and it was down to us and Real Madrid,” Morrow told The Times.
“We rolled out the red carpet. He met with Arsène, we took him out for dinner and really showcased the club. They were massively impressed.
“We had a holistic approach, not only developing the player as a footballer but as a human being and teaching him good values; you’re going to learn how to cook, going to visit hospitals, do stuff in the community.
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“Martin massively impressed everyone including Arsène. We were very, very close to signing him before he made a late decision to go to Real Madrid.
“He did ring up [to explain]. That was a huge disappointment for me because I thought he was the right fit for us and, more importantly, the right fit for Martin.
“I was quite surprised at the decision he made because historically there’s not many young players at 16, 17 who progress into the first team at Real Madrid.”
Odegaard made his Arsenal debut in last weekend’s 0—0 draw with Manchester United, replacing Emile Smith Rowe with 10 minutes remaining in the stalemate.
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