Scout Report- Yusuf Demir

The player under radar today is the one who Football Manager players must know inside out with a sure shot potential ability to become one of THE BEST on the game. But in real life, this ‘wonderkid’ is also making strides which has now attracted the attention of all European footballing superpowers to win his signature. We will take a deep dive to cover the up and coming Austrian Yusuf Demir.

Background

Yusuf Demir is a product of Rapid Vienna youth academy. In 2019, he signed his first professional contract with the club aged only 15. He made his first-team debut for Rapid in a 3-0 Austrian Bundesliga win over Admira Wacker Mödling on 14 December 2019. Yusuf is of Turkish descent, but he is a youth international for Austria. On 15 September 2020, Demir scored a goal for Rapid Wien in 1–2 defeat against KAA Gent in the 2020–21 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, at 17 years, 3 months and 13 days old, to become the youngest Austrian scorer since Gerd Wimmer in 1994, aged 17 years, 10 months and 27 days. He was the first name in the Guardian’s Next Generation: class of 2020 list, touted as Austrian ‘Messi’ by the panel of journalists who shortlisted him along with 59 other players around the world who have the potential to become one of the best in coming years.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Playing Style

Demir can play in a number of positions across the frontline due to his versatility. He is also very adept at playing as an attacking midfielder, predominantly when his side utilize the 4-2-3-1 formation. The youngster has been utilized as a creative number 10 in 40% of the games he has featured in throughout his career, whilst he has played in any position variation on the right flank  40% of the time, with the other 20% being positions from anywhere off the left and even as a deep lying midfielder, dictating the gameplay from deeper areas of the midfield. However, this season, Rapid Vienna’s manager Dietmar Kühbauer has preferred to play this prodigy as an attacking midfielder mainly as it gets the best out of the 17-year-old, featuring in total of 22 games this season, quite a good number of games under the belt for a kid of his age at senior level. The most notable aspect is that Demir still prefers to operate slightly off to the right and in the right half space so that he can cut inside on his preferred left foot, which is where the youngster can be most dangerous.

Yusuf Demir’s heat map for 2020-21 season in Austrian Bundesliga

Demir’s all-round play is very impressive. He has a brilliant balance and pace along with exquisite technique and ball control for a player of his age. The teenager has been given quite a free role in the Wien side when he plays for them, especially as an attacking midfielder. This is reflected in his dribbling stats which put him among top 5 of Austrian Bundesliga with 10.62 dribbles per 90 minutes out of which he is completing 5.26 dribbles per 90, roughly completing 1 dribble out of 2 attempts. When in a 1v1 situation against an opponent, Demir’s natural instinct is to try and get himself into a central position which is where he is most dangerous on a football pitch. He does this by using body feints and a drop of the shoulder, combined with rapid changes of direction to ease past opponents. Demir’s preferred movement is from outside to inside on the right-flank as he can use his left-foot in the central areas providing he gets by his challengers.

Cutting in and trying to find space to hold the ball

A text book move for Demir when playing for his club or country is to look to receive the ball between the lines with his back turned to the goal. Receiving his back turned to goal allows him to receive the ball on the half-turn and drive forward with the ball at defending players and combine it with his brilliant balance, agility and low center of gravity to beat the defenders with ease. From the above image, you can see that Demir has dropped into the space between the opposition’s line of pressure and midfield in order to receive the ball to his feet. By dropping deep, he has given his backline an extra option to deliver a line-breaking pass and exploit the space created by Demir with his off the ball movement. From here, the Austrian likes to receive the ball on the half-turn on his backfoot and drive forward, attacking onrushing players in 1v1 and sometimes even 2v1 duels. One of the most impressive stats from the teenager is his offensive duels per 90. Demir currently has the highest number of average offensive duels attempted per 90 in the league with 20.6 offensive duels per 90 minutes.

