Monday, May 28, 2018

Are Madrid making a mistake with Alexander Isak?

Gill Clark in Editorial, La Liga 19 Jan 2017


Alexander Isak in training. Image by Jakob Persson

He’s quick, he’s talented, he scores goals, he’s the ‘new Zlatan’ according to some and he’s reportedly on his way to Real Madrid. But are Zinedine Zidane’s side making the right decision by signing Alexander Isak?

Make no mistake the 17-year-old is something special and the reported fee of £10m is just a drop in the ocean for a club like Madrid. But just two years ago we were saying the same thing about a certain Martin Odegaard.

That’s the same Odegaard who made his first start for the club a mere 679 days after arriving, managed two first-team appearances in two years and whose stock has sunk so low he’s been packed off to SC Heerenveen on an 18-month loan.

A direct comparison is perhaps unfair, Odegaard was just 16 when he arrived at the Bernabeu and had managed only 23 appearances for Stromsgodset before being thrust into the limelight at one of the biggest clubs in the word.

Alexander the great

Isak, meanwhile, is a year older, has already been capped by Sweden, has even bagged his first international goal, becoming Sweden’s youngest ever goalscorer at 17 years and 113 days in the process. Not bad going for a starlet who also finished last season with 10 goals in 24 Allsvenskan appearances last season, helping AIK to a second-place finish.

There are also strong suggestions that Isak has what it takes to thrive at a huge club such as Madrid. Take his performance in one of AIK’s biggest games of the season back in September against Djurgarden in the Stockholm derby as a prime example.

The teenager took just 15 minutes to open the scoring, taking a pass with one touch before firing past the goalkeeper, added a second with a superb header and then went home to blow out the candles on his 17th birthday cake after a 3-0 win.

His composure and eye for goal is impressive for a player of his age and has earnt comparisons with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang while his link-up play is reminiscent of Ibrahimovic. Yet Isak is far more mobile than Zlatan, is great with the ball at his feet and is not just a goal poacher, he’s not afraid of moving out wide either and has the intelligence to bring his team-mates into play.

The ‘new Odegaard’?

However, while Isak is delighting fans in Sweden is he really ready for a move to one of the biggest clubs in world football?

Zlatan did not make his first big move until he was 19, when he headed to Ajax who he freely admits in his autobiography I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic “might not be Real Madrid or Manchester United” for 82 million Swedish kronor (roughly €8.3m today).

Isak is reportedly set to be sold for 100 million Swedish kronor (approximately €10.2m) to Real Madrid, which will blow Zlatan’s deal out of the water and will be the biggest ever fee involving a Swedish club and that takes some getting used to, as Ibrahimovic is quick to point out in his book. He explains: “It was beginning to dawn on me that it meant incredible pressure. Nobody spends 85 million kronor without expecting something in return.”

Incredible pressure indeed and huge expectations, all of which appear to have proved too much for Odegaard who is in the awkward position of seemingly being too good for Real Madrid’s Castilla side but not good enough for the first team.

His exit on loan is perhaps the only move both club and player had in the circumstances and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the Eredivisie and how he has developed during his time in Spain.

In fact should he impress during his loan spell and earn a recall to the first team, it may only highlight the fact that Isak is signing for Real Madrid far, far too early in his career.

Would Isak in fact be better off where he is, playing regular football, developing at his own pace away from the glitz and glamour and huge pressures that playing for Real Madrid brings?

Can he really be expected to be fighting for a place alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata at just 17 and at the very start of his career?

Let’s not forget the real Zlatan had a miserable time in Spain with Barcelona; Real Madrid must take care to ensure that should they sign him, the ‘new Zlatan’ does not also end up ruing his move to La Liga too.


Gill Clark

Gill is a freelance football writer who has spent many years working for Goal, writing and editing news, previews, match reports, ratings, live blogs and just about anything else she can get her hands on.

She now contributes to a variety of online publications, including Soccernews, predominantly covering the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.



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