It has been a season of ups and downs for Swedish giants Malmö FF. They started the year in fine form. After a turbulent 2022 campaign in which they went through three managers, endured a catastrophic league season, finishing in their lowest league position in more than a decade and crashed out of Europe early, 2023 began quite rosily.

A new manager, renewed optimism, some exciting transfers, and a number of eye-catching wins. Malmö were back, it seemed.

The mid-season loss of star midfielder Hugo Larsson to Eintracht Frankfurt seemed to knock them, however. Results wobbled and the manager’s enterprising style stuttered amid a series of slightly less-than-satisfactory results.

Despite this mid-season wobble, with just one remaining game of the season Malmö are well positioned to win the title with a mouthwatering ‘win or bust’ shootout against IF Elfsborg in which the winner will be crowned champions this weekend.

But it’s been more of a struggle for MFF than initial forecasts. Many in Sweden predicted they would win the league comfortably. Some even thought they would cruise it by up to ten points. One constant positive this season however has been the form of one of their key emerging talents: Sebastian Nanasi.

Dubbed the ‘best player in Allsvenskan’ by one organization, the 21-year-old has played a huge role in helping transform Malmö from pretenders to title contenders.

Fleet of foot, quick between the lines, adept at receiving the ball from all angles and driving forward towards goal from a number 10 role or out wide, Nanasi is a quick-witted player with excellent technique and a strong close control dribbler.

Under the guise of manager Henrik Rydström, who managed Nanasi when he was on loan at Kalmar a year ago, the Swedish youngster has thrived this season in his new environment, rapidly developing into one of Allsvenskan’s best players.

Born in the city of Kristianstad, which sits less than 100 kilometers from Malmö, Nanasi developed at the youth level locally at Kristianstad FC before moving to join Malmö’s academy in 2018 at the Under-19 level. He made his Allsvenskan debut in June 2020, but it is this year in which he has really proven himself as a top player in Sweden’s top tier.

Per Wyscout data, at the time of writing with one game remaining of the 2023 Allsvenskan season, Nanasi has played 2606 minutes of football and registered 11 goals and four assists.

Playing predominantly as an attacking midfielder or left or right wide forward, the Swedish international is a high-volume creator. He averages 4.21 dribbles per 90 (55.7% completion), 2.24 shots per 90, 50.6 passes per 90 (86% completion rate), 5.08 touches in the box per 90, 2.76 progressive runs and 4.85 final third passes per 90 (79.3% accuracy).

Stylistically a lot of Nanasi’s goal and shot-creating actions are similar to a player like Gabriel Martinelli at Arsenal. Receiving the play on the left wing, a good number of Nanasi’s eleven league goals have seen him either jink and cut inside onto his right foot to curl a shot into the opposite corner, similar to Arsenal’s Brazilian forward, or make clever runs into the central six-yard area to get on the end of crosses and cut-backs from Malmo’s full-backs or other wide players like Taha Ali or Stefano Vecchia to tap in.

His dribbling is similar to that of Martinelli too - occupying the left side, he can go either way and either cross or cut back with his left foot or twist his defender inside out to cross with his right. His timing of runs into the box is also really impressive.

As is always the case in a development-focused league like Allsvenskan there has been growing interest in Nanasi from bigger clubs around Europe. But he is still young, relatively inexperienced and learning.

An example of this side of his game came earlier in the season. Nanasi can sometimes hold onto the ball too long or pick a wrong pass which can lead to opportunities for the opponent in transition, and such an incident earlier in the season prompted his manager Rydström to describe Nanasi as ‘like a child’.

“I don’t know how many times I have to tell him” a frustrated Rydström commented on ‘Sebbe’ post-match.

But his manager is clearly a big fan of the youngster and has also praised him often. “It’s not only that he scores goals and assists, but he has stepped up in his movements and pressing game. He wins duels and that’s the only way forward.”

Naturally, his goals and assists combined with this improvement in his all-round game has led to interest abroad. Transfer guru Fabrizio Romano reported in the summer that Nanasi was highly coveted, but as yet no move has materialized.

With a contract until 2025, the hope in Malmö is that Nanasi can stick around a while longer in Sweden and show everyone what a talent he is before bigger clubs come calling.

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