Dropping deep to hold up the ball and eventually free up space for others

Whilst he likes to drop very deep at times in front of the opposition’s midfield, his preferred area on the pitch to operate in is between the lines of the backline and midfield line, which allows him to put his attacking instincts to better use than in deeper areas. Demir generally opts to receive the ball in the right half-space, try to cut in with his stronger left foot and provide ample space for marauding fullback to stretch the opposition’s defense and provide overlaps for better crossing angles. Receiving in the right half space in between the lines allows him to have space to take the ball on the half-turn – as he loves to do – and drive inside before hitting curling shots outside the box. This only mainly applies when Demir is deployed as a number 10 or a right-sided player but since he has been used in these areas 80% of the time, receiving in between the lines in the right half-space is a very important part of the 17-year-old’s overall game.

Yusuf Demir’s Shot and Goal Creation Action Analysis

In terms of creative ability, his best comes from the left flank. The reason for this is because he excels at getting into the left half-space and cutting the ball backwards. As Demir is a left footer, pulling the ball across the box is more natural for him on the left side of the pitch. This is an example of an excellent chance created by Demir in the assist zone on the left side of the box. He receives the ball in the left half space again and drives towards the by-line. By being naturally left-footed, he is more suited to putting the ball across the box in these situations as opposed to the right side where he needs to cut back onto his stronger foot. Playing as a number 10 also gives him the freedom to roam into these types of positions at times to create as well as drifting towards the right – his preferred side.

Yusuf Demir trying to cross the ball into the 12 yard box with his stronger left foot

Demir is also well able to carve a defence open when the opportunity arrives as he has quite an innate ability of playing through gaps in an opposition’s defence to find running teammates. The Austrian’s creative stats are very solid for a player of his age Demir has averaged 0.71 key passes per 90 in all competitions and also currently averages 0.33 expected assists (xA) per 90 for current calender year.

Yusuf Demir attempting a line breaking pass to marauding winger

Conclusion

For a 17-year old teenage footballer, Yusuf Demir’s game is very mature and there is a reason that all of Europe is extensively scouting him, ever since he has broken into Rapid Vienna’s first team. Teams like Manchester United and Juventus have had scouted him in the past but their interest has been rekindled with his recent performances. On one hand, it is quite natural to give into the temptation when Europe’s most prestigious clubs are chasing for your signature but Yusuf is in that age category where experience at first team level without any added pressure is crucial for development, both physically and mentally. Players of his age group must strive for a healthy competitive environment.

Ideally, he should stay in Rapid Vienna and try to become a regular first team player in coming years, try to break the domestic domination of RB Salzburg and also help his hometown club to make a deeper run in Europa League and then take it one step ahead by switching to a side fighting for European places in Germany who also don’t hesitate to play younger players (preferably Borussia Dortmund or Borussia Monchengladbach since these 2 clubs can do with a player of his quality given the tactical setup they use complements his strengths). Once, he is mature enough, both physically and mentally- he can easily take the challenge to make a name for himself at the grand stage, both at club level and international level.

Yusuf Demir has the potential to become one of the all time greats for not only Austria but one of the all time greats of upcoming generation of footballers. But, with talent, you always need hardwork, dedication and the most important thing- Patience.  

(Photo by Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Scout Report- Facundo Medina

According to RMC Sport Correspondent Sacha Tavolieri, Facundo Medina is drawing interest from Manchester United who have been scouting for potential targets to bolster their Centre Back department. Facundo Medina has attracted the attention of English giants with his stellar performance with French side RC Lens. The report further states that while Manchester United have registered an interest in Medina, he is among a number of names on their shortlist and is not their main target as at the present moment. 

In this scout report, we will look at how he has fared in his career and if he can sustain his stellar output in a better side. 

(Photo by Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Player Profile

Facundo Medina is a left footed centre-back and equally capable of playing as a left back. Born in Buenos Aires, he joined his boyhood club River Plate as a youngster, rising through the ranks over the years and breaking into the reserves team in 2017. He, then got called up to first team too but failed to make an appearance for the club. Soon, fellow Argentina Primera Division side Talleres came calling for him. Getting consistent first team opportunities at first team level, Medina started growing as a player and his talent slowly started attracting attention of some European sides- mainly from France with OM, OL sending their scouts to watch him on a number of occasions. But it was Ligue 1 newcomers RC Lens who snapped him up before the start of 2020-21 season, in a deal worth 3.15 million euros. Him along with young French Defender Loic Bade make up the crux of defence which is one of the best statistically in Ligue 1 this season. This has catapulted the newcomers to 7th place in the Ligue 1 table, level on points with AS Monaco with a game in hand- an unexpected fight for European Competition spots.

