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Alexander Isak: Hailed as the ‘next Zlatan’, the striker is the most exciting LaLiga signing of the summer

Real Madrid may have Eden Hazard and Barcelona Frenkie de Jong, but Real Sociedad’s signing of Zlatan heir Alexander Isak is the most exciting LaLiga transfer of the summer, and one with exponential potential.

Everything you need to know about Alexander Isak’s special mentality can be seen in the way he celebrated scoring against Malta in Euro 2020 qualifying last week.

Isak in action for Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League in 2018

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Isak in action for Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League in 2018

Most 19-year-olds would be overwhelmed by netting their first competitive goal for Sweden, barely 10 minutes after entering the field of play. Not Isak. As the ball struck the net he simply turned, swaggered away, and gestured nonchalantly at an imaginary watch on his wrist.

“I was looking at how long it took me to score. A bit cocky, but you have to back yourself,” the striker explained in the post-match mixed zone. Job done, minimal fuss, message sent. The hallmarks of a natural winner with the combination of confidence and talent required to go far at the highest level.

If that evokes memories of another lanky striker in a yellow shirt then you aren’t the first to make the comparison. Since breaking through as a 16-year-old at AIK three years ago, Isak has been bombarded with comparisons to Zlatan Ibrahimovic as excited Swedes, desperate for a new talisman, were quick to notice his imagination and eye for goal.


Football’s top transfers from the 2019 summer transfer window so far

Rather than buckle under that pressure though, Isak seems to thrive on it. “I’ve been compared to Zlatan a lot of times, it’s nothing that concerns me. I just want to be myself, do my best, and we’ll see where it leads,” he shrugged when asked about the parallels at the press conference presenting him as a new Real Sociedad player on Wednesday.

Isak isn’t a Zlatan clone – who is? – but it is true that he possesses that rare, ever so profitable combination of ingenuity and a deep well of self belief. He is the kind of forward who will happily run at a defender, try something, then if it doesn’t work, just dust himself off and try something again until it finally clicks.

Isak has earned comparisons to Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Isak has earned comparisons to Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic

And like Ibrahimovic, after showing potential at an early age in the Swedish league, it is an exceptional spell in the Netherlands that confirmed his capacity to deliver in elite football. In 18 matches on loan at Willem II last season Isak scored 14 goals and assisted seven more.

The pick of the bunch was a winner against Dutch giants Feyenoord that started with the striker facing away from goal, then progressed through a mazy dribble that left two defenders on the ground before he then thumped a finish past the goalkeeper.

Not quite as many opponents were humiliated as Zlatan Ibrahimovic managed against NAC Breda for Ajax all those years ago, but nonetheless, the stunning piece of play only further fuelled excitement.

And while there are countless examples of young talent failing to make their potential crystallise due to bad moves, what is equally exciting about Isak is that he is clearly being well advised. That first became apparent when big clubs started chasing his signature from AIK two years ago, and inevitably, one of the sides throwing the most his way was Real Madrid.

The temptation was certainly there, but in the end rather than being drawn in by the bright lights of the Bernabéu and risk becoming yet another talent cast into development limbo, the youngster instead opted for the less glamorous option of Borussia Dortmund.

Since moving to Germany his overall game as well as his physical conditioning have notably improved, and when first-team opportunities at the Bundesliga club failed to materialise, the Swede then took the profitable decision to go on loan to the Eredivisie. From there he earned his transfer to Real Sociedad, a club with an excellent record of developing young players into world class talent.

Isak will now look to impose himself on LaLiga

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Isak will now look to impose himself on LaLiga

In other words, to date all of Isak’s career choices have been sensible, and landing in the Anoeta while still a teen is an optimal situation to be in. La Real are the club that made Antoine Griezmann the most exciting winger in LaLiga, earning him a move to Atlético Madrid and the international glory that has come since.

The club that helped Iñigo Martínez become one of the best Spanish defenders around, destined to be a starter for Spain for years to come, and most recently, the side that has made Mikel Oyarzabal one of the most sought after attacking talents in Spain, summer after summer.

At his presentation Isak spoke of the Real Sociedad “concept” drawing him in, of their faith in developing and giving playing time to young players. Further evidence that he is being guided with the steady hand necessary to make it at the top.

Isak seems more than prepared to deal with the pressure which may well be coming his way

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Isak seems more than prepared to deal with the pressure which may well be coming his way

And for further evidence of his combination of confidence and exceptional talent, consider his first touch of the ball in Spanish football. That came on Monday, after coming off the bench against Spain at the Bernabéu.

It was a nutmeg. On Sergio Ramos.

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