Players to Watch: Denmark 

In this series, Luke Griffin (@GriffinFtbl) will be profiling exciting players around the world using TransferLab. Got a league or country you’d like to see covered? Let us know!

Denmark has produced some top-level footballers in recent years. The obvious candidates are Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Yussuf Poulsen but they also have some promising young players such as Joakim Mæhle, Andreas Skov Olsen and Mikkel Damsgaard who all play in Italy’s top division. However, Denmark haven’t been able to recreate their success of 29 years ago when they won the 1992 European Championship despite only qualifying because Yugoslavia dropped out.

In recent years the Danish Superliga has become an excellent pathway for African players to develop and move onto bigger leagues in Europe. FC Nordsjælland are the key example of this. They own the excellent Right To Dream academy in Ghana and have seen a host of exciting players get opportunities to play in Denmark.

Here are four under-23s players who are currently impressing in the Danish Superliga:

Kamal-Deen Sulemana

Kamal-Deen Sulemana is only 18 but is gaining attention with his performances for Nordsjælland. A graduate from the Right To Dream Academy, he already has two international caps for Ghana after impressing in Denmark in 2020. Unsurprisingly, he has already been linked with moves away to clubs like Ajax, potentially following the exact footsteps of Mohammed Kudus

Sulemana’s statistical profile is unusual. Most noticeably, his dribbling numbers are incredible. The rest of his output needs improvement, but at 18, he is extremely talented and has huge potential. 

Sulemana is a great athlete and will get fans on their feet once they’re allowed back into stadiums. He’s agile and explosive and has a great change of direction. This translates into speed on the ball and he plays at 100 miles an hour. But despite this, he’s composed on the ball with quick reactions, both of which contribute to his dribbling numbers. On top of this, he’s an excellent ball striker and can generate good power on his shots at goal, making him a nightmare for defenders.

Sulemana needs to improve his final ball and decision making, but this will come with time. As he gains experience and first-team minutes, he’ll develop the ability to vary his tempo. He already has a good goal record in the Superliga, though, with 0.42 goal contributions per 90 this season. 

The Ghanian is hard working and his speed makes him a dangerous presser, although he can switch off at times and needs to maintain his concentration and work rate. Developing his weaker foot would also be beneficial as his one-footedness can limit his options at times.

Sulemana’s strengths are clear, and if he can make the most of them, he has a big future. Another year in Denmark makes sense for him but there will be plenty of teams interested in the summer. A move to the Dutch Eredivisie could be on the cards although bigger teams will definitely be monitoring him. In terms of similar players in the Premier League, Eberechi Eze and Anwar El Ghazi are the most comparable players.

Mohammed Daramy

Mohammed Daramy is of Sierra Leonean origin but was born in Denmark and has stated his intent to represent Denmark internationally. Playing for FC København, he can play across the front three and is a threat from any position, able to score and assist.

The young winger is only 19 but already his statistical profile is great compared to other Superliga wingers. What is most attractive about his profile is just how well-rounded it is. He is similar to Sulemana in that his dribbling statistics standout but Daramy’s overall game is a lot stronger.

Daramy stands at 5’11” with a good build and is another great athlete. He’s a strong runner with a great turn of speed who can drive with the ball really effectively. He receives the ball really well and is good under the high ball as well. Calm under pressure, he’s able to turn well and play directly, able to retain the ball effectively and twist and turn his way out of trouble.

His passing and creativity are already good but they could still be refined and his end product could be better. Playing in the Superliga, he has produced an impressive 0.18 expected goals and 0.18 expected assists also per 90 minutes. He tries incisive passes with mixed success but he takes risks and over time these will result in goals more often. 

Sometimes, he needs to be more assertive and quicker with his decisions in the final third. His dribbling gets him into great attacking positions but his final product could still be better. He is unpredictable with the ball and uses feints really well. Daramy works best at a high tempo and plays quite instinctively and is most effective when he doesn’t have time to think. When play slows down then he can be more limited and less creative.

Daramy is an exciting player who will almost certainly break into the Danish international team soon. He’s probably ready to take the next step, and while both the Netherlands and Belgium would be strong options, Italy and France could also be possible destinations. TransferLab sees Jens Petter Hauge and Said Benhrama as similar players to him.

Jón Dagur Thorsteinsson

Jón Dagur Thorsteinsson is an Icelandic international winger but he plays in Denmark for AGF. Thorsteinsson joined AGF from Fulham having failed to transition into the senior team from their academy. At Fulham, he spent a season on loan in Denmark with Vendsyssel where he clearly did enough to interest AGF who are now third in the Superliga.

Thorsteinsson is best suited to a wide playmaker role and can play effectively on either wing. An excellent athlete, he’s got great pace coupled with agility, explosiveness and change of direction. He’s also a tricky, technical player who is very direct with his play. His style is similar to that of Harvey Barnes and TransferLab compares him to Nicolas Pepe and Pedro Neto. 

His statistical profile is excellent across the board. He plays fairly wide but regularly gets into goalscoring positions in the final third. Last season, he contributed to 0.62 goals per 90 minutes, and 0.46 in the limited minutes this season. 

The Icelander is good under pressure, using feints and protecting the ball until he is able to turn, often drawing fouls. He likes to link with his fullback and looks to draw the defender before playing into under or overlapping runs. At times, he can be careless with the ball and could make better decisions but he already has an impressive end product and goal return from out wide.

Out of possession, he works hard. He brings a lot of energy to the team, and because of his pace, he brings a lot of intensity to the game. He is willing to track back and defend deep but is quick to join the attack, covering a lot of ground. This makes him suited to defensive teams who play on the counter a lot and require their wingers to defend effectively. He presses high but can be too eager at times and overcommit easily.

It’s easy to imagine the young winger steadily refining his game and then moving away from Denmark. He could do really well in the Belgian or Dutch leagues and solidify his place in the national team.

Victor Nelsson

Our final player isn’t a winger. Victor Nelsson is a centre back for FC København and has one Danish cap to his name after playing 30 times for the U21 side. He’s now 22 years old and will likely be on the move this summer. He’s already been closely linked with Aston Villa and Celtic.

TransferLab sees him best suited as a ball-playing centre back, which makes sense as Nelsson is a very archetype modern defender. He’s comfortable on the ball while still being a decent build with good upper body strength and competence in the air. He is comfortable receiving from the keeper and looks to carry into space when possible.

With decent pace and calm in defensive situations, Nelsson is able to play in a high line. He’s also a leader at the back, organising the defence and showing a lot of maturity. The Dane reads play well and is an intelligent player who makes good decisions in defence, as shown by his excellent interception stats. 

Positionally, he’s patient and doesn’t tend to fire out of the line that much. In the box, he shows good discipline and deals with balls into the box effectively. While he is fairly quick in straight lines, he isn’t massively mobile which limits his 1v1 against fast and skillful attackers. However, his positioning and decision making means he rarely gets exposed.

Nelsson is a very talented centre half who combines the attributes of a modern defender really well. Expect him to move to the Bundesliga soon. He’s ready to take that step and develop further in Germany.

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