Being one of the most exciting young talents in Europe, Alexander Isak had a break­through season with both Real Sociedad and the Swedish National Team.

Alexander Isak did not score a goal at EURO 2020, but if you were to ask 100 people to name the star young players of the competition you would be hard-pressed to find many who do not namedrop the Swedish international.

At just 21 years of age, Isak has dazzled at EURO 2020, putting in a string of fine performances that have elevated his status to a new level. The remaining football fans, clubs and scouts that did not know about him surely do now as the starlet showcased all the ability that has seen him earmarked as a potential world class forward ever since his teenage years.

For those already aware of him, Isak’s performances are no surprise. He has been crucial in helping Sweden reach the competition’s last 16, but people have been raving about Isak ever since he was a 16-year-old boy in Sweden banging in goals at AIK. This spotlight is nothing new.

17 goals for Real Sociedad this season, Sweden’s main forward at a major European championship, and plenty of personal accolades and awards, the man with what Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo once described as ‘gunpowder’ in his feet continues to turn heads.

To put it plainly, he’s quite simply a sensational talent who has everything in his locker to be one of the top strikers in world football. The wider football world is now starting to take notice.

Born in Sweden with Eritrean heritage, Isak began his career in the academy at AIK in Stockholm, one of Sweden’s biggest clubs.

His emergence through the youth teams at AIK came at a rapid pace. By 2016, at just 16 years of age, he was thrust into AIK’s first team.

The pressure of playing for one of the league’s biggest and most popular clubs would undoubtedly faze a normal teenager, but Isak took to it like a bee to honey. He scored eight goals in 19 appearances in Allsvenskan in 2016 - two before his seventeenth birthday, two the day he turned 17 and four thereafter. Exceptional numbers for one so young.

As is the case in Sweden for young players that show any glimpse of promise, he was soon on the move. Borussia Dortmund paid a reported €9 million to take him to the Bundesliga and it was thought that from there he would press on and become their main man.

Unfortunately, the move was not a good one. There never seemed to be a clear plan for Isak at Dortmund and rumors even circulated that then manager Thomas Tuchel did not even know who he was.

Whether bad advice from those around him, ill-thought-out career planning or just bad luck, Isak’s time in Germany was one of frustration. He failed to establish himself in a side that already had good striking options like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Paco Alcacer and ended up playing for Dortmund U19s - a major step backward. Eventually, he was loaned to Willem II in the Netherlands to get game time.

A sign of Isak’s strong character is how he has bounced back from that initial setback in Germany to rebuild his hugely promising career. At Willem II he scored 14 goals in 18 games, a quite incredible record. Bear in mind he was only 19 at this time and playing in yet another new country. You need great mental strength to be able to adapt to so many new environments so quickly.

Several clubs circled and in the end, it was Real Sociedad who were smart enough to secure Isak’s services on a five-year deal for a bargain price of €14 million.

There, Isak has gone to another level.

This past season in La Liga Isak racked up 17 goals with an xG (expected goals) figure of 15.64 - returning 0.63 goals per 90. Averaging 2.82 shots per 90, Isak’s shooting accuracy is impressive: he gets 52.63% of his shots on target with a goal conversion rate of 22.37%.

At 21, he has now played in four different countries and thrived in all but one of them.

He can receive on the turn, shift his body and dribble, and uses his hips expertly to shuffle and create space to shoot - from in or outside the box.

He starts his runs from deep and can receive passes from midfield either with lightning-quick runs in behind or by turning his body to receive with his chest or head, bringing the ball down and turning to face defenders head-on. A modern-day Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he can finish well with both feet and has not only the speed but also the physical presence to cause defenders major problems.

“Isak is a very skilled player who fits well into how we play. He is skilled at receiving the ball, controlling the ball, timing his runs in behind and finishing. He is a forward who is able to not only hold up the ball for us but also threaten high up the pitch,” said Swedish head coach Janne Andersson. At EURO 2020 he has been a key part of Sweden’s progress.

One element of his game that is also impressive is his dribbling ability. For such a tall player Isak has very quick feet and is skillful enough to be able to take his man on 1v1 if needed. In La Liga last season he averaged 3.64 dribbles per 90 minutes. He is an intelligent player who makes the right decisions and knows what runs to make to maximize the team’s chances of scoring a goal.

Rumors are that Dortmund have a buyback clause for Isak, but the Swede is unlikely to return to his former club. Instead, a big-money move to the Premier League could well be on the cards, with rumors of a deal worth up to €75m being put forward.

Or who knows - perhaps he will one day finally end up at Real Madrid, the club that had a hotel booked to sign him four years ago before the move broke down. Wherever he goes, or even if he decides to stay at Real Sociedad, Isak has what it takes to reach the top.

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