Martin Odegaard was always fighting a "lost battle" with comparisons to Lionel Messi but has the characteristics needed to flourish at Arsenal, says Mikel Arteta. 

The Gunners completed a deal to take Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season on Wednesday, handing the attacking midfielder the number 11 shirt that was worn by Mesut Ozil when he joined the club. 

Odegaard was signed by Los Blancos from Stromsgodset as a prodigious teenager and has had loan spells in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen and Vitesse before impressing in a temporary stint with Real Sociedad last term. 

Madrid opted to recall him for the 2020-21 campaign, though the 22-year-old struggled to nail down a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane's team. 

Arteta is excited by Odegaard's qualities but did urge caution, saying comparisons to Barcelona great Messi are unhelpful. 

"I wouldn't even get close to that name you just mentioned [Messi] because it's a lost battle in my opinion. Martin is Martin," Arteta said when previewing Saturday's clash with Manchester United. 

"In the last few seasons he's progressed and developed in the right way. I follow him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad which is my hometown and I know him really well. 

"He's such a talent. He needs the right environment, a little bit of time, but he's got the qualities to be a success for us. He's a specialist to playing in the pockets, to be in the number eight, number 10 positions. 

"He can play on the sides, a really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, the capacity to create chances, to score goals. 

"Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball as well. It's another option to give us more creativity in the final third."

Last season, Odegaard topped Sociedad's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total as he provided six assists from 31 appearances. He also boasted an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

This term he has been afforded just three LaLiga starts by Zidane, albeit Arteta made clear several factors will determine whether a permanent deal will be struck. 

"He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for," he added. 

"Then it would be down to two things – first of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team, and second, what Real Madrid and the player thinks about it because he's owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that. 

"I just wanted to give him a clear picture of who we are as a club, what we are trying to do, what we expect from him, just try to transmit the passion and excitement that we had to bring him in. 

"I wanted to show him the project, how he fits and just try to persuade him that this is the right place for him and try to make things work." 

Arsenal are on a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to improve their previously precarious top-flight standing to ninth. 

They welcome a Manchester United side who saw their own 13-match unbeaten league run surprisingly ended by rock-bottom Sheffield United on Wednesday. 

"It's not a surprise because to beat any team in this league is extremely difficult and it's not taken for granted," Arteta said when asked about that game.  

"Sheffield United are a really good threat and you see that. They've lost games they didn't deserve to lose." 

Arsenal were the last side to beat United in the league before the Blades' unlikely triumph, while they have not lost to the Red Devils since an FA Cup defeat in January 2019. 

Still, Arteta says there is nothing to be gleaned from a decent recent record against United. 

"I think every game is completely different, they have the capacity and the quality to beat any side in the world, we know we’re going to have to be at our best," he said. 

"The games are huge, we need to be better than what we were on Tuesday [a 3-1 win at Southampton] to beat them. 

"They've been in top form. They've been top of the table playing really well. We know they are a real threat. We have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday."

Martin Odegaard was always fighting a "lost battle" with comparisons to Lionel Messi but has the characteristics needed to flourish at Arsenal, says Mikel Arteta. 

The Gunners completed a deal to take Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season on Wednesday, handing the attacking midfielder the number 11 shirt that was worn by Mesut Ozil when he joined the club. 

Odegaard was signed by Los Blancos from Stromsgodset as a prodigious teenager and has had loan spells in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen and Vitesse before impressing in a temporary stint with Real Sociedad last term. 

Madrid opted to recall him for the 2020-21 campaign, though the 22-year-old struggled to nail down a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane's team. 

Arteta is excited by Odegaard's qualities but did urge caution, saying comparisons to Barcelona great Messi are unhelpful. 

"I wouldn't even get close to that name you just mentioned [Messi] because it's a lost battle in my opinion. Martin is Martin," Arteta said when previewing Saturday's clash with Manchester United. 

"In the last few seasons he's progressed and developed in the right way. I follow him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad which is my hometown and I know him really well. 

"He's such a talent. He needs the right environment, a little bit of time, but he's got the qualities to be a success for us. He's a specialist to playing in the pockets, to be in the number eight, number 10 positions. 

"He can play on the sides, a really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, the capacity to create chances, to score goals. 

"Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball as well. It's another option to give us more creativity in the final third."

