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Stubborn ‘new Ibra’ who piques Arsenal’s interest with strange characters

by News Room
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Viktor Gyökeres is a real phenomenon in Portugal this season. Thanks to his contribution of 43 goals, the Sporting Portugal striker has only Luuk de Jong to endure this season. Football area dives into the Swede’s career marked by falling, getting up and going again.

Door: Lars Capiau

At the legendary Wembley, Gyökeres proceeds to the penalty area with icy calmness. He is in the Championship play-off final with Coventry City. Against Luton Town, who won three promotions in a short time, a penalty shootout is needed to decide. Promotion to the Premier League calls for a winner. And just under two hundred million pounds. Gyökeres needs to keep the peace with the Luton fans. From the stands decorated with orange waving flags, the booing increases, but there is also admiration, even respect, for the Swedish striker. “There he is, the big man Gyökeres!

As soon as Gyökeres takes the penalty, the Luton fans in attendance know their cheer is as useful as a waterproof tea bag. The attacker does not hesitate for a moment. Hit. The net hanging in the upper left corner continues to vibrate for a long time from the rock-hard knocking. “To be honest, it’s a very good penalty,” comes the voice of a disappointed Luton section, where the distraction flags quickly stopped being waved.

Viktor Gyökeres and Gustavo Hamer celebrate Coventry City’s goal together

Sideways

To understand how Gyökeres arrived at Wembley some nine months ago, we first need to go back to Sweden. Because the Swede’s career is not from a storybook. Herman van Veen does it more justice in his song “Opzij”. Running, jumping, flying, diving, but above all falling, getting up and continuing are the motto of his career.

Things are still starting pretty well in Sweden for the 1.87m tall centre-forward. At the age of 15, Gyökeres switched from third division team IFK Aspudden-Tellus to IF Brommapojkarna in 2013 and then played at Sweden’s highest level. However, in Brommapojkarna he is not considered “one of the big stars”, as the director of youth training Andreas Engelmark explains. iNews.

Dejan Kulusevski

This honor belonged to players who had played in Brommapojkarna’s youth academy for some time. One name speaks for itself: Dejan Kulusevski, current Tottenham Hotspur striker and former schoolmate of Gyökeres. “I think some of the other players had more technical ability and were more learned in our system,” Engelmark says.

“Gyökeres came a little later and was not a typical Brommapojkarna player like Kulusevski or Ludwig Augustinsson (currently on loan from Sevilla to RSC Anderlecht, ed.). You can see that they had played in our youth academy for many years. Viktor was different.” Despite his status as a non-top talent, Gyökeres eventually made Brommapojkarna’s main squad two years later.

The first tentative signs of the top striker were in the works. These are dark but eventful years for Brommapojkarna. In 2014, the team dropped to sixteenth place and last to Superettan, the second division. A year later, which makes the situation worse, the team immediately drops to the third level. There, in Etten Nora, Gyökeres makes his basic debut and makes his breakthrough.

He guides Brommapojkarna – after two consecutive relegations – to two consecutive promotions. In 2016, he scored 7 goals in 19 games and helped his team win the championship. In the second division, Gyökeres Brommapojkarna returns to the Allsvenskan a year later with 13 goals and eight assists. Gyökeres also scores internationally. At the European Under-19 Championship, he was crowned the top scorer of the tournament after scoring three goals in as many games, with a large number of scouts on the alert.

Viktor Gyökeres in one of his few minutes in a Brighton & Hove Albion shirt

Rental drama

This sudden desire to score does not go unnoticed. In 2018, when Kulusevski has already exchanged Brommapojkarna for Atalanta for 1.5 years (transfer fee: 3.5 million euros), Gyökeres will also move outside his own country as a result of his peak season. Brighton & Hove Albion, often praised for finding top talent, dares to take a gamble and pay around one million euros for the striker. The Swede will initially join the under-23 team seagulls.

There, in Premier League 2, the 19-year-old striker has excellent numbers and has scored seven goals in nine games. Gyökeres debuted in the main team in January 2019. The striker can show his skills in cup tournaments (FA Cup and EFL Cup). Something nice followed when Gyökeres made his debut for the Swedish national team weeks later against Finland (0-1 loss). Three days later, when Iceland (2-2) is the opponent, he scores his first goal against Sweden.

