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Alexander Isak: Why Liverpool, Real Madrid, Man Utd chasing Swedish phenomenon

Alexander Isak. You can't miss 'im. But it isn't his 190cm frame that makes him a stand-out. It's the goals. The performances. This is what has the world's biggest clubs now banging on AIK's door.

He only turned 17 this week, but already Isak boasts a record of nine goals in 22 games. And he's a history maker, becoming the youngest player to score in a competitive game for AIK - and also the youngest to score in the Allsvenskan.

"It feels great. I feel I'm constantly improving. It's always good to test yourself against talented and more experienced players," says Isak.

The secret is now out. And by their own admission, AIK directors admit the 'Isak phenomenon' is getting away from them.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern Munich have all had scouts watch Isak regularly this season as he scores and stars for AIK. Manchester United also came forward this week.

Just today, AIK chief Bjorn Wesstrom admitted such is the intensity of the hype around their teenage centre-forward that when he is sold, it's sure to be for a record price.

"Absolutely," says Wesstrom.

"Then there is the question of what level you would be looking at.

"But nothing will be decided until there is something concrete in front of us."

Since he first enrolled with AIK as a six year-old, coaching staff always believed they had something special. Peter Wennberg, currently No2 to head coach Rikard Norling, was in charge of the U19s when they promoted Isak from the junior teams.

"It was a normal evening in autumn," recalls Wennberg. "It was a Cup game.

"Straight from the kickoff, Alexander struck the ball from the centre circle, over the goalkeeper, and into the net."

He adds: "He made a great impression with the U19s. But never sought his own glory moments. It is his hard work and team ethic that has taken him to where he is today."

The crazy thing is, not 18 months ago, Isak wasn't being played as a striker. He was battling his way through games as a midfielder before Patrick Mork, the outspoken and high-profile dealmaker, took Isak under his wing.

"He was used as a midfielder when we started working together in autumn 2015. But I knew he was a little concerned about it," says Mork.

"So we organised a meeting with AIK, where we came to the conclusion that things had to change for him.

"Everyone was then agreed that he would play as a striker and nothing else."

Mork's intervention is making history - Isak's name in AIK's record books is proof of that. And there is a genuine feeling within the club that he won't just leave for a club record fee, but will shatter the €8.5 million Ajax paid Malmo for Zlatan Ibrahimovic over 15 years ago.

"Of course, the interest now is enormous," says Mork. "He is an exceptional and extraordinary talent. Name five of Europe's biggest clubs and there are four who want him. There was a huge interest in the summer for him. If he actively wanted to leave AIK, he would already have been sold.

"But he has said there's no hurry. He has had a fantastic development at AIK."

Isak, himself, admits he does feel a loyalty to AIK.

"The road abroad was attractive perhaps when I was younger," says the teen, who had a training stint with Bologna's youth team last season. "But now I have realized that the way we work in Sweden feels right. It is better to first do well in the Allsvenskan and then move to Europe."

That's music to the ears of Norling, who is adamant Isak's development is best served by playing week-in, week-out with AIK.

"Look, I have young daughters, so I know the ups and downs that confront young people of that age every day," reasons Norling.

"He is a young man just like all others of the same age, and it is easy to forget that and to think that he has made more progress in his development as a person just because he is good at football. But that's not how it works.

"He needs to be guided like everyone else."

And in Norling, Isak has a committed mentor.

The AIK coach continues: "He has a terrific talent, but you can't compare him to Zlatan ... He's not there yet, but the important thing for him is to make sure that he's doing something to bring out the talent that he has been gifted with. And I can tell you he works hard every day."

For the moment, it appears Isak agrees. He's making headlines across the world. Being watched by the game's biggest clubs. But for now, they can wait - though the ambition inside the teen is always close to the surface.

"AIK is the only club I have played for. I started as a junior when I was six years old and it feels good to just have played for AIK (first team).

"Of course I like AIK very much. This is where I've always played."

But he adds: "My target, after AIK, is to go abroad to a bigger club. Which club it is, it's not so important. I want to play for a big club and do what I love earning good money."


Alexander Isak: What they say about the AIK superkid

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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