Scout Report: Isak Bergmann Johannesson

Four years ago, Iceland’s FIFA ranking was 130. These days they are hovering around the 30 odd mark. A country with a population of just above 300,000 has been going through a wonderful phase of producing talented footballers and the next big name in that list might just be Isak Bergmann Johannesson. We shift the focus of our scout series from the new Red Devils wonderkids to someone who could potentially be a new Red Devils wonderkid in the near future as well.

Career History:

Isak comes from a glittering family of footballers some of whom you might be able to recognize. When he was just three years old back in 2006, his father Joey Gudjonsson was turning out for Leicester City. March 2006 saw Gudjonsson produce an iconic moment that will live long in the memory of Foxes fans, scoring a stunning goal from the halfway line against Hull. Gudjonsson enjoyed spells with Aston Villa, Wolves, Leicester, Burnley and Huddersfield among others. As for Isak’s grandfather, he is none other than Gudjon Thordarson, who managed Stoke City, Crewe, Barnsley and Notts County among others. Three of Isak’s uncles all played professional football at one point or another, while a fourth turned out in the Iceland leagues. Meanwhile, one of Isak’s cousins – on his mother’s side this time – is a team-mate of his at Norrkoping. Football is in his veins. All eyes are now on the youngster and whether he’ll become the third straight generation of his family to take his talents to England.

Isak may well be Icelandic, but he was actually born in Sutton Coldfield in England. The youngster was born not too far from Birmingham city centre, back in 2003 when his father was playing for Aston Villa. Isak actually also went on to briefly feature in Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers’ youth sides while Gudjonsson played for Burnley and Leicester.

Isak is a big Messi fan. He attended Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund back in September 2019, a game which Barça won 3-1. On that occasion, Messi scored once, provided two typically exquisite assists and generally ran the show. Taking to his Instagram after the game, Bergmann Johannesson summarised his experience at Camp Nou by writing: “Wow. We saw Barcelona at Camp Nou. We saw Messi. We saw Messi score. We saw Messi assist two. We saw Messi be too good. We saw the goat. We experienced our dream.” He was also wearing a Frenkie de Jong jersey, a player he has admitted to looking up to. The influence of the Dutchman on his game is clear, notably his composure on the ball and ability to dictate the game.

You would be forgiven for not necessarily keeping up to date with the goings-on in Swedish football. But to fill you in, Isak Bergmann Johannesson has impressed at youth levels at ÍA Akranes and IFK Norrköping where he earned numerous trophies and individual awards. He was awarded as the most promising youngster in men’s category at U14 level in 2015, U15 level in 2016 and U16 level in 2017. He then won the Icelandic championship at U19 level in 2018 before dominating the Svenska Mastare (Swedish Championship) at U21 level in 2019. His rise and impact was too hot to ignore and since the start of the Allsvenskan 2020 (Swedish top flight), which runs from March 2020 to April 2021, he has already become a key figure within IFK Norrköping senior team thanks to his impressive performances. The midfielder has made 26 appearances in all competitions this season, netting four times and providing a further ten assists as well, to fire Norrkoping to third in the Swedish top-flight with five games to play and within a great chance of a rare European competition berth for the Swedish side.

At international level, despite his age, he is already featuring for Iceland’s U21s, such is his talent, and should he continue to progress, a senior international call up won’t be too far away. But having not made his senior debut and being born and raised in England, Isak could still opt to play for The Three Lions.

Playing Style:

A versatile player, Isak can play on either wing or as a central midfielder, which is his preferred position. Oh, and he’s also filled in at left back this season as well. With a wand of a left foot, Johannesson is lethal cutting in from his favoured right-wing. His playing style and preference of playing on the right side or center as a playmaker draw comparisons to Giovani Lo Celso and Dejan Kulusevski.

The teenager plays with a maturity beyond his years, knowing when to drive forward and go for goal himself and when to pick out a teammate. Isak is most dangerous when finding pockets of space to work in and setting up his teammates with pinpoint passes. But he’s definitely not afraid of going for goal himself either. In a tight tussle with Helsingborg back in August, the youngster – who was playing left back on this occasion – made a bright run up field to support the attack. Feeding the ball to a teammate on the edge of the box, Bergmann Johannesson looked to play a clever one-two, receiving the ball back just inside the 18 yard box. Without hesitating, he unleashed a ferocious strike with his left foot, with the ball rifling into the top corner at the near post. The goalkeeper just stood there, what else was he supposed to do?