Last season, Odegaard topped Sociedad's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total as he provided six assists from 31 appearances. He also boasted an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

This term he has been afforded just three LaLiga starts by Zidane, albeit Arteta made clear several factors will determine whether a permanent deal will be struck. 

"He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for," he added. 

"Then it would be down to two things – first of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team, and second, what Real Madrid and the player thinks about it because he's owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that. 

"I just wanted to give him a clear picture of who we are as a club, what we are trying to do, what we expect from him, just try to transmit the passion and excitement that we had to bring him in. 

"I wanted to show him the project, how he fits and just try to persuade him that this is the right place for him and try to make things work." 

Arsenal are on a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to improve their previously precarious top-flight standing to ninth. 

They welcome a Manchester United side who saw their own 13-match unbeaten league run surprisingly ended by rock-bottom Sheffield United on Wednesday. 

"It's not a surprise because to beat any team in this league is extremely difficult and it's not taken for granted," Arteta said when asked about that game.  

"Sheffield United are a really good threat and you see that. They've lost games they didn't deserve to lose." 

Arsenal were the last side to beat United in the league before the Blades' unlikely triumph, while they have not lost to the Red Devils since an FA Cup defeat in January 2019. 

Still, Arteta says there is nothing to be gleaned from a decent recent record against United. 

"I think every game is completely different, they have the capacity and the quality to beat any side in the world, we know we’re going to have to be at our best," he said. 

"The games are huge, we need to be better than what we were on Tuesday [a 3-1 win at Southampton] to beat them. 

"They've been in top form. They've been top of the table playing really well. We know they are a real threat. We have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday."

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said his team are trying to win the Copa del Rey as they attempt to overhaul LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Barca came from behind to beat second-tier side Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in Wednesday's last-16 showdown in the Copa del Rey.

Fran Garcia gave Vallecano a 63rd-minute lead before Lionel Messi equalised six minutes later and Frenkie de Jong completed Barca's comeback 10 minutes from time midweek.

It has been a challenging season for Barca amid doubts over Messi's future, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and a struggle for form as the Spanish giants sit third and 10 points behind Atletico, while they also lost the Supercopa de Espana final.

But Koeman and Barca remain focused on the goal of silverware, with the Catalan club set to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16.

"I am very happy," Koeman said post-match after reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. "From the beginning we played a good game. In the first part we forgave them on several occasions, in the last pass, there were plays in which there could be penalties.

"Yes, we had problems in the first half. In the second one, especially with the score against, I think we've showed our personality, scoring quality goals, we came back in the game. At the end you always suffer with such a tight result with just one goal difference. Overall, the team played very well.

"We know these are complicated games, it does not matter the category of the opponent. They played a great game, they complicated us. But, in the first half we forgave them, we should've scored one or two goals."

"Our goal is to go game by game, try to win every game in order to try to move up in the table," Koeman added. "Cut the gap we have now [in the league], play in the Champions League.

"We want to win the Copa [del Rey]. I think this is the mentality our team has shown in all competitions and try to get the most out of it. It is important, we are Barca, but there are no easy games.

"We know how the Copa games are, it doesn't depend on the category of your opponent. You have to work a lot and play well. The field was not very good to play our game. Despite the state of the field, we played a very good game. Also, the team had the right mentality to overcome this play-off."

Paris Saint-Germain have disrespected Barcelona by publicly discussing a move for Lionel Messi and the Spanish club should take action, says Joan Laporta.  

Messi's future remains unclear as his contract at Barcelona continues to wind down. The talismanic forward was linked with Manchester City having made clear his desire to leave in the previous transfer window, though he ended up remaining at Camp Nou to see out his current deal.  

Negotiations over a renewal are not helped by the uncertainty over the identity of the next president at the Spanish club, though an election date is now set for March 7.  

Laporta is one of the remaining candidates in the running and has made clear the importance of making Messi an offer that helps convince him to stay – and is not happy with how PSG have talked about potentially signing the 33-year-old.  

Leonardo, sporting director at the Ligue 1 champions, said this month that "great players like Messi will always be on PSG's list", his comment coming after ex-Barca player Neymar fuelled speculation last December by declaring his desire to play alongside his former team-mate again in 2021.

"The club has to be able to make a good proposal to Messi so that he understands and accepts it," Laporta - previously Barca president between 2003 and 2010 - told the media on Wednesday. 

