This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.
Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.
After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.
Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.
Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.
He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.
In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.
In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.
But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:
“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.
“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”
Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.
Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:
“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.
“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”
This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.
However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.
They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.
Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:
“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.
“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”
Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:
“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.
“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”
He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:
“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.
“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”
Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:
“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.
“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”
Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:
“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.
“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.
“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.
“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.
“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”
But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.
The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.
However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face.
That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.