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Martin Odegaard has always been a Champions League nearly man but has a burning desire to throw off that label.
And with Arsenal one north London derby win away from returning to the biggest club competition in the world, he is on the verge of doing just that. Real Madrid won the Champions League three times during Odegaard's time in Spain. But he only played in it twice, in the group stage in 2020.
Odegaard said: "I’ve played there a few games but I don’t feel like I’ve really played there. I really want to get into there and fight. That’s where the best teams want to be of course so that would be big for me and the club."
Signed as the child prodigy the whole world wanted at just 16, Odegaard was farmed out on loan four times by the Spanish giants before signing for Arsenal last year. And while Real were ruling the roost in Europe, he managed a combined total of only 135 minutes of Champions League football, against Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk.
But he is finally living up to his potential, so much so that Gunners boss Mikel Arteta recently gave him the captain's armband.
Odegaard, who is still only 23, said: "He just told me before the first game against Southampton that I was gonna wear it and that was all. We have a young team but I think with the young players we have we have a lot of experience as well. We’ve been through a lot and we just enjoy playing football together and you can see that on the pitch. We enjoy it."
Sunday's win over Leeds has put Arsenal within touching distance of the Champions League, with a win over Spurs this Thursday enough to clinch a top-four finish. But they were made to work for it after Luke Ayling's red card as ten-man Leeds rallied at the Emirates and could have snatched a point in a tense finish.
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Odegaard said: "I think it was a good win, an important win. We know the situation we’re on so obviously very happy with the three points. Some parts of the game we have to do better and kill the game but that’s all that matters. We know how they play and we know they’ll never give up.
"We always knew it was going to be a fight until the end. Some parts of the game we can do better and kill the game. But three points is all that matters. We have to win in different ways. Last time was not our best game, but we won. In this one I think we played really good in some parts and other parts we had to fight. But we get the three points and that’s the most important thing so we’re happy."
- Arsenal FC
- Champions League
- Tottenham Hotspur FC
- Premier League
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