His greatest strengths are undoubtedly around his wand of a left foot. His passing range is astounding for someone his age as he mixes up measured through balls, floated crosses, drilled crosses, opposite flank switches and defence-splitting chips as easily as a precise short pass. He boasts of that rare ability when as a teammate you know that if you run into space, a pass from Isak will somehow find its way right in front of you laid on a platter with the correct speed and angle for you. Though he is very one-footed relying on his magic left foot for most part of his game, he is capable of covering for the angular issues by playing some glorious outside-the foot passes and crosses reminiscent of prime Mesut Ozil.

His positional versatility means that he can provide accurate dangerous crosses from the left side while playing at left back or left wing, or cut in and shoot for the far corner when deployed on the right wing or run the show as the heartbeat of the team,  creating chances and linking defence to attack, when played as a central midfielder. In all cases, he displays a great first touch and close control followed by an ability to quickly assess where his teammates or the goal are before picking his target with his left foot using pinpoint precision and immaculate technique. He’s also no slouch off the ball being a very willing runner when his teammates have the ball often engaging in smart 1-2s and channel runs when played in the middle of the park and belting out repeated threatening runs behind the opposition fullback when played as a wide player.

His technique and precision make him a threat in dead-ball situations given his ability to beat a goalkeeper like this. Standing at 180cm, Isak doesn’t fall prey to the common tropes of youngsters his age like poor physical strength and endurance. He boasts good body strength and balance, regularly shrugging off tackles and presses in midfield comfortably while running with the ball. He also displays good aerial threat during set pieces and shows off the stamina and workrate that often see him running hard even at the 90th minute of a game. His only weaknesses seem to be pure defensive traits like marking, tackling and positioning which make playing as a defensive midfielder seem unlikely for the time being. But he has high potential to develop into a consistent, intelligent and explosive attacking player in any position ahead of that for sure.

Transfer Saga:

A number of clubs have sat up and taken notice of Isak. In fact, Liverpool became the most recent club to send scouts to watch him in action on 25th October. Expressen reported that Liverpool scout Mads Jorgensen watched him as Norrköping played out a 2-2 draw with AIK. Though Liverpool’s scouting trip was widely reported, the fact is that they actually just joined a rather long list of suitors, which contains most of the top clubs in Europe, including Manchester United and Juventus. These sides have all decided to send scouts to see the youngster first hand in recent months, but due to COVID-19 measures, only six scouts are allowed to attend a game in Sweden. As a result, Norrköping director Jens Magnusson recently confirmed that they have had to start turning away scouts as there are simply far too many looking to see Bergmann Johannesson up close.

“I think there are six scouts who can be admitted per match. But we had an incredible number of more requests for this match [vs AIK],” he told FotbollDirekt. “So there is a limitation. There we had to pull the handbrake a bit now. Then you never know exactly which players they are there to watch, of course. But here at the end, it is no secret that many are there to see Isak.”

The club’s chief scout Stig Torbjörnsen confirmed that should a suitable offer come in, Norrköping could well part ways with the youngster. In late October, Stig claimed, “It’s hard to say if we can keep him in January. A club with a lot of money could come along now or in six months. Norrkoping have a lot of money and don’t need to sell, and Isak has a sensible agent and family. When something comes up that is good for all parties, something will happen.”

Isak recently gave an interview to Expressen where he used an often-quoted phrase that will excite United fans: “Manchester United is my dream club, along with IFK Norrköping. I lived in Manchester as a child and watched many matches there.” Despite this, however, he refused to rule out the possibility of joining either Man City or Liverpool should they come calling, adding: “You can not say so. They play good football. Manchester City and Liverpool have been great. But will I have the chance to move this winter? I’ll just concentrate on Norrkoping – we have five games left to get a European place”

What will get the hopes of United fans up is a recent Instagram post from Isak. Just 2 days after Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes posted “I might lose, but I will never give up until I win again” on his Instagram after United’s impressive victory against Everton last weekend, this week Isak posted “We might lose, but we will never give up until we win again” after IFK Norrköping’s loss to Mjallby over the same weekend. The coincidence is too big to ignore considering he’s a self-proclaimed childhood United fan. Manchester United fans can only hope Isak decides to sign for his dream club soon and follows in the footsteps of the playmaker whose caption he copied.