"I would understand any response from Leo. He has to know the situation of the club and this is urgent. The situation is consolidating; he is free to negotiate with another club, and Barcelona are without a president. 

"PSG allow themselves to publicly say they want to sign Messi. Barcelona cannot allow this. It is disrespectful, even more so coming from a club-state that breaks the rules.

"We have to work with UEFA and FIFA on this. PSG must abstain from [talking about Messi]. It is out of place for another club to speak about him - and there is no president to respond."

Laporta also made clear his position over the potential signing of Eric Garcia, the Manchester City centre-back strongly linked with a return to Spain.

A January move has been rumoured but Barca's financial troubles may make a deal difficult, particularly with the player set to be out of contract at the end of the season.

"I remain in the position I had when this possibility was raised. If a player wants to come to Barca, he has to prove it and if in June he would come for free," Laporta said in reference to the defender.

"It is hard for me to understand why we would have to give money to a competing club.

"I do not understand that the manager attributes the power to negotiate a salary or to pay money now when in June it would not have to be paid, even more so taking into account the economic situation of the club."

Arsenal have completed the signing of Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard on loan for the rest of the season.

Odegaard, who joined Madrid aged only 16, excelled on loan at Real Sociedad last season, scoring seven times in all competitions.

The 22-year-old topped La Real's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total and provided six assists from 31 appearances, while also boasting an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent.

Madrid cut short Odegaard's two-season loan in the Basque country, but the playmaker has struggled to force his way into the first-team picture under Zinedine Zidane, making just seven appearances and starting only three matches.

Odegaard will now get an opportunity to show what he is capable of with the Gunners, who lured the Norway international to London after Mesut Ozil’s departure to Fenerbahce.

The switch represents Odegaard's fourth loan move away from Madrid, with the youngster having also spent time at Heerenveen and Vitesse in the Eredivisie prior to his spell at La Real.

"It's great that we've secured Martin to come to us until the end of the season," said Arteta.

"Martin is of course a player that we all know very well and although still young, he has been playing at the top level for a while. Martin will provide us with quality offensive options and we're all excited to be integrating him into our plans between now and May."

Arsenal technical director Edu added: "I would like to thank everyone at Real Madrid and Martin's representatives for their collaboration in making this loan move happen.

"Martin is an exceptional talent and we are strengthening our squad by introducing an exciting offensive player to the club for the remaining months of this season."

 

WHAT WILL ODEGAARD BRING TO ARSENAL?

Odegaard's creativity was key in an impressive 2019-20 season which saw La Real reach the Copa del Rey final, which they have not yet played.

No Arsenal player came close to replicating Odegaard's influence last term, with Nicolas Pepe (40) creating the most chances in the Premier League for the Gunners – 22 fewer than Odegaard from the same amount of games played.

Odegaard made 504 successful passes into the final third, dwarfing the leader in that category for Arsenal (Granit Xhaka, 378).

He also played 239 passes into the opposition area, 99 more than Pepe, who attempted the most for Arsenal.

With Mikel Arteta currently employing a 4-2-3-1 system, Odegaard is likely to be battling it out with the impressive Emile Smith Rowe for a place in the side.

From six league appearances this season, Smith Rowe has created 10 opportunities and one big chance, registering three assists, though he is yet to get off the mark in the top flight.

Eric Garcia would be willing to go unpaid for the rest of the season to force through a protracted return to Barcelona from Manchester City this month, according to Blaugrana presidential candidate Victor Font.

Garcia, 20, came through Barca's La Masia academy before being snapped up by City in 2017, subsequently making the breakthrough into the club's first-team squad.

Although he made 20 appearances across all competitions last term as he began to establish himself, Garcia delayed signing a new contract and now looks set to leave by the end of the season when his deal expires.

Pep Guardiola has already accepted Garcia will likely leave, but Barca's acting president Carles Tusquets does not have the authority to sign players, with the delayed election set to take place on March 7.

Media reports claim Tusquets and the three presidential candidates had previously agreed to wait until the end of Garcia's contract to sign him, such is the club's crippling financial state.

But now Font is urging the acting board to bring plans forward and meet City's €3million asking price, adamant he could significantly improve the team's chances of winning trophies this term.

"Eric Garcia is willing to make an effort and not get paid this season. He is crazy about coming immediately, he is committed and eager to play," Font told a news conference on Wednesday.

