Sweden has long been fertile ground for some of the world’s largest clubs as well as many of the upper-tier leagues. And these ten teenagers have many of the attributes and tools that the clubs look for when scouring the globe. Will one of these ten emerge to become a global star? From here on out it has as much to do with competitive drive and work ethic as it has to do with their athletic tools.
Note: Portions of the player data via IMScouting — the ultimate football player database. All data is current upto 11 December 2008:
10. Bertin Samuel Ze Ndille: The Cameroonian central defender made 19 league appearances for Ã–rebro SK. The 19-year-old is a 1.94m (6.4ft) tower of a centre back. While the physical gifts are certain, his technical ability is still a work in progress. He also has below-average pace for someone his age.
9. Per Johansson: A talented left back who finally made his Allsvenskan debut on April 9, 2008. The 18-year-old played in 12 matches for Ã–rebro SK tallying one assist after arriving from DjurgÃ¥rden IF.
8. Erik Israelsson: The 19-year-old midfielder played in several matches for Allsvenskan champion Kalmar FF. The box-to-box midfielder was given an opportunity after an injury to Rasmus Elm and took full advantage of the chance.
7. Jiloan Hamad: The right winger made his debut with Malmö FF as a substitute against IF Elfsborg this past Allsvenskan campaign. Technically gifted, the 18-year-old is known for his dribbling. With above-average pace down the right, Hamad simply needs to add some physical strength to accompany his technical ability.
6. Jesper Floren: After spending several years at the famed Ajax youth system, the 18-year-old attacking midfielder returned home. The versatile youngster can also play up front and in defense when needed. Floren signed with IF Elfsborg this past July and has entered as a substitute twice since his arrival — once in league and once in European qualifying action. The Elfsborg player has also won the prestigious Gothia Cup. The youth tournament is held each year in Gothenburg.
5. Dejan Garaca: The 17-year-old goalkeeper is signed at Malmö FF through 2012. He was courted by several clubs eventually deciding that his line would be found at the soon-to-be-opened Swedbank Stadion. Known for his reflexes, Garaca is projected as the next great Swedish goalkeeper.
4. Fisnik Shala: Technically sound, the youngster needs to fill out his slender frame before he truly can become the player many have envisioned. Global powers Juventus and Ajax have both noted his development with Ajax bringing him in for some training. The 18-year-old striker made eight league appearances with Trelleborgs FF last season.
3. Alex Nilsson: The 16-year-old Malmö FF product, described as a “multi-talent”, scored 45 goals in 35 matches for his U-16 team. His has a decent amount of pace to go along with his finishing touch. Nilsson has the potential to be a future star. He made his Allsvenskan debut as a substitute against IF Elfsborg.
2. Anel Raskaj: It has been noted that Raskaj’s play reminds his manager of both Zizou and FÃ bregas. The 19-year-old central midfielder moved to Sweden via his native Kosovo in his early teens. He has risen to become one of the most important players at Halmstads BK. The playmaker is an excellent dribbler and he is more-than-adequate technically. It is possible that he could make a move out of Sweden this January.
1. Niklas BÃ¤rkroth: The youngest player ever to compete in Sweden’s top league. He made his debut as a 15-year-old in 2007 for IFK Göteborg. Last season, the 16-year-old made both league and European appearances with the club. He wisely added some muscle mass to his frame last season and should continue to develop on both the physical and technical fronts. Niklas added to his fame by scoring a brace in the first qualifying round of the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League. After this, Manchester United was rumoured to have given him a look.
Sean Grybos operates Soccer City FC where you can find commentary on leagues and clubs from around the globe.