(Image and video credits: Isak’s Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/isak.bergmann.johannesson/)

Scout Report: Alvaro Fernandez

In the summer transfer window of 2020 alone, Manchester United have bought a dozen players under the age of 19 years old while only 3 – Van De Beek, Cavani and Telles – were above that age. This clear shift in focus of United’s transfer strategy is nothing short of a youth revolution with the guidance of Nicky Butt. What’s even more impressive is nabbing these wonderkids from big clubs like Manchester City’s Charlie McNeill, Barcelona’s Marc Jurado, Atletico Madrid’s Alejandro Garnacho – and today’s focus – Real Madrid’s Alvaro Fernandez Carreras. We analyse what the gifted left-back brings to the table.

Career History

Alvaro was born on 3rd March, 2003 in Mallorca which makes him 17 years old currently. Having spent his development years at Racing de Ferrol from 2007 to 2012, it was his stint at Deportivo de La Coruna for the following 5 years that caught the eye of the top Spanish clubs. He won numerous trophies and awards in this period like the Galo cup in 2014, but it was his Galician Championship win with Deportivo in 2017 where he caught the eye of many scouts with impressive displays. Carreras’ talent was clear to see even at the age of 14, and it wasn’t just Real who looked to bring him in from Deportivo at the end of the 16/17 season. Rivals Barcelona were also keen, but Los Blancos were able to convince him to move to the capital instead. Since then, Carreras has played for Real’s U15, U16 and U17 sides over three exciting years and was considered one of the most exciting young talents at the club. He was part of a select group of young players that Real Madrid had very high hopes for, alongside Bruno Iglesias and Israel Salazar. One of the major factors that saw Alvaro’s development suffer in the 19/20 season was Miguel Gutierrez, who is a left-back like Alvaro, and helped Real Madrid win the UEFA Youth League last season. Miguel was training with Zinedine Zidane’s senior Real Madrid team towards the end of last season and has continued to do so this term. With the senior team packed with many good options at left-back and his peer Miguel next-in-line at his age bracket, Alvaro decided his time with Los Blancos was up.

Playing Style

Usually sporting a no. 3 on his back, Fernandez is an attacking left-back who looks to get forward and support attacks whenever possible. Using his speed, he enjoys making dangerous runs down the left wing, adept at linking up well with those ahead of him. But he is equally capable of coming in-field to strengthen numbers in central midfield, capable of moving around and contributing in build-up play. Check out an example here of his ability to drift in midfield and score himself, with technique that would look at home with a pure attacking midfielder. His ability to contribute in different ways going forward makes him a dangerous and unpredictable opponent, while his positional awareness to get back in shape is extremely impressive for someone so young. While Carreras is naturally a very attacking full-back, he is more than capable of being physical on the pitch. Not only is he a threat in the air – thanks to 6’ plus athletic and sturdy build – he’s also combative in one-on-one situations, and isn’t afraid to muscle his opponents off the ball. His reading of the game is impressive too, and these are all qualities that are likely to improve as he gets more match experience under his belt. Alvaro’s unpredictable dribbling is intensified thanks to his two-footedness. His attacking awareness, positive movement and technical expertise make him a reliable goal threat like showcased here.

Though he looks eerily similar to Sergio Ramos thanks to his hairstyle and build, there are more similarities between Alvaro and Marcelo in their style of play – particularly when going forward. The Brazilian has built up a reputation over the years as being one of the world’s most energetic full-backs, making lung-busting overlapping runs to unlock a defence. On Real Madrid’s official website, it is noted that Fernandez’s ‘reference’ is Marcelo – and the teenager plays with a similar intensity and energy as his idol. Defensively, though, he appears to be a little more switched on than Marcelo – who we all know has a tendency to be out of position because he’s caught up field. Fernandez stands out from his young peers thanks to his technical qualities, intelligence on the field and difficulty to beat one-on-one. If United are keen on bolstering their squad with a well-rounded left-back, he promises to be a solution in the near future.


Transfer Saga

As one of the most exciting young prospects in Real’s academy, it was hardly a surprise that a number of clubs from around Europe began to take notice of Fernandez’s contract situation earlier this year. However, AS reported back in May 2020 that it was actually Manchester United and Manchester City who were the most interested in the youngster. They both sent scouts out on numerous occasions to watch Alvaro and were impressed with what they saw. However, it is the red half of Manchester who look to have got the deal done. Real were keen to keep hold of Carreras, but United’s ‘sports project’ is said to have appealed more to him. Fernandez failed to agree contract terms with Los Blancos and became a free agent on June 30, 2020. He issued a statement on Instagram, confirming that he’ll be leaving Real Madrid and said that it was not an easy decision. He thanked his coaches who have worked with him over the past three years, mentioned that his stay at Real Madrid made him a better footballer and a better person,and concluded that it was time to say goodbye and take another path in his football career to continue his dream.