"The steps we have taken allow us to understand that the incorporation of Eric Garcia is possible for now, the club can take it on financially.

"Ronald Koeman and our sports structure consider his signing fundamental to aspire to all the titles this year. From here we ask that the management board make the decision to sign Eric this week."

Financial records dating back to August last year were recently uncovered and revealed Barca's debts topped €1billion, with their financial woes a key talking point in the various presidential campaigns.

While Joan Laporta – the favourite to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu as president – previously said signing Garcia this month is not possible due to Barca's debts, Font claims the club are in a position to sanction the move.

"If he is willing not to charge this season, why don't we incorporate him? City accepts €3m plus variables," Font continued. "The impact on Barca's accounts would be €230,000 of amortisation. How do we motivate Koeman if the only request he has is denied?

"There is a European Championship in the summer. Eric having minutes is essential so that Luis Enrique can count on him in the national team.

"There is no formal agreement with City but we have made the necessary arrangements so that if Oscar Grau [Barca CEO] calls City, he can verify that they are true - the conditions of €3m fixed, plus variables."

Martin Odegaard's Real Madrid career was being set up to fail right from the start, when he joined the club just over a month after his 16th birthday back in January 2015.

The fact he remains their player six years on is testament to the Norwegian's talent, persistence and level-headed attitude, as his first couple of years at the club seemingly had people willing him to fade into obscurity.

From unnecessary speculation relating to his wages and exaggerated suggestions that his presence threatened the future of Madrid's academy, to murmurings that his arrival upset the harmony of Real Madrid Castilla's squad – life wasn't made easy for him early on.

For the most part he has managed to keep his career on track and has shown why he was so highly rated as a 15-year-old bursting on to the scene at Stromsgodset, impressing in a series of loan spells, but Odegaard now has another challenge in front of him.

He joins Arsenal on loan for the rest of the season in a move that will surely shape the next major step he takes in his career, whether that is kicking on at Real Madrid or moving elsewhere permanently.

While first-team football has been difficult to come by at Madrid this term, it's easy to see why Arsenal made their move for the attacking midfielder.

A REAL GEM

If there are any Arsenal fans questioning why they have moved for a player who has made just three starts for a – let's be frank – unspectacular Madrid side this season, it's worth recalling the amount of talent Zinedine Zidane has struggled to incorporate and subsequently discarded in recent years.

Marcos Llorente, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Theo Hernandez, James Rodriguez – you could potentially even add Isco to that list in the not-too-distant future. All are fine players generally thriving elsewhere, but Zidane was seemingly unconvinced by them.

Injuries haven't helped Odegaard's cause this term, but his form with Real Sociedad on loan last season demonstrated just how impressive he is when given consistent opportunities – and it was revealed in July that he had been suffering with a chronic knee issue for most of 2019-20.

The 22-year-old created 62 chances in LaLiga last term, a tally only beaten by five other players, one of which was predictably Lionel Messi. 

 

That gave him a key pass frequency just under 0.5 every 90 minutes, which again ranked very highly among players with more than 30 chances created – six had better records, though his 6.8 xA (expected assists) rating was third only to Messi and Jesus Navas.

He also offers a great threat from set-pieces, with 27 of his key passes coming from dead-ball situations. This is an area Arsenal have struggled, as their 20 chances created from set plays is the fourth-fewest in the Premier League this term.

Odegaard was a major catalyst for La Real's largely impressive campaign, as they reached the Copa del Rey final – which is still due to be contested later this year – and finished sixth in LaLiga.

Arsenal fans will hope he can have a similar impact in the second half of the 2020-21 season, particularly given their lack of creativity at times this term.

WHERE WILL HE STRENGTHEN ARSENAL?

At La Real, Odegaard was often deployed from the right side of the attack in a 4-3-3, but given he is most comfortable on his left foot, he would routinely cut inside and wreak havoc in the middle.

 

While he spent more time on the right flank, with 38.3 per cent of his touches occurring in the right third of the pitch between the halfway line and the edge of the opposing area, much of his best work was carried out more centrally.

Indeed, 31.1 per cent of his key passes and assists came from the middle third of the pitch just outside the box.

 

Arsenal have been much less active centrally and on the right flank, with just under 12 per cent of their assists and chances created stemming from play in the middle of the attacking half. They aren't much more effective on the right, which will likely not come as a surprise to Gunners fans given the largely underwhelming form of Willian and Nicolas Pepe.

