Newcastle United’s move for Alexander Isak was one that took both the Premier League and the black and white fanbase by surprise. The Magpies hierarchy have spoken on record a number of times about not paying over the odds for players after the takeover made them the richest club in world football.
Eddie Howe has stressed the importance to comply with Financial Fair Play, making a repeat of Manchester City’s rise to prominence almost impossible to replicate. So, when the club parted with £60million for the 6ft4 Swedish international, optimism rightly swelled on Tyneside.
It was almost the perfect start for the Swede, who could have rounded off his Newcastle debut with a brace, only for VAR to rule out a remarkable solo-run and finish at Anfield. The timing of the run, the composure and the finish gave the traveling Toon Army a first real glimpse of the ‘potential’ that followed Isak throughout his career.
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Still only 22-years-old, it’s remarkable to think that this will be Isak’s seventh season in senior football, after breaking through the youth ranks at AIK, aged just 16. He would score 13 goals in 29 appearances in his native homeland, with the top club’s in Europe taking note.
AIK sporting director Bjorn Wesstrom went on record to let the world know about the gem they had unearthed. “Alexander Isaac has enormous potential,” he said, “what makes him unique is that he has limited experience has great efficiency in the headlines. His way into the A-team proves that AIK is a club which not only talks about giving home grown players a chance, but is a club that has a plan, from words to action.”
Isak would spend just one year in senior football before the German talent factory, Borussia Dortmund would swoop in for his signature. “There were advanced talks with Real Madrid, the club, and Isak,” Wesstrom said. “But the player made up his mind to go to Dortmund. The speculation was rarely wrong, the negotiations proceeded normally and the figures were dizzying.”
However, it was far from the dream move that so many imagined it to be. The €8.6 million move in January 2017 saw the youngster play a number of times for Borussia Dortmund II in the remainder of that campaign, before being integrated into the first team in the 2017-18 campaign.
Isak made 12 appearances in total, scoring just once in the National Cup, with his game time limited at the Westfalenstadion. This prompted talk about a possible return to AIK on loan to help aid its development.
“Of course, we always see ourselves as a clear alternative for Alexander Isak and a place where he can land,” Wesstrom told Sportbladet at the time. “He is welcome here. But that’s not really the issue. There are other challenges. We must trump the sporting opportunities that other teams can offer which may be even more important than what we can offer financially.
“It depends on which options he has. It isn’t just about emotions. There are agreements that regulate a player’s salary which have to fit with Dortmund’s plans for his development.”
There would be no return to Stockholm, with Isak moving to Willem II to reignite his career – a move that saw him net 14 goals in 18 appearances. A move to Real Sociedad would follow but there are lessons Newcastle can learn from his previous big move.
Of course, Isak is not the same player that made the move to Germany back in 2017, having spent the last three seasons as a first-team regular in La Liga. There was great expectation thrust upon his shoulders at a young age, but he’s proven that in the right environment, he can flourish.
It didn’t work out at Dortmund, but the links with Real Madrid only highlight the quality of players Newcastle now possess. A remarkable bit of business, that if nurtured correctly, could prove a shrewd bit of business by the Magpies.
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