Arsenal step up push to bring back Martin Ødegaard from Real Madrid

Arsenal will intensify their efforts to re-sign Martin Ødegaard after Real Madrid left him out of their squad to face Alavés on Saturday.

Ødegaard spent the second half of last season on loan at the Premier League club, who have been keen to secure his return. That appeared a remote prospect earlier in the summer, and the attacking midfielder wrote a farewell message to Arsenal’s fans on Instagram last month. But the door has now opened for his potential arrival and initial talks are believed to have taken place between the clubs.

All parties would favour a permanent solution, with Madrid thought to want about £34m for the 22-year-old Norway captain. Such a deal may be more viable for Arsenal now that the £22m transfer of Joe Willock to Newcastle has gone through.

Ødegaard has struggled to establish himself in the Spanish capital since a high-profile move from Strømsgodset at the age of 16, and has thus far not been registered or allocated a shirt number for the 2021-22 season. He is known to have enjoyed his spell in north London, which brought 20 appearances, and securing him would ensure Mikel Arteta lands one of his long-term targets.

It may not be the last deal Arsenal attempt to strike with one of La Liga’s giants. They are considering a move for the Barcelona goalkeeper Neto as they hunt competition for their No 1 spot this season.

Neto has moved up the list of targets after an agreement could not be reached with Sheffield United over Aaron Ramsdale. The Blades wanted £30m plus add-ons for the 23-year-old player, a figure Arsenal were not willing to approach, so they are looking elsewhere for a keeper who can compete with Bernd Leno.

Arsenal are thought to prefer a homegrown goalkeeper – meaning one who was developed in England for at least three years – but the 32-year-old Neto would be an attractive shorter-term option if younger alternatives cannot be secured in a complex transfer window.

He has rarely played since joining Barcelona in 2019 from Valencia, where he was first choice for two seasons, and it is thought the La Liga club would be open to a deal. He is represented by Kia Joorabchian, who works with the Arsenal players Willian and Cédric Soares.

Arteta, asked on Thursday whether Arsenal were close to signing a goalkeeper, said: “I cannot tell you, I have no answers to that.” His side start the Premier League season on Friday night at Brentford, where Leno will be backed up by Alex Runarsson or the academy product Arthur Okonkwo.