 

Odegaard's display in the September 2019 defeat at Sevilla was something of a microcosm of much of what he was good at last season, with his late assist for Portu seeing him come in off the right and play a disguised pass into the right side of the box for his team-mate to finish. Earlier on, he had taken up possession in a central area and sliced open the Sevilla backline only for Willian Jose to skew wide.

In both situations he showed great poise, a trait he has combined with his wonderful ability on the ball, as demonstrated by the fact he played 19 key passes after ball carries – Messi (30) had the most and was one of only five players to better the Norwegian in this area.

 

THE RISK OF SHORT-TERM LOANS

The addition of Odegaard will add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed 23 goals from 230 attempts (excluding penalties) - slightly below their 25.2 xG - so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season. 

Arsenal players have collectively created 26 Opta-defined "big chances", well adrift of the league-high 43 recorded by Manchester City in 2020-21. While this only includes shots that have been specifically assisted by a pass, it does highlight a creative deficiency.

 

Emile Smith Rowe has impressed of late, contributing three assists in open play, but no individual has created more chances for them in the Premier League than Bukayo Saka, his total of 23 putting him one above Kieran Tierney. It is clear they need greater threat in central areas, and Odegaard should offer that.

But, while he is undoubtedly a fine talent, Arsenal fans should be wary and patient – Odegaard hasn't featured regularly this season so cannot be expected to be sharp, and this move is another instance of upheaval in a fairly short period of time after leaving La Real for a return to Madrid. It would unfair to assume he will find his stride immediately.

Short-term loans in the second half of a season are often risky and Odegaard will likely take a little while to get up to speed. If he adapts quickly, his arrival could be a masterstroke – but if he doesn't it could be a wasted few months for both parties.

Arsenal will hope he's not another Denis Suarez.

Martin Odegaard says "top manager" Mikel Arteta played a "crucial" role in his decision to join Arsenal on loan for the rest of the season. 

Odegaard sealed another temporary exit from Real Madrid on Wednesday and will now showcase his talents in the Premier League for the first time. 

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder revealed Arteta convinced him a switch to north London was the right option at this stage of his career, having featured sparingly for Madrid this term.

"I spoke to him before coming here, of course," Odegaard told Arsenal.com. "That was very important for me and he seems like a top manager and I liked his ideas, the way he sees football and also the way he is.  

"He gave me a great feeling and that was important for me to come here. He was crucial. 

"I think every time you go to a new place, you want to make sure that it feels good and that there is a plan. But I think everything here just seems good.  

"I like the club and I always liked the way that the club wants to play. Everything about the club and now how the manager wants to play, I think it's a club that really suits me well. So I think it's a good match."

Odegaard thrived during his time on loan with Real Sociedad last season, scoring seven times in all competitions and providing six assists.

He created 62 opportunities in the Spanish top flight, more than any of his team-mates, while also recording a passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

Madrid cut short Odegaard's planned two-year loan at La Real, but the playmaker is on the move again after struggling for playing time in Zinedine Zidane's side.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard on loan for the rest of the season.

Odegaard, who joined Madrid aged only 16, excelled on loan at Real Sociedad last season, scoring seven times in all competitions.

The 22-year-old topped La Real's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total and provided six assists from 31 appearances, while also boasting an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent.

Madrid cut short Odegaard's two-season loan in the Basque country, but the playmaker has struggled to force his way into the first-team picture under Zinedine Zidane, making just seven appearances and starting only three matches.

Odegaard will now get an opportunity to show what he is capable of with the Gunners, who lured the Norway international to London after Mesut Ozil’s departure to Fenerbahce.

The switch represents Odegaard's fourth loan move away from Madrid, with the youngster having also spent time at Heerenveen and Vitesse in the Eredivisie prior to his spell at La Real.

 

WHAT WILL ODEGAARD BRING TO ARSENAL?

Odegaard's creativity was key in an impressive 2019-20 season which saw La Real reach the Copa del Rey final, which they have not yet played.

No Arsenal player came close to replicating Odegaard's influence last term, with Nicolas Pepe (40) creating the most chances in the Premier League for the Gunners – 22 fewer than Odegaard from the same amount of games played.

Odegaard made 504 successful passes into the final third, dwarfing the leader in that category for Arsenal (Granit Xhaka, 378).