(Photo by Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Playing Style 

Medina’s defending is different from most of the centre-backs in the league. He possesses natural quickness which allows him to make risky decisions at times. Along with his aggressive style of play, he tends to apply a lot of ‘pressures’ and contest for duels with wingers/strikers of the opposition. His agility and speed compensate for his aggressive style of play, but not to the full extent. When he puts pressure on the opponent, it becomes vital that he must have the right body positioning to limit the passing angles through which the opposition can dictate the game. This proactive style of defending requires great spatial awareness and quick decision-making because every mistake might be costly. The centre-back needs to read the game well, limiting the passing options and the opportunity for an attacker to turn and change direction.

Credits: Wyscout

Credits: Fbref/Statsbomb

Medina’s mobility and awareness of where the next pass might be played become the key components when it comes to interceptions. Facundo averages 1.2 interceptions and 12.5 recoveries per 90 mins in Ligue 1 this season. Getting in the way of the attackers creates a lot of trouble for the opposition and provides Lens with an opportunity to start a counter attack, in which he plays a vital part. His forward passes break opposition defensive lines and help his teammates create opportunities within a couple of passes. He can release the attackers with a pinpoint pass. He averages 6.5 progressive passes per 90 minutes and has covered a distance upwards of 180 yards per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 this season.

Credits: Fbref/Statsbomb

Credits: Fbref/Statsbomb

At the age of 21, Medina already has the kind of dominating presence you would expect from an experienced and commanding centre-ack. Despite being only 5’11’’, he has a great jump and takes off the ground really well, which helps him tremendously in aerial duels. Along with his aggressive playing style, he is adept at contesting and winning ground duels too. He boasts a rate of 61% when it comes to winning aerial duels and 70% rate when it comes to winning tackles, one of the highest in the league. He likes to gain some advantage over his opponent by getting in front of him. His agility and balance allow him to coordinate himself in this manner. His anticipation and reading of the game help him to prevent through balls, passes into penalty area or crosses, may it be from Centre Back or Left Back. He is getting a consistent amount of playing time at a fairly good level in Europe too, which has attracted attention of even better clubs.

Credits: Fbref/Statsbomb

Conclusion

Facundo Medina is still very inexperienced at the top level. His aggressive playing style can easily leave the defence wide open, thus making him a more system specific player at the moment. But these things can be worked upon since he is still young. For a centre-back with an aggressive style of play, blessed with quickness, agility and good positional awareness, Facundo Medina promises to become an asset for any team if groomed well. Such a playing style is an embodiment of the modern-day Centre Back. This playing style is what has been missing in United’s current CB roster. This is the reason the red devils have been scouting players of similar style with scouts sent on assignments to Portugal to watch Sporting Braga’s David Carmo in past months. 

With BBC Sport Correspondent Simon Stone also breaking the news that United is sporadically looking for such low-risk high reward buys, it shows that there has been a change of direction at the club when it comes to transfer dealings.

Percentile rank (Scope is Ligue 1 defenders with 8+ appearances)

Scout Report- Moises Caicedo

The winter transfer window is around the corner and various reports have linked the 19-year-old Ecuador international Moises Isaac Caicedo Corozo with a move to Manchester United. Moises plays as a midfielder for the Ecuadorian side Independiete del Valle. In this scout report, we will try to cover his playing style and how his addition can provide Manchester United with a different profile in their midfield department.