Alvaro is said to have agreed a four-year deal with United and a recent report from AS suggested Real Madrid coaches have expressed regret at Fernandez’s exit and feel United have a real talent on their hands. Sources claim: “Alvaro is a footballer with a great future who has been hurt by having Miguel Gutierrez in front of him. But the conditions are there for him to do well in England, and his pace and center of gravity will be admired.” It should also be noted that Real Madrid do not have a buyback clause to sign Fernandez in the future, like they tried to inflict on United in the summer when offering Sergio Reguilon.

Settling in & What next

Carreras made his friendly debut for United on Sept 27 for the U23s and had an impressive showing scoring one goal and running the left flank with attacking flair and discipline. His goal was an exciting announcement showcasing what he was all about as he bombed forward to support the attack and opportunistically cut in before blasting in a top-corner shot with his right foot that would make anyone think twice about what his dominant foot actually is. He made his official debut for the U23s on Oct 18th and then played in the U23s win over Everton in the Premier League 2 in the last week of October, showcasing his well-rounded qualities in both games.

Though he has joined the club’s youth side initially, Alvaro could be integrated into the first team should injuries strike down the Red Devils’ senior options. Compared to his peers, Alvaro’s intelligence and defensive stability make him a very attractive proposition to promote to the senior team after a period of settling in. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he could be the closest to a first team opportunity among the 16-17 year olds – like Charlie McNeill, Joe Hugill and Willy Kambwala – that the Devils have signed this summer. The 18 year old prospects, Pellistri and Amad Traore are clearly meant to feature for the first team sooner. But given United’s lack of any prospects in Alvaro’s position, it won’t be a surprise to see the youngster knock on the senior team door soon, if he excels for the U23s this season.

(Image and video credits: Alvaro’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/alvarocarreras3 )

Scout Report: Charlie McNeill

It’s very rare that a youth level player comes with as much fanfare and hype as Charlie Mcneill did in the 2020 summer transfer window. The striker was part of Manchester United’s youth acquisition spree over the summer and made the switch from rivals Manchester City after turning heads all over Europe with some exceptional displays at many youth brackets for the Citizens. We uncover the content beyond the hype to figure out what the ‘Next Sergio Aguero’ – as he was called during his time at City – is all about.

Career History

Charlie was born on September 9, 2003 which means he celebrated his 17th birthday when his United career began last month. Unknown to many, McNeill actually began his career at United, working his way up through the ranks alongside the likes of Mason Greenwood. But he opted to make the controversial switch to cross-town rivals Manchester City in 2013 for around £12,000 as he looked to take his career to the next stage. Departing United to join City would have been hard enough for the fans in red to take, but to make matters worse, McNeill is actually a United fan himself. All said and done though, it’s safe to say the switch has worked out reasonably well for him so far.

A youngster’s goalscoring record at youth level doesn’t tell the complete story. But when a player scores over 600 goals across different age groups, then it’s clear just how special a talent he is. Yes, you read that correctly! Charlie has scored about 600 goals in his career already. To give you an idea, McNeill netted 110 goals and contributed 38 assists in just 72 matches during his time playing City’s Under-15s side. That’s just the 148 goal contributions in 72 matches. He has been scoring at a similar rate throughout his youth career. 

The teenager has developed into a pretty complete striker, while his performances have also seen him called up to the England Under-16s squad a number of times already. International recognition with England has led to 4 appearances so far for the U16s. His one goal for the Young Lions came in a 5-1 win over Moldova at the Aegean Cup last year. The goals come with trophies too making Charlie a Runner-up in the FA Youth Cup (18/19) and two-time winner of the U18 Premier League Cup (18/19 and 19/20). From his Instagram account, it’s easy to capture many other achievements of Charlie. He stands at the forefront of a group photo after City won the Premier League Under-15 International Tournament, held at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, when they beat Arsenal 1-0 in the final. There’s also a picture of McNeill holding two trophies with a medal round his neck at the equivalent under-14 tournament a year earlier.


It’s an interesting narrative that McNeill was actually the player tipped to step up and replace City’s departing Jadon Sancho – whom United chased to a dead end this summer – in 2017. Goal.com reported in an article titled, ‘Brahim and Sancho gone – but Man City have other teenage sensations’: “McNeill is just 14 but has been making a name for himself in the City academy for the past few years. Those familiar with the City youth set-up believe he is one of the best prospects of any age group and is definitely one to keep an eye on in the coming years.”