He also played 239 passes into the opposition area, 99 more than Pepe, who attempted the most for Arsenal.

With Mikel Arteta currently employing a 4-2-3-1 system, Odegaard is likely to be battling it out with the impressive Emile Smith Rowe for a place in the side.

From five league appearances this season, Smith Rowe has created 10 opportunities and one big chance, registering three assists, though he is yet to get off the mark in the top flight.

Real Madrid would be better off signing Erling Haaland before Kylian Mbappe, according to Jorge Valdano. 

Since making his debut for Borussia Dortmund on January 18 of last year, Haaland has scored 37 goals in as many appearances in all competitions. The only players to have found the back of the net more in the same time frame are Cristiano Ronaldo (41) and Robert Lewandowski (51). 

The Norwegian's minutes-per-goal ratio of 77 is only bettered by Luis Muriel (57.7) among players from the top five European leagues to have scored at least 20 times in all competitions since his arrival at Dortmund. 

Over the same period, Mbappe has averaged a goal every 114 minutes for Paris Saint-Germain. However, he has only been involved in four fewer goals than Haaland (42 – 37 scored, five assisted) having scored 25 and set up another 13. 

Still, it is Mbappe who is reportedly the top target for Madrid, with his PSG contract set to expire at the end of next season. 

Former Madrid player, coach and sporting director Valdano would prioritise Haaland instead, however. 

"I would sign Haaland before Mbappe. He moves in small and large spaces, he scores with great regularity," Valdano told Onda Cero. 

"Understanding that Mbappe is a star, I am very impressed with Haaland. He scores goals of all types."

Madrid will need to improve their financial situation if they are to make a run at signing Mbappe and they are expected to allow Martin Odegaard to leave for Arsenal on loan. 

Across seven LaLiga appearances under Zinedine Zidane this season, Odegaard has supplied five key passes but not registered an assist or scored himself. 

He averages 27.5 passes ending in the final third per 90 minutes, second only to Isco for Madrid this season, but ranks seventh in the Madrid squad – of players who have featured in at least three LaLiga games – in terms of passes played into the box (4.3). 

While on loan at Real Sociedad last season, per 90 minutes the playmaker averaged 2.2 chances created, 23.2 passes ending in the final third – the lower number potentially due to La Real spending less time in the opposition's final third than Madrid – and 8.5 passes played into the box. 

Valdano believes Odegaard should have been more patient, suggesting that by biding his time he would have seen more action and grown in confidence. 

"It doesn't seem to me that Odegaard played badly when he had his chance, but he lacked a degree of daring and a greater sense of risk," he said. 

"He was too close to Casemiro and lacked prominence for the final pass, which is what is expected of Odegaard. 

"But that has to do with confidence, and I think time would have given him that. He lacked patience. A Madrid player should have a greater capacity for suffering, he must not give up too soon. 

"And even less so being so young and competing for the position of two stars like [Toni] Kroos and [Luka] Modric. They are not just any two players." 

The battle to sign David Alaba continues among European giants, while Thomas Tuchel is eyeing Dayot Upamecano at Chelsea.

Alaba, 28, is set to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and it was reported this month the defender had agreed a deal with Real Madrid.

But it seems the race to secure the Austria international's signature remains on.

 

TOP STORY – EUROPEAN GIANTS FIGHT FOR ALABA

Real Madrid have offered Alaba €11million per year and Manchester City are prepared to give the Bayern Munich star €14m, according to AS.

The report says Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are also battling to sign Alaba.

Alaba has won nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Bayern.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuchel's appointment as Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday, and the former PSG boss is already looking to strengthen. Bild reports Tuchel wants RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano at Stamford Bridge. It comes as The Guardian reports Chelsea's interest in West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is likely to end following Frank Lampard's sacking.

- Real Madrid have work to do before the end of the season. Marca reports Luka Modric has agreed a new contract with Madrid, while Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez are yet to accept offers. The report says Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez are their next priorities.

- Eric Garcia is linked with a move to Barcelona. Sport reports the next president of the Catalan giants must ratify the defender's five-year deal if the Manchester City defender is to arrive ahead of next season.

- Out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain the end of the season, Angel Di Maria's future is uncertain. L'Equipe reports the attacker, though, is on track for an extension with the Ligue 1 giants.

- Staying at PSG and the club are still pushing to sign Dele Alli on loan, according to Fabrizio Romano, who reports Tottenham are unwilling to let the midfielder go until they sign a replacement.

