With the Allsvenskan and Eliteserien 2023 campaigns just about to kick off in early April, this seemed the perfect time to take a look at four possible breakthrough starts of Scandinavian football, presented in this article by Just Football.

-- --


Hugo Larsson

Every year in Sweden’s Allsvenskan there are at least one or two talents who burst onto the scene and are immediately touted for big things. This season the name on every scout’s lips is that of Hugo Larsson.

Just over a year ago, the youngster was plying his trade with Malmö FF’s Under-19 team. But things can move fast when you have the skills to pay the bills. Larsson caught the eye of the club’s previous manager Milos Milojevic, who called him up to the first-team squad for 2022 pre-season training. Since then, Larsson has made his Malmö first team debut, made 49 appearances, signed two contracts, been called up to the Swedish national team for a training camp and is now one of the most coveted young midfield talents in European football.

A metronome of a player who sits deep and distributes play with calmness and precision, the Malmö FF academy graduate is still only 18 but has carved out his own position in the midfield of one of the biggest clubs in Sweden. Malmö is a high pressure environment where the demand is to win. So for Larsson to be able to deal with that atmosphere and still stand out is highly commendable.

It’s no secret that the club had a terrible campaign last year, finishing 7th. They went through three managers, but teenager Larsson, 17 at the time of his league debut, was still able to display his natural abilities.

Blessed with a very good range of short and long passing, from a statistical point of view the midfielder’s best asset is his passing. He averaged 44.75 passes per 90 minutes according to Wyscout data with a remarkable 87.02% pass accuracy. An average of 6.82 defensive duels per 90 with a 66.67% win rate demonstrates his promising ball-winning capabilities while 7.38 recoveries per 90 show awareness and determination that has won admirers.

With reports that Larsson turned down Bournemouth’s €12M bid to bring him to the Premier League in January, you would imagine Malmö will face a battle to keep him in the next year or so. A confident player, Larsson has joked that he would like to break Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Allsvenskan transfer record, a deal that took the legendary Swede from Malmö to Ajax. Time will soon tell.

Ibrahim Sadiq

If reports out of France were to be believed Ibrahim Sadiq should already have departed Sweden’s top division. On transfer deadline day in January, the esteemed French sports publication L’Equipe reported that the BK Häcken talent was at storied French club Saint-Etienne’s headquarters to complete a €2M move.

The deal fell apart however and the player returned to Sweden. Clubs in MLS have since also been reported as extremely interested, and it does seem as though Sadiq could be in line for a move either this summer or by the end of the Allsvenskan 2023 season.

A dynamic, fast wide player who can play across the front three, Sadiq came through the well-renowned Right to Dream academy. He made 63 appearances for FC Nordsjaelland, scoring six goals and registering four assists, before a move to Sweden. At BK Häcken last season he hit seven goals and four assists and was an important contributor as the club famously won their first-ever league title.

Sadiq’s underlying numbers last season speak of a highly talented prospect. 0.57 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes, 6.04 dribbles per 90 (59.4% success rate), 0.9 key passes per 90 and 5.87 touches in the box per 90, per Wyscout data. He is a menace, a final-third terrier who can beat a man, pick a pass, shoot, finish and just generally cause a nuisance.

Used more often than not as an impact player, the Ghanaian only actually played 1103 minutes in Allsvenskan last season. Expect him to play a much bigger role this year as BK Häcken look to retain their title.


Akor Adams

It is somewhat of a surprise that Lillestrøm’s explosive Nigerian striker Akor Adams did not depart the Eliteserien during the winter transfer window. The club were braced for offers but the player himself and his own management team prefer his current development to be in Norway for now, maybe with a potential move in the summer should he continue to impress and catch the eye. There was strong optimism surrounding Adams heading into the 2022 season after his transfer from OBOS division side Sogndal. He scored a total of eight goals in 1,362 minutes of league action, but his statistics don’t tell the full story.

