When Nathan Oduwa decided his Tottenham career was over, he made a move few were expecting as he joined Slovenian side Olimpija Ljubljana.
The winger had been at White Hart Lane since the age of 11 but failed to make a first-team appearance for the North London club. Oduwa earned experience in loan spells at Luton Town, Rangers and Peterborough United but once he knew there was no chance of progress at his boyhood club, he decided to head abroad.
Slovenia is not the first place many would think of heading in order to further their career, but Olimpija were offering everything Oduwa wanted and more.
“I had been looking for clubs abroad and I got a phone call from my agent informing me that the director of the club was interested in me," Oduwa told ITV News. "I had a few offers but the opportunity for more game time was dominating the choice to move.”
Olimpija, nicknamed The Dragons, finished third in the top flight last season but were knocked out of the Europa League in the first qualifying round by Finnish side VPS.
There are plenty of positives on and off the pitch at the club, including the beautiful Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana, not to mention that Milan Mandaric is The Dragons’ president and head coach is former Liverpool midfielder Igor Biscan.
“I was more surprised with the location than the offer but I was pleased to have an opportunity to showcase my talents. They explained that I would be playing more games as they can see my potential, which is great. So it's a win-win situation because in the development side of things we both definitely benefit.
“I did have to think about it because it is a big change and a different country so things like not being around family and the language barrier would be a little difficult. Also the change of game times, which are a little different, so just getting used to those things played on my mind a little but change is good and I'm a lot more settled now.”
Oduwa has landed on his feet in Slovenia, with the former England Under-20 international feeling convinced he made the right decision in heading to a country he knew little about prior to signing his contract with Olimpija.
"My first impressions were that Slovenia is a beautiful country. The people are very polite and are always happy to help you if needed. The weather is also really good especially in the summer time.
"When I first arrived and I was looking around and I remember wearing the Olimpija jacket and I could tell that it was a well known club as I wasn't even a player yet and I had fans of the club coming up to me and wishing me good luck for the rest of the season and that they hope I enjoy it here. So I was already very welcomed when I first arrived and it got me excited for what was to come."
The move abroad has always been mapped out in Oduwa’s head as he looked to make the most of his flamboyant style and full array of tricks in his armoury, with the winger infamous for his rainbow flick from his time in Scotland, as he hopes his time in Slovenia will make him a more rounded footballer.
“I've always watched foreign football just because of the style of football they play; you see a lot of technical foreign players in the Premier League, Eden Hazard for example, he's come from France and you can see his talents and skills when he plays. He's become stronger as the English league is quite physical and he's still able to showcase his technical abilities. Because the leagues abroad aren't as aggressive as the ones in England a lot more players rely on technique. I believe that playing abroad will allow me to explore my technical ability and it's nice to play out of your comfort zone to push yourself as well."
Things didn’t go as smoothly as Oduwa would have liked on the pitch after he suffered an injury in just his second outing for Olimpija, but away from the football, the winger quickly got used to life in Slovenia.
"It wasn’t difficult really as everyone was quite helpful from the start but the only thing I found difficult was when I got injured in my second game and as a footballer getting injured is one of the worst things as you want to play and help the team. I would usually get a lift from team-mates so I had a lot of support.
“I'd say the style of football is different, it's less aggressive but you have to keep fighting as everyone works till the last minute.”
Oduwa arrived in February, meaning being allowed to have a full pre-season with the squad was key as he really looks to make an impact this year, having managed just four games for his new club in the opening few months in Ljubljana.
“It's always good to get a pre-season with the team that's when you get to gel with the players more and make sure you are at full fitness and ready.”
There’s no shortage of ambition at the club, who want to end Maribor’s dominance, as their main rivals have won 14 league titles since 1996. The domestic season has started positively under Biscan, who only took the job in June, as Olimpija have collected six points from their opening two games.
Asked what his ambitions are, Oduwa knows aiming high is the only way to go, he said: “To win everything, but to take it step by step. It was good to get the six points at the start of the season so now we are just pushing onto Sunday's game.”