- Jordi Alba turns 32 in March and Barcelona are considering the left-back's successor. Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia's Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso are candidates.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta confirmed the club are close to signing Real Madrid attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard on loan as he reflected on his side's 3-1 victory over Southampton on Tuesday.

Goals from Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette helped the Gunners come from behind and claim all three points at St Mary's, where they lost 1-0 in the FA Cup just three days earlier.

The result moved Arsenal above Southampton and into eighth place in the Premier League table, and Arteta indicated his side's positive start to 2021 could soon be boosted further by Odegaard's arrival.

"I think we are pretty close but it's not finalised as I understand it," Arteta told reporters, when asked about the 22-year-old Norwegian playmaker.

"I haven't spoken to [Arsenal technical director Edu] or the club in the last few hours but we're very positive that we'll finalise the deal."

After a dismal run of one victory in 10 league matches between October and December, Arsenal are unbeaten in their past five Premier League games and have won four of them.

Arteta indicated that the upturn in form has restored belief to his squad, saying: "Football games are always judged by the result and that affects the confidence.

"The moment that we started to win and confidence went up and we started to grow and understand each other better, we got some players back and the spirit started to lift a little bit, things were much better to be fair."

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl lambasted his side's defending after they succumbed to a third defeat in six league games.

Hasenhuttl told BT Sport: "It's always frustrating when you concede goals, but when it is that easy I think it hurts even more.

"The first was a mistake in the build-up, but then still we had the chance to defend it and we didn't do it, and then the second one was similar.

"It's not the way we can defend, we can do it much better and we know this. After being down one at half-time it's difficult to come back. We had chances to do it, but also the final quality was not good enough.

"We know we are a good side when we play a perfect game, but today we were far off this."

Alejandro Gomez's seven-year association with Atalanta is over after their former captain completed a move to Sevilla.

Gomez, 32, joined Atalanta from Metalist Kharkiv in 2014 and was a key factor in the club's rise from mid-table also-rans to regular top-four challengers.

He became captain in 2017 after a personal-best haul of 16 Serie A goals in 2016-17 and then skippered the club to their highest-ever top-flight finish of third in 2018-19.

They repeated the feat in 2019-20 and Gomez, whose 16 assists was the most by any player in a single Serie A season this century, was named the league's best midfielder in the end-of-season awards.

But Gomez and coach Gian Piero Gasperini reportedly fell out earlier this season, with Italian media claiming the player had refused to carry out the manager's orders in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Midtjylland.

Speculation was rife throughout December about whether the pair would be able to repair their relationship or if Gomez was on his way out, with Inter initially thought to be his likeliest of options.

But more recently Italian publications suggested Atalanta were keen to offload him to a foreign team, and Sevilla – whom Gomez had previously suggested were his favourite Spanish team – made their move.

The talented attacker, who can play on the left flank or behind the striker, signed a contract until June 2024 on Tuesday.

He is an Argentina team-mate of current Sevilla players Lucas Ocampos and Marcos Acuna, and was given his Albiceleste bow by the club's former coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Sevilla will hope Gomez can serve them as effectively he did Atalanta in the main – from the start of 2018-19 until December 16, when he last featured in Serie A for the Bergamo side, no player across Europe's big five leagues played more key passes than his 233.

Similarly, his 29 assists across the same period was bettered by only Thomas Muller (36), Lionel Messi (34) and Jadon Sancho (33). There were also only five players to create more Opta-defined "big chances" than his 40 in that time.

Barcelona have announced their presidential election will take place on March 7.

The club had to postpone the vote to name Josep Maria Bartomeu's replacement, initially scheduled for January 24, due to coronavirus concerns.

The regional government of Catalonia declared it could not grant Barcelona's members permission to travel beyond their local areas to cast votes due to tightened restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, Barca have agreed to hold the election in 40 days' time. Members will have the option to vote by mail, using their local post office or, for those over 65 or with medical conditions, via a home courier service.

Due to nationwide health protocols, Barca said only polling stations located in Catalonia or in Andorra will be open to members to vote in person.

The three remaining candidates for the election are favourite Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa.

Barcelona said in a club statement: "The managing commission would like to make it clear that during this period the club will continue to work closely with the Catalan government and the health and local authorities to best organise the elections so that they can be carried out in the best conditions possible."

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