Playing Style

The variety of the goals McNeill has scored in U16 and U17 games is the most striking aspect. There are true highlights reel hits from 30 or 40 yards like this similar to those Paul Scholes used to produce while McNeill also enjoys cutting inside and bending shots across the keeper reminiscent of Wayne Rooney like this, and there are also confident traps, exquisite chips and casual bangers in the vein of Eric Cantona like these. He also appears to be an assured penalty taker with a cheeky Panenka slipped in for good measure at times. McNeill’s assist record from the U15s also suggests he’s more than happy to pass or cross when team-mates are present in better positions.

One of his U16 goals against Manchester United saw him pick up the ball wide on the left, cut inside and unleash a beautifully curled effort into the top right corner. A natural born finisher, McNeill knows where the goal is without needing to look up. Instead he ruthlessly fires home armed with two-footedness, technical prowess and a natural eye for goal most strikers crave for. Sure, he’s clinical in and around the box, but he’s also more than capable of the spectacular. Goals from the halfway line are made to seem almost easy by McNeill having scored a couple from that range at the youth level. He is a complete attacker who is more than capable of linking attacks and darting into space, while many comparisons have also been made with Wayne Rooney in regards to the way he drops deep to collect the ball at times.


(Photo by Manchester City FC/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

But perhaps what is one of his most promising traits is his mental strength and desire to never be completely satisfied with what he already has. As a result, it won’t come as much of a surprise to see the Times report that McNeill idolises Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski. His insane goal tally speaks of a player who never rests on his laurels. Always searching for more and looking at ways to improve, McNeill has the talent with the ball at his feet – but also the mentality to become a top footballer.

Transfer saga & settling in

After six years with the club, McNeill opted not to sign a new deal with City as he was said to be growing frustrated with his lack of opportunities at a higher level. He found games hard to come by in the U18s, managing just 8 appearances. In 18/19, he made just 3 substitute appearances in the U18 Premier League and that remained the case in 19/20 with just 4 substitute outings and 1 start before the season was curtailed because of the pandemic. McNeill did prove a point by scoring his first goal for the U18s in a 2-1 win over Blackburn back in February, but it was clear his time for the Sky Blues was coming to an end. The Manchester Evening News reported that McNeill saw a clearer pathway to the first team with United than at City. Italian giants Juventus and Red Bull Leipzig were also heavily linked to McNeill. But for the childhood United fan in Mcneill a chance to get back to his club was too good to turn down. With the Red Devils having built up a famous reputation with regards to first team opportunities for academy graduates and overseeing a youth revamp under Nicky Butt, the choice was obvious. McNeill returned to the United academy for an initial fee of £750,000 that could rise to £1.35million after he rejected the offer of a new contract at City in the summer. United sources say McNeill would represent an ‘absolute bargain’ even if he costs the full amount as he would have to play in a significant amount of first-team games and record noteworthy achievements to trigger the clauses. After a highly successful 6 years at City, Mcneill made the switch in September.

In true Charlie Mcneill fashion, the striker needed no time to start doing what he does best for the Red devils. His first appearance came in a pre-season friendly earlier this month against West Brom where the striker finished off a cool chance to get on the scoresheet. Last weekend, Charlie made his first official start for the U18 side against Derby U18 and – surprise, surprise! – smashed 2 goals in succession in an impressive 4-0 win. A timely dribble latching onto a through ball followed by a far-post finish and a poacher’s first time shot from a cut-back cross were enough to excite United fans about what’s to come. “First 2 of 600 goals for us” – an enthusiastic fan on social media chimed.

What next

McNeill is expected to play with the United’s U18s side for a while rather than the Under-23s, partially due to the long-term injury suffered by D’Mani Mellor. However, should he settle quickly and continue his progression, he could soon make the step up. If he keeps scoring at the rate he does, a U23 call-up is possible in the near future. Having just turned 17, Charlie has time on his side to make a mark at both levels before eyeing a main team debut. With Edinson Cavani and Ighalo, the Red devils are clearly looking at stop-gap solutions for the striker role to compete with Martial. Mcneill made the switch back to his boyhood club for a reason and if he keeps doing what he does he might just get the chance to impress the Old Trafford faithful sooner than later. 

(Image & Video Credits: Getty images & Charlie McNeill’s official Instagram account)