Isak Bergmann Johannesson: Europe's top clubs fighting to sign Iceland wonderkid

The 17-year-old has been watched by scouts from Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus after impressing in the Swedish top f...

The 17-year-old has been watched by scouts from Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus after impressing in the Swedish top flight

Following their failure to qualify for this summer's European Championships and a UEFA Nations League campaign that saw them lose all six of their matches while conceding 16 goals, the golden era of Icelandic football seems to be over.

After charming fans from around the globe with their performances at both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, the plucky Scandinavians certainly seem to be trending downwards.

A number of their stars from the past half-decade are either close to international retirement or have already called it a day in terms of representing their country.

Those that remain, such as Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson, are - for the most part - the wrong side of 30 and not able to mix it with the world's best as they once did.

One of international football's most memorable modern fairy tales is seemingly at an end. Or is it?

While Sigurdsson and company might be coming towards the end of their journeys, a new cohort of Icelandic footballing talent is beginning to show itself.

Though injury has set him back somewhat over the past year, 18-year-old Andri Gudjohnsen - the son of ex-Barcelona and Chelsea star, Eidur - is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Real Madrid's youth ranks.

And he could be about to be joined in the Spanish capital by his compatriot Isak Bergmann Johannesson, with the Blancos just one of a number of Europe's top clubs who are monitoring the progress of the 17-year-old wonderkid.

Johannesson has been making waves in Sweden for IFK Norrkoping, having scored four goals and laid on 12 assists during his first full campaign for the Swedish side.

So impressive have his performances been that, with numbers restricted due to Covid-19, the Allsvenskan outfit have been forced to turn away scouts who wish to get a closer look at the teenage star.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it," Norrkoping's chief scout, Stig Torbjornsen, told Sportbladet. "The interest is completely wild.

"It’s such a battle for the young talent. You can tell by all the calls and requests we get. When there’s hype around a player, the others want to join in."


"I think there are six scouts who can be admitted per match," club director, Jens Magnusson, said to FotbollDirekt following one particularly busy game against AIK. "But we had an incredible number of requests for this match. So there is a limitation, and we have to pull the handbrake a bit now.

"You never know exactly which players they are there to watch, but here it is no secret that many are there to see Isak."

These are not just scouts from middling clubs, either. As well as Madrid, the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Juventus and Atalanta have all been credited with interest, though Norrkoping will not be forced into selling their prized asset.

"Everyone’s been here for him. They’re all curious," Torbjornsen told Expressen. "He has performed in the Under-21 national team and Norrkoping have a history with young players.

"Liverpool are [one of the clubs], there are 10 others too. It is normal and fun for the club as well as Isak himself.

"Norrkoping have quite a lot of money and no need to sell. Isak has a sensible agent and family who knows what they want and when to go. It’s not a stress for us. When something comes up that is good for all parties, [then] something must happen."

Johannesson's talent should not really come as much of a surprise back in his homeland, with the teenager having been born into one of Iceland's most famous footballing families.

His father, Joey Gudjonsson, enjoyed a 20-year professional career that saw him represent the likes of Real Betis, Aston Villa, Leicester City, AZ, Wolves and Burnley as well as earn 34 caps for his country.

Three of Johannesson's uncles also played for the national team, as did his grandfather, Gudjon Thordarson, who then went on to manage Iceland for two years in the late 1990s.

Born in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, while his father was playing in the Premier League, Johannesson's early years involved him attending a number of Manchester United matches at Old Trafford, as well as spending time at the academies of both Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers.

It was only after moving to Iceland, though, that his talent truly began to shine through.

Having previously visited Ajax, Everton and Brighton for trials, at just 15 he made his first-team debut for Icelandic second division club IA, for whom his father is the manager.

That proved to be his only appearance for his boyhood club, however, with Norrkoping spotting both his talent and that of his cousin and team-mate, Oliver Stefansson, with the pair completing their moves to Sweden in early 2019.

Though he had to wait until August of that year to make his debut for his new club, Johannesson wasted little time in showing what he can do with a goal against IFK Timra in the Swedish Cup.

He made his league debut the following month, though he only truly became a part of the first-team picture at the start of the 2020 campaign in June.

The teenager started 25 of the club's 30 league matches this term as they secured a sixth-placed finish in the top flight, though he spent much of the season playing out of position.

Most at home dictating play from central midfield, Johannesson has mostly been utilised as a wide forward in Norrkoping's preferred 4-3-3 system.

He even filled in at left-back for two games in August, though that did not stop him from getting on the scoresheet in a 3-2 defeat to Helsingborg, such is his versatility.

"It was known when I signed with Norrkoping at the age of 15 that it would take me time to earn a place in the main team," Johannesson told Frettabladid. "At that time, however, a clear step-by-step plan was set up on my way into the main team, and I liked those plans.

"I would say that everything is going according to plan and it does not surprise me to have played such a big role in the team. On the other hand, I am very satisfied with how much trust I get.

"This is a really cool club and everything within the club is top notch. The coach, Jens [Gustafsson], gives young players a lot of time, cares that they are improving, and is willing to give them a big role."

When Johannesson does eventually depart Norkkoping, the club hope to fetch around £7 million ($9m) for the teenager, and he knows which club he would like to join if given the opportunity.

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