Not many people can say they have broken a record. Less can say they did it before their eighteenth birthday. And even fewer can say they scored two goals against Real Madrid! Alexander Isak, however, is one of the few who can.
Alexander Isak – Background
Born in Stockholm in 1999 to Aritrean parents, Isak was quickly spotted as a talent. At the tender age of 6, the youngster joined AIK in his home town of Stockholm. Rising (quite literally) through the ranks, a 16 year old Isak made his debut for the club.
At just sixteen years old and standing at 190cm (6′ 3″), Isak was built to be a footballer. In future years he will be compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but at the time many were likening the youngster to Henok Goitom – someone who, also born in Sweden to Eritrean parents and playing for AIK, showed remarkable similarities.
Isak made his league debut shortly after, coming on and scoring against Östersunds FK. Still only 16 he smashed his first record, as the youngest goalscorer in Allsvenskan history.
His first full season was a success, cementing a place in the first team and scoring 10 goals. It was so good that it turned out to be his only season as, shortly after, the big clubs came calling. Among them were none other than Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and the young Swede chose the latter.
The big move to Borussia Dortmund
A testament to the youngsters maturity, the bright lights of Real Madrid did not take his interest.
“I had some offers on the table but thought Dortmund was the right place for me to develop as a young player. I want to make the next step, get some playing time and hopefully help the team.”Isak speaking after joining Borussia Dortmund
The transfer fee was undisclosed, but reports suggested that it was set at €9 million. His second record, this would be the highest transfer sum ever paid for an Allsvenskan player.
His career started slow, he was unable to secure a starting spot, playing just 5 league games in 1 and a half seasons.
This led him to seek play time elsewhere. Once again showing his maturity, the young Swede was not happy to simply sit on the bench and wait. He eventually secured a move to Willem II, in the Netherlands. Following on from his form in Sweden, Isak took the league by storm. Incredibly, Isak became the first foreign-born player in the Eredivisie to score 12 goals in his first 12 league games. 14 goals in 18 games showed that the youngster had the ability, and just needed time to show it off.
Add this to the improved conditioning and coached he had evidently received in Germany, the ability and the body were merging to form the striker we see today.
Alexander Isak and Real Sociedad
It became clear that, after 4 managers overlooking him, Isak would struggle to find a space in the starting 11 at Dortmund. This led to the summer of 2019, when Isak moved to Spanish San Sebastián to sign for Real Sociedad.
His impact could not have been more immediate. The striker scored 5 goals in 4 games in pre season, and showed he was ready for the big time!
He was not just handed a starting spot though. With a front 3 of Odegaard, Oyarzabal and striker Willian Jose, Isak was frequently used as a substitute at the beginning of his La Liga career. However, after 14 goals in 31 appearances (7 La Liga goals in just 970 minutes) he is forcing manager Imanol Alguacil to make tough choices.
In fact, Isak has been handing a starting role in the last 5 out of 6 games. The youngsters drive and ability is clearly making an impact around the club. With Real Sociedad sitting in 6th position in La Liga, just 3 points off 3rd with a game in hand, things are looking bright for the Basque club.
One game that really cemented Isak’s name in the mind of many was in the recent Copa del Rey clash against Real Madrid. Playing against one of the best teams in the world with Sergio Ramos as one of the best defenders, Isak played the game of his life. Scoring 2 goals and providing an assist, the Swede helped his side to victory and go on to reach the final of the tournament.
The first thing to note when watching Alexander Isak play is his athleticism. 6 foot 4 but with great pace, he is able to dribble and drive with the ball combined with the strength to hold off defenders.
Acrobatic, he has a great leap and, as shown in his incredible volley against Real Madrid, can move his body to find the goal. Statistically, however, the numbers show he actually attempts quite a low number of aerials per game at 3.6 per 90 minutes. Compare this to others in the league such as Guido Carillo at 17.5/90 mins and Youssef En-Nesyri (who we wrote about here) with 11.6. It provides evidence that there is more to the man than his build.
He takes quite a high amount of shots/90 minutes at 2.8. Compare this to his La Liga rivals and only 7 players have more (min 20 apps), and he is in the top 20 in La Liga (over 15 apps).
Similar to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Isak has a great natural ability to be inthe right place at the right time. On many occasions, Isak has popped up at the end of a cross, or been the first to react to a rebounded shot. This instinct is something that sets him apart from many others.
The main statistic for strikers is goals. And Isak is up there with the best. Despite coming on as a substitute for 17 of his 25 league games, he has found the net 7 times. This works out to 0.6 goals/90 mins. Only 3 players have more in La Liga (over 15 apps) – Messi, Suarez, Angel Rodruigez.
He has been compared to compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the past and it is easy to see why. Tall, powerful, athletic and a monster shot to top it all off. These are all qualities that cause havoc for defenders. Add that to a mature head still with the youthful arrogance and he is showing why Dortmund splashed out for him.
Swedish football has been been bombarded by this young guy’s name. For his fourth record, we look to 12th January 2017 when Isak was called up for a friendly game against Slovakia. 19 minutes is all it took for a 17 year old Isak to break the 105-year-old record and become the youngest Swedish goalscorer of all time.
Helping his side reach qualification for the Euro 2020 tournament, Isak will be hoping to show his talents against some of the biggest names in world football.
Alexander Isak and the Future
Clearly mature, it seems that nothing in Alexander Isak’s career has been by accident. There’s no doubt the youngster has the ability to get to the top, but his path there will be calculated. Expect him to work his way up slowly, learning the game and developing into his frame and role on the pitch.
There is no doubt that he will be difficult for Real Sociedad to hold on to. But they know this too, having settled his release clause at a huge 70 million Euros. Borussia Dortmund wrangled a 30 million Euro buy back clause but that only comes into effect in 2021. Will they be able to wait that long among interest from some of the biggest clubs in world football?