(Photo by Jose Jacome / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOSE JACOME/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Player Profile

Caicedo joined the youth academy of Independiente del Valle at the age of 13. He was promoted to the senior side of the club in 2019. He debuted for Independiente del Valle in a 1-0 Ecuadorian Serie A win over L.D.U. Quito on 1 October 2019.  While he was travelling with the senior team, the 19-year-old would go on to be an important part of the Independiente del Valle side that won the U20 Libertadores at the start of 2020. Under their new manager, Miguel Angel Ramirez Medina, they went on and won the 2019 Copa Sudamericana, South America’s secondary club football tournament organized by CONMEBOL (equivalent to UEFA Europa League). This was their first ever continental title. The club wants to prioritise the academy and the promotion of academy players to the first team and their manager’s profile fits the bill perfectly. And Caicedo is probably the best example of this. 

On an international level, Caicedo made his Ecuador debut in a 1-0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification loss to Argentina on 9 October 2020. He scored the first goal in a 4-2 win over Uruguay on 13th October 2020 at the Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado, becoming the first player born in the 21st century to ever score in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying. Since the start of his professional career, the midfielder has played 2,367 minutes while providing 4 assists and scoring 7 goals in all competitions.

(Photo by Marcelo Endelli / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARCELO ENDELLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Playing Style

Independiente del Valle mainly play in a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-3-3 with two 8’s positioned between the lines. In this setup, Caicedo either play as the right-sided midfielder of the 3-man midfield or at the base where he drops between the two centre-backs, providing fluidic transitions from defence to attack.

Caicedo dropping between the Centre backs who take up wider areas when team attacks

As a right-sided midfielder, he tends to occupy areas in the right half-space or the centre of the pitch, depending on the position of the ball. With Ecuador, he plays on the left-side in a double pivot. The midfielder has already played a variety of roles (three to be exact) in two different teams for two different managers. This versatility is important for the development of a young talent. 

Caicedo’s Heatmap in Copa Sudamericana

Wherever he plays, Caicedo often scans his surroundings to find space and makes himself available to the ball-carrier. This ability helps him further up the pitch as these areas are more crowded. The Ecuador international has equally good instincts higher up the pitch. He combines well in tight spaces and is able to identify space to run into. He has an efficient shot taking ability as well, already scoring from outside the box on two occasions. While Caicedo can find his teammates between the lines, he doesn’t do it enough. He also makes the occasional mistake, due to his age, while attempting some passes.

Caicedo making himself available to receive the pass
Caicedo trying to find line breaking passes

His passes with his weaker foot are reliable. If he was to come to Manchester United, he would instantly become the second most ambipedal midfielder of the squad after Fred (Fred completed 28% of his successful passes with his weaker foot last season, Pogba around 12%). Caicedo rarely loses a duel, whether it is in the air or on the ground. According to SofaScore, he wins 4.4 duels per 90 minutes for a success rate of 56%.

Independiente del Valle often man-mark in midfield, which admittedly makes it harder to properly judge Caicedo on this end of the pitch. The intensity he provides when not having the ball is as inconsistent as the intensity he has when one of his teammates has the ball. Caicedo can lose track of his runner. This is the one major con in his game, but it can be fixed with good coaching and experience. 

Conclusion

Given that he recently turned 19 and has just one year of experience at senior level, that too in an inferior league in comparison to the standards of football played in English top tier and at Manchester United in general, a sudden change of environment at this stage makes it difficult to expect instant impact for any player of this age group. A good development plan is required to ease in such foreign talents in order to maximize their potential in the long run. 

Moises has the abilities which can make him a player in the mould of Nemanja Matic. But again, if everything goes right (by right, we are referring to all third-party rights issue being resolved and new work permit rules under Brexit allowing him to get a work permit without any fuss), a low transfer fee in the range of €5 million will not hurt a club of the stature of Manchester United. All things considered, if it goes through, fans can remain positive over acquiring a good potential player for the future for a modest fee.   

Scout Report: David Carmo

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson left, Manchester United have struggled to rebuild a team that can challenge and push for the league title. Managers have come in, tried their own rebuild and have failed. That was until Solskjaer took over the managerial job in December 2018. However the results on the field might go, Solskjaer’s transfer targets and the ‘rebuild’ part of his job has been pretty spot on. Aaron Wan Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes among others look the real deal so far.

