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Andreas Schjelderup: Norway's record-breaking wonderkid who plays like Grealish

7:00 AM EST 1/7/22
Andreas Schjelderup NXGN GFX
The 17-year-old is already one of FC Nordsjaelland's star players having previously had trials at Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Tottenham

When previous generations of young footballers were being chased by the world's biggest clubs, a mid-table side from Denmark potentially winning the race for their signature would have seemed far-fetched.

However, when it became clear that Bodo/Glimt wonderkid Andreas Schjelderup was keen to move away from his hometown club in Norway, FC Nordsjaelland made their pitch.

With one of the youngest squads anywhere in Europe, Nordsjaelland have made youth development their unique selling point, and the results speak for themselves.

Mikkel Damsgaard was one of the breakout stars of Euro 2020 having come through the ranks at Nordsjaelland before moving to Sampdoria, while Ghanaian duo Mohamed Kudus and Kamaldeen Sulemana were sold for a combined €24m (£21.5m/$27m) to Ajax and Rennes, respectively, having arrived in Scandinavia from the Right To Dream academy.

Schjelderup, then, had a choice in the summer of 2020 – join one of Europe's elite academies, or sign for a team where, despite having only just turned 16, he could potentially be in the first team before he knew it.

"I visited Ajax four times, PSV four times, Tottenham, Liverpool, Juventus, Fulham, Atalanta and Bayern Munich," he explained to TV2.

"They (Nordsjaelland) are a club that has shown that they give young players a chance, and that they spend enormous resources on player development.

"It was very tempting with clubs from Italy, England and Spain. I'm a Liverpool fan myself, but I kind of did not want to be one in the crowd. It is a longer way to go to get into the first team at those clubs."

Eighteen months on, and Schjelderup's decision to join Nordsjaelland has proven to be the correct one.

A regular starter in the Superliga, he is already being spoken about as a player who will eventually break Sulemana's record as the most expensive sale in Danish top-flight history.

"He is a very special player," Nordsjaelland manager Flemming Pedersen said of the playmaker during Schjelderup's first season with the club.

"His top level can go wild. He will be a top player in one of the five big European leagues."

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That is quite the claim, but you can understand the thinking behind Pedersen's prediction, given the impact Schjelderup has had on his team since being promoted to the senior squad during the winter break of the 2020-21 season.

After scoring eight goals in 11 games for Nordsjaelland's U19s during his first six months at the club, Schjelderup made his first-team debut in February 2021, before making headlines around a month later when he fired home a 20-yard free-kick against Lyngby.

His strike saw him become Nordsjaelland's youngest-ever league goalscorer, and – at the time – the fourth-youngest in Superliga history at 16 years and 271 days old.

The following week, he went one better, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over SonderjyskE that secured Nordsjalelland's place in the end-of-season play-offs, as Schjelderup became the youngest player to net more than once in a Superliga match.

He went onto provide three assists in nine play-off games to round out the campaign, while his goal tally of just three goals so far in the 2021-22 season is reflective of a Nordsjaelland side who are struggling near the bottom of the table, rather than a major drop in his own performance level.

"Andreas has been a fantastic player and fantastic person since he came here to Nordsjaelland," sporting director Mikel Hemmersam told Nettavisen.

"He is a player we have to hold back a bit, because he constantly wants to train more and do everything he can to get better.

"During his first year here, he probably put on six to eight kilos of muscle, which many have noticed. It is phenomenal.

"We knew he was a good player, but it surprises you that a player arrives as a 16-year-old and has such a big influence on the matches he plays.

"It is not normal to see it in the Superliga, but he has been incredibly good at adapting to the level."

Though he has been played in a host of attacking positions, Schjelderup favours playing off the left-hand side, which allows him to cut onto his stronger right foot.

That said, he is remarkably two-footed, making the now-17-year-old a nightmare for defenders to deal with, particularly given his strong dribbling ability, which has been compared by some to Eden Hazard but is, in reality, arguably more similar to that of Jack Grealish.

When it comes to influences, though, Schjelderup has admitted: "Andres Iniesta is the player I always looked up to. His fantastic close-range technique made him a favourite.

"But I also very much look up to Martin Odegaard and Erling Haaland, especially the latter's insane mentality."

Norway fans are hopeful that Schjelderup will one day join Odegaard and Haaland in the national team, forming a terrifying attacking triumvirate for any defence to have to deal with on the biggest stage.

For now, though, his focus is on continuing his development at Nordsjaelland, where he recently signed a new three-year contract, and following in the footsteps of some of the club's increasingly impressive alumni

As Nordsjaelland captain Kian Hansen put it to Bold.dk: "Andreas is a new edition of Mikkel Damsgaard, even though he is only a teenager. I think that says it all."

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