Viktor Gyökeres after Sweden’s 5-0 goal in the European Championship qualifying match against Azerbaijan

But there are no competitive appearances to come in Brighton. The rental period must provide a solution. Sankt-Paul becomes the striker’s new destination, and he does well there with seven goals and four assists. Back in Brighton, Gyökeres realizes, despite his first and only goal in blue, that playing time still doesn’t seem realistic at the seaside resort.

In a window where Swansea City have also signed Marc Gueh (Crystal Palace) and Morgan Gibbs-White (Nottingham Forest), they will temporarily release Gyökeres from his disappointing stay in southeast England. During six months at the swans the offensive manager alone cannot progress. In ten games, he has not managed more than one goal. Another rental period follows in the same period. This time: Coventry City.

To label this as slightly more successful would be an understatement. In six months, Gyökeres convinces the club’s management Sky Blues complete. They join the rush hour. Price? A little over a million euros. He looks to be worth his weight in gold for Coventry. In his first full season, he scored eighteen goals and five assists.

And his next season? Another campaign for Gyökeres? To answer that question we have to go back to Wembley. Gyökeres experienced the climax of another top season in England in a penalty shootout against Luton. With 21 goals and 10 assists, he should have been only ahead of Ajax’s current striker Chuba Akpom on the scoring list. From the halfway line, Gyökeres sees his teammate take a cool shot.

Ben Sheaf. Without blemish. Josh Eccles. Goal. Liam Kelly. Hit. But Luton Town make no mistake either. Dan Potts scores Luton’s sixth penalty. The fans are slowly thinking that there will be no end to the nerve-wracking shootout. But then former Vitesse player Fankaty Dabo scores 5-6. To the heavens. Wembley explodes, from the other side. Gyökeres – like his teammate – falls to the ground.

Luuk de Jong

With the sour taste of lost promotions still fresh on his tongue, Gyökeres closes the door of the Coventry Building Society Arena behind him. Front door, that is, because the Swede leaves for Sporting Portugal for a club record of 21 million euros. It is also the most expensive transfer fee ever paid to the Portuguese. With a sell-through rate of fifteen percent, Brighton is laughing at the profit in its pocket.

But they have never worried about that in Lisbon. In Portugal, Gyökeres continues the trend. And how. The goal-hungry striker scores as if his life depended on it. In his debut match Lions he scores two goals. No meal, no defender, matches the hunger for goals.

The counter is already 32 goals and 11 assists. And Gyökeres doesn’t even seem to be working on Pääruoa yet. With these figures, Gyökeres must give priority to only one person. Only Luuk de Jong is Gyökeres’ boss with 45 goals (31 goals, 14 assists).

Five players who were most involved in scoring this season. Source: Transfermarkt

Zlatan? Victor!

That’s why it’s no wonder that Gyökeres is on the short list of almost all of Europe’s top clubs. Especially one move The Premier League seems to be in the sights of the Swede. The Athletic recently wrote that Arsenal are seriously interested in the goal monster’s services. He is still stuck at Estádio José Alvalade until mid-2028 and bound by a €100m release clause. Manchester United and Chelsea are also said to have the striker high on their wish list.

Nineteen times international Gyökeres also makes his mark in the Swedish selection. In 2021, he replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was dropped due to injury, in the selection of the Swedes. Some saw it as a changing of the guard. With Zlatan retired from (international) football, the Swedes are pinning their hopes on Gyökeres and Newcastle striker Alexander Isak to bring new glory to the country.

Unsuccessful so far, because the Scandinavians – despite three goals and Gyökeres’ assist – did not make it to next summer’s European Championships in Germany. The attack director himself calls Ibrahimovic the biggest example. “I always watched him and Cristiano Ronaldo grow up,” he says with a smile Record. And who knows. Maybe one day Gyökeres will be as important to Sweden as Ibrahimovic. Because the country could use another self-proclaimed God.

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