Oh, what could’ve been.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but looking at Jens Petter Hauge dominate Celtic last night, you’d have expected the young winger to have been an expensive outlay. Surely, even a club with the Rossoneri’s riches would have winced as they set up the bank transfer.
Turns out, not so much. Hauge cost a mere £4.5m from Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt. Hauge, who has scored twice against Celtic in the Europa League, cost A.C. Milan exactly one Vasilis Barkas.
Under Ronny Deila, Celtic made strides in the Scandinavian market. Stefan Johansen arrived from Strømsgodset for £2m in January 2014 (Scotsman); by the next season’s end, he was our Player of the Year (Celtic FC). Fine, we also signed Jo Inge Berget, but hey.
Kristoffer Ajer, who captained IK Start at 16 years of age, arrived in 2016. After a successful loan spell with Kilmarnock, Ajer successfully converted into a centre-back role which has been his ever since.
There are other historical examples. Harald Brattbakk was a fine servant to the club. Johan Mjällby was vital to Celtic’s early-2000s success. Thomas Gravesen… played for Celtic. There’s also a certain striker from Sweden that comes to mind, but for the life of me, I can’t remember his name.
Oh! John Guidetti, that’s the one.
The Scandinavian market is well worth exploiting. Norway have a fantastic team, with Erling Haaland and Martin Ødegaard, the latter of whom was strongly linked to Celtic before Real Madrid came knocking.
Let’s look at 3 potential Scandi stars of the future, what they would cost, and what they could bring to Celtic.
Recently capped by Denmark coach Ebbe Sand, Victor Nelsson is a young centre-back who reads the game extremely well, is solid in the tackle and has an excellent range of passing from deep (YouTube).
The Copenhagen starlet was recently subject to rumours of a £9m bid from Aston Villa (Birmingham Live), and several Premier League clubs in England have been linked.
His confidence out of possession and his vision are reminiscent of a young Virgil van Dijk, as hyperbolic as that may read. He can carry the ball out of defence with ambition and drive, and his ability to read the opposition to snatch interceptions would be welcome to a shaky Celtic defence.
Nelsson was the Denmark U-21 captain and although Celtic might have missed the boat on the young defender, he would represent a fantastic signing if the funds were made available.
YouTube highlight clips aren’t the be all and end all of scouting. I understand that, I do. Nonetheless, they’re an exciting, if selective snapshot of what a player can do, that just can’t be illustrated by stats alone. So with that in mind, have a look at Ola Brynhildsen of Molde.
You finished watching? Right then.
Brynhildsen is a dynamic, lightning-fast left-winger who calls to mind Mohammed Elyounoussi. His instinctive finishing and movement would provide a real attacking threat on the flanks for Celtic, with his production nothing to sniff at either.
The Norwegian wonderkid has posted 7 goal involvements in 26 appearances so far (Transfermarkt), but at 21 years of age, it’s his potential that’s most exciting. After Celtic missed the chance to sign Elyounoussi permanently for peanuts, it’d make sense to cut out the middle man here. The middle man, in this case, being FC Basel and Southampton.
Represented by top agent Jim Solbakken, who boasts Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer amongst his clients, it’s clear Brynhildsen has a bright future. Perhaps most excitingly of all, he’s currently valued at £270,000. That’s a snip, and we could do much worse than to take advantage of the winger’s availability at a low fee.
Standing at 6ft, AIK’s Bilal Hussein is not your typical young midfielder. Comfortable playing as a 10, a deep-lying playmaker or on the right, the 20-year-old is versatile and comparatively experienced for his age.
Already boasting 24 first-team appearances for AIK this season (46 in total), Hussein carries dual Swedish and Somalian citizenship. Having made his Sweden U-21 debut at 18, he’s since made 16 appearances at youth international level.
Hussein is an enterprising player who can offer a lot. He carries the ball confidently, beats players, shoots efficiently from a variety of positions and has excellent vision. Perhaps most excitingly, he can cross with precision, as shown here.
He’s also a tenacious tackler, which would suit Celtic’s press. If Neil Lennon wants to have energetic players who defend from the front, Hussein would represent good business.
Valued at £720k (Transfermarkt), Hussein is one of the top young talents in the Allsvenskan. Clubs from around Europe will inevitably come calling, and Celtic should be chief amongst them.