Twenty3’s U23s to watch: Eliteserien

The Eliteserien – Norway’s footballing top flight – may be an unfamiliar division to the uninitiated. 

However, the league has produced a number of talented players, with two in particular – Erling Haaland and Martin Ødegaard – going on to be global stars. In fact, both were named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2023 Ballon d’Or.

So who could be the next bright young prospects to follow in the pair’s footsteps? 

We turned our attention – and the Toolbox – onto Eliteserien players under the age of 23 to find out – and two names stood out above the rest.

Albert Grønbæk (Bodø/Glimt)

Eliteserien leaders Bodø/Glimt boast a superb talent in the form of Albert Grønbæk.

The 22-year-old central midfielder ranked top in no less than 26 different metrics when compared to other players under the age of 23 in the Norwegian top flight. That is no mean feat.

The sheer scope of his talent is staggering. Goal threat? Check. Creativity? Check. Ability to beat a man and run with the ball? Definitely check. Heck, he’s even a willing and effective presser out of possession.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin with his (significant) impact in the final third.

The Dane’s 13 direct goal involvements (nine goals, four assists) put him in the Eliteserien’s top 10 players of any age, and his expected goals contribution tally of 11.95 suggests those returns are sustainable.

Particularly encouraging is the frequency with which he gets into the penalty area – his 127 touches in the opposition box can only be bettered by two other players in the division.

What is especially eye-catching is not just the dangerous positions he pops up in, but how he gets there. 

Even by his own ever-increasing standards, Grønbæk is an exceptional dribbler.

He has completed 82 dribbles and won 127 attacking duels – second only to Sandefjord’s take-on machine Danilo Al-Saed in the Eliteserien.

Grønbæk is no lightweight, luxury player in the middle of the park, as one might expect from a man in possession of his array of attacking gifts.

He is both intelligent and tenacious with his pressing, making 21 dangerous ball recoveries in the opposition half – joint-third in the league.

With such quality in so many areas, it only seems a matter of time before Grønbæk makes his own mark on the global stage.

Vetle Walle Egeli (Sandefjord)

While Grønbæk catches the eye for high-flying Eliteserien leaders Bodø/Glimt, Vetle Walle Egeli is enduring a very different campaign for second-bottom Sandefjord.

However, very little blame for the club’s stuttering season can be laid at the 19-year-old’s door – he has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak landscape for his side.

As you might expect from a left-back playing for a team struggling near the foot of the table, Egeli has been forced to do more than his fair share of defending – and he has acquitted himself well on that front.

He ranks fifth in the Eliteserien for successful defensive actions (289) and defensive duels won (128), whilst also making the sixth-most interceptions (150).

The Norwegian is far more than a functional, defensive full-back, though.

What makes the teenager so intriguing is the quality he has displayed on the ball that make him perfectly suited to the inverted full-back role that is growing in popularity.

He has received 853 passes, completing 898 of his own – including 221 backward passes. These are high numbers for a wide defender and demonstrate his capacity to shoulder responsibility as a conduit in possession – an element of his game which would surely be refined at a more dominant side.

Even more impressive is the fact that Egeli does not simply keep play ticking over, but regularly looks to move the ball quickly into advanced areas, with 326 of his completed passes being played forward.

Furthermore, he has demonstrated a fondness for picking team-mates out in behind, connecting with nine of his 20 attempted through-balls.

Whether Sandefjord survive or suffer relegation this season, expect plenty of interest in their talented 19-year-old defender.

All visualisations in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.