Adams is a man with a clear influence on the team. They look like a different side when he’s on the field. He combines physical strength with fast speed and strong technique. This is a lethal combination in the Norwegian top flight. Six of his eight league goals last season were scored before round 13. He suffered a bad shoulder injury in the summer playing in the UEFA Conference League and didn’t start another match until the penultimate round. Lillestrøm averaged 2.25 points per game before his injury, but just 1.21 points per game afterward. It just shows how significant he was.

Adams initially looked like a cross between a target man and a deep-lying forward. At 1.90 meters tall his sheer height can make him an ideal focal point. However, his great pace is also an evident weapon, and he can outrun some defense and get in behind. His physical attributes do him no harm, but he’s also a technically astute player. Adams has a good first touch which sets him up for runs at the defense. His positioning and off-the-ball movement are also big assets.

From a statistical perspective, he’s been very serviceable without being spectacular. His goal average of 0.53 and shot average of 3.30 per 90 mins means Adams ranked high in both categories in Eliteserien 2022. In the last calendar year, he scored 11 goals in all competitions with an xG of 9.21 and a strong shot on target rate of 48.6%. In some ways, the Nigerian frontman has forced Lillestrøm to change formation this year to accommodate two strikers. In Thomas Lehne Olsen they also have another fearsome frontman, and the idea is that both work together in a deadly partnership.

Most recently, a Nigerian hotshot forward Emanuel Gift Orban left the Norwegian league and is already scoring bucket loads of goals for Belgian side Gent. Akor Adams looks like being the next off the production line and is now a player to watch extremely closely. This is almost certainly his last season with Lillestrøm and a strong possibility he will exit around the summer transfer window.

Leopold Wahlstedt

Leopold Wahlstedt is a goalkeeper who burst onto the scene in the 2021 season for Norwegian club Odd. At the time, he surprisingly usurped their number one Sondre Rossbach and started the last 13 games. He was earmarked as one to watch ahead of the 2022 campaign and didn’t disappoint. His biggest strength is fantastic reflexes, and he can prevent goals that look almost certain to hit the back of the net. He has saved four out of ten career penalties faced, which is an excellent record. This is a keeper known for saving impossible situations and is quite simply a brilliant shot-stopper.

Some highlights for him in the 2022 season were the 1-0 win vs Vålerenga. In that game, he had an xGC of 1.83 yet kept a clean sheet thanks to a massive 10 saves. In a total of 18 league matches last season he conceded fewer goals than his actual xGC. Wahlstedt’s overall stats were distorted thanks to some freak defeats such as the 0-7 loss to Bodø/Glimt, but there is no doubt he was a point grabber for Odd on several occasions. He was quite clearly the player of the match in several instances.

Wahlstedt did not concede a single goal from an immediate set-piece situation in the last calendar year. He was also very good at facing crosses, resulting in just one goal when leaving the line. His distribution has been impressive with 100% accuracy from all goal kicks in his own third, nearly 88% accuracy to the central third, and 69% accuracy into the final third. The system at Odd has generally required him making more shorter passes with just 14% of his goal kicks going long. From open play, that figure did increase with 30% of his attempted passes over 40 meters long.

It was widely regarded that Wahlstedt would be leaving Odd for Bodø/Glimt during the winter transfer window. The Eliteserien champions of 2020 and 2021 had agreed terms with the club and the rest was supposed to be a formality. However, the player himself surprisingly turned down a move to Glimt and later revealed in an interview "As the days go by, you start to think about whether it is the right step and, in the end, it was a gut feeling that decided. I think it's good for me. It feels good to stay in Odd."

He has a contract with Odd until the end of 2023 and his snub of Glimt clearly demonstrates a belief he can engineer a move out of Scandinavia. He also revealed "If I had the opportunity, I would like to try" when asked if a move to mainstream Europe was on his radar. Clubs such as Besiktas and Villareal have actively scouted Wahlstedt and he is expected to be hot property either this summer or when he hits the free agent market at the end of the season.

Start your Wyscout 15-days free trial here.
Visit Just Football website here.
Listen to The Nordic Football podcast here.