In the fifth instalment of our Celtic scouting series Norwegian football expert Ben Wells identify three players who has the potential to make their mark in Glasgow.
The Norwegian Eliteserien has long been a league that clubs from larger European leagues have looked to for talent to sign at a reduced price. Value for money when it comes to buying from Norway is generally good, as shown in recent transfer windows through the transfers of Sander Berge (to KRC Genk for €2,000,000) who is now valued at €17,000,000 and Ole Selnæs (to St. Etienne for €3,200,000) who is now valued at €8,000,000 (all valuations correct at time of writing acc. To Transfermarkt).
Celtic have previously signed directly from the Eliteserien, with Kristoffer Ajer and Stefan Johansen being two recent examples of players who have significantly improved after making the journey from Norway to Scotland. Whilst there is not currently a ‘golden generation’ of young talent in the Eliteserien, there are still some very interesting players in the U-23 bracket who clearly have the abilities to play at a higher level abroad.
As shown in the recent Europa League matches between Rosenborg and Celtic, there is definitively a difference in level between the top team in Eliteserien and Premiership, but here are 3 players from the Norwegian league whom I could see making the step up to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side now or in the future.
- Position: Winger/Midfielder
- Country: Norway
- Club: Molde
- Born: 26.05.1995
- Youth Caps: 3
There was a brief period between 2016 and 2017 where Eirik Hestad was being unduly criticised by sections of Molde and Norwegian football fans, who failed to see what the youngster brought to the game whatsoever.
However, the 2018 season saw the midfielder undergo a transformation many had not expected. Hestad moved into a wide right position and under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his goals & assists record increased from 0 goals & 8 assists in 2017 to 15 goals and 8 assists in 2018. Hestad’s form in the Europa League qualification stage has been especially impressive, with the player scoring 7 times in 7 games including a goal in each leg against a strong Zenit St. Petersburg side.
As detailed in an article on KroneBall, Hestad’s statistical numbers this season have also been very impressive. Hestad has an xG total of 4.62 and is averaging 0.19 xG per 90 (the average is 0.16). His xA total is 4.74 and 0.20 per 90. These numbers alone placed him in the upper echelons of Eliteserien performance and his numbers for Successful Passes, Successful Dribbles & Challenges Won per 90 are also equally impressive.
Hestad’s move onto the right wing for Molde this season has allowed him to drift inside at times as a form of wide playmaker. Whilst not a natural winger by any means, his ability to play in this position effectively is a bonus for any manager looking to sign him. Hestad has announced himself this season as one of the most well rounded midfielders in Norway and an international call up cannot be too far away with many fans now clamouring for the player to be included.
- Position: Winger
- Country: Nigeria
- Club: Rosenborg
- Born: 03.12.1995
Samuel Adegbenro is one of the most exciting attacking players to have played in the Eliteserien in the past few years and joins a long list of talented young African players impressing in Norway before potentially making a big move abroad. Think Odion Ighalo and Badou Ndiaye, Adegbenro could be the next Eliteserien export to a big European League.
Adegbenro made his name at Viking, before making the big move to league champions Rosenborg in 2017. It did not take him long to adjust to the higher level of football as Adegbenro scored once in the first leg and twice in the second as Rosenborg completed a famous 4-2 aggregate win over Ajax in the Europa League qualifiers.
His dynamic and direct style of play is what sets him apart from his Eliteserien compatriots. Adegbenro is fearless and watching him play, you just know that he knows in his head he is the best player on the pitch when playing in the league. 1 v 1, there is no better player in the league.
In addition to this, Adegbenro averaged 11 dribbles per game, with 5.7 of them being successful, per 90 minutes played in the last part of the 2018 season. Having been injured for six months previously in the year (he was still getting back to full fitness when he faced Celtic in the Europa League last December) it now looks now as though Adegbenro is ready to kick on and become the player most Eliteserien analysts expect him to be.
I could see him fitting in well to Brendan Rodgers’ style of play at Celtic and at just 23 years old, there is still room for him to significantly improve. If Celtic are not interested in his services, it would be no surprise to see Adegbenro playing in a top European league within the next 2-3 seasons.
Tobias Borchgrevink Børkeeiet
- Position: Central/Defensive Midfield
- Country: Norway
- Club: Stabæk
- Born: 18.04.1999
- Youth Caps: 4
Stabæk’s academy is going through something of a golden period currently, with last season’s first team squad comprising of no less than 16 U-23 players, of whom, 10 had graduated through the academy system that the club has placed so much emphasis on of late.
Tobias Borchgrevink Børkeeiet (who shall be referred to as TBB in this article) has made tremendous strides into the first team this season, appearing in 27 Eliteserien games as well as the 2 play off matches at the end of the season, helping his side maintain their place in the league for next season. His immense maturity at the base of the Stabæk midfield is the main reason as to why his two managers this season (Toni Ordinas and then Henning Berg) trusted the 19 year old over more experienced options.
Standing at 6’2, TBB’s height is an obvious asset to his defensive play and has even seen him slot in at CB on occasion for his side. A bustling ball winning midfielder, who also has the abilities to play box to box, he showed his adaptability later in the season taking on a slightly more offensive role vs. Aalesund in the Eliteserien promotion play off match. The performance yielded his first Stabæk goal and even more praise to add to the already growing pile.
At just 19 years old, TBB fits Celtic’s transfer target profile well and his high potential ceiling means that whilst he may not have an immediate impact on the Celtic first team, in the future he could well be pushing for a starting spot at the base of the midfield. It’s an area Celtic look fairly thin in at the moment, with Bitton & Kouassi’s long term injuries and Mulumbu’s poor form so I would have high hopes for Børkeeiet’s development should he ever sign for Celtic.