The Norwegian manager is again looking at the defence and the need to strengthen it with another centre back since the Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly all reportedly heading towards the exit door from Old Trafford. That leaves Manchester United with only 3 options at CB in Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe. Dayot Upamecano was the name thrown around in recent times as Solskjaer’s number 1 target but recently, United were linked to the 21 year old David Carmo. 

Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about David Carmo.

Rangers’ Albanian forward Florian Kamberi (R) vies with Sporting Braga’s Portuguese defender David Carmo during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg football match between SC Braga and Rangers at the Municipal stadium in Braga on February 26, 2020. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images)

Career History

David Carmo has been at his boyhood club SC Braga since he was 16 making his professional debut for the reserves in 2018. He made his first team only earlier this year in January but he has been a regular for the Portugese outfit ever since making 27 appearances for Braga with 8 of them coming in the ongoing campaign.

Carmo first made a name for himself when he was part of the Portugal u19s team which won the u19s European Championship in 2018. The Portugese youngster made 4 appearances in the tournament and announced himself to the world with his impressive performances. 

Style of Play

David Carmo’s style of play has often been compared with that of Virgil van Dijk. Both are regarded as tall but fast and athletic for their size. Standing at 6ft 5ins, it is fair to say that David Carmo is tall. But his height isn’t something that restricts him as a player. He’s still fast, agile and can get the better of any pacey forward in 1v1 situations proved by him winning 91.7% of his tackles among the players attempting more than 10 tackles in the Liga NOS this season Carmo also averages 2.2 tackles per game. He is also an imposing centre back, winning 81% of his aerial duels this season. 

(Visualization taken from Twitter user @rodrigoccc97)

Another one of his strengths is passing. The Portugese youngster loves a long forward pass and the fact 35% of his passes have been into attacking areas proves it. Being a left footed CB, he is often deployed as the left sided CB and one of his favorite passes are the huge switch to the right winger, something that is quickly becoming a trademark for Carmo. He has an impressive 85% pass completion rate and considering the fact that 35% of those have been into attacking areas, it is very impressive for a centre back. Carmo has also completed all his dribbles this season which also suggest that he is calm and composed on the ball. 

As for all other players in the world, Carmo is far from a finished product and still has his weaknesses. While he is very impressive in duels and at starting attacks from the back, his anticipation and positioning are something that still needs work. He can be caught ball watching or is quite easily beaten by a blindsided run. Carmo’s defensive line awareness needs improvement as well, with him being caught being not in line with other defenders and potentially playing an opposition attacker onside. 

To round up, David Carmo is an excellent 1v1 defender who can impose himself against any opponent. He is also calm and composed on the ball and can be used to start attacks from the back with his excellent passing ability. But, he still needs to work on the mental side of being a centre back. 

Conclusion

Manchester United may need to fork out about 40 million euros to secure the Portugese’s services as his release clause stands at that amount. The Red Devils aren’t the only one interested in him with Roma having unsuccessfully bid for him in the summer and Liverpool also keeping a close eye on him and now with Virgil van Dijk out for a significant amount of time, Liverpool may start looking closer at him.

(Visualization taken from Twitter user @Twenty3sport)

For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he may finally be getting the left footed CB that he has desired for so long and add another piece in his rebuild at Manchester United. The demands for a left footed CB are increasing every day in modern football and someone like Carmo can be perfect for Manchester United’s tactical system where most of their attacks start from the left flank. Having someone like Carmo can take the onus of starting attacks from the left backs Alex Telles and Luke Shaw and the fullbacks can then push and overlap, helping Marcus Rashford escape 2v1 situations. Part of the reason we saw Nemanja Matic drop into the backline towards the end of last season to start attacks. 

Manchester United’s first choice may still be Dayot Upamecano whose release clause is only slightly more expensive than that of Carmo’s. But, with Bayern circling around Upamecano, a deal may not be very straightforward and David Carmo looks like a very capable alternative that Manchester United can go for. 

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 )