The Eliteserien is fast becoming one of the most heavily scouted leagues in world football with talented young players regularly getting minutes for clubs throughout the league. This has, in turn, led to more elite clubs giving chances to young players as they know their re-sale value will soar with more professional experience.
Already in the 2020 season we have seen a number of young players knocking on the door to, or even breaking into, teams' best starting XI's. In this article we will take a look at a 'best XI' of sorts, with U'21 players who have already begun to make their mark on the 2020 season.
GK - Kristoffer Klaesson (19, Valerenga)
It would be fair to say that Kristoffer Klaesson's 2020 season so far has very much been a mixed bag in terms of performances. Having started the season well, a couple of errors vs. Odd in a recent game have brought his ability into question.
Klaesson remains an elite goalkeeping talent in Norway and the fact that manager Dag Eilev Fagermo has such trust in him to name the 19 year old as his clear 1st choice goalkeeper for the 2020 season speaks volumes.
Playing 25+ games in the Eliteserien this season will do wonders for Klaesson's confidence and ability and I would be very surprised if we didn't see him in the Norway national team a few years down the line.
CB - Jesper Daland (20, IK Start)
Born in Kristiansand, local lad Jesper Daland returned to his hometown club IK Start having graduated from the now famed Stabaek academy between 2016 and 2018.
Daland has been capped from U'15 level all the way up to U'19 level and would surely have broken into the Norwegian U'21 side last season had a terrible injury not derailed his progress over the last 12 months.
Daland is a strong defender with good aerial ability as demonstrated in the first few Eliteserien matches this season. A goal vs. Sandefjord on matchday 2 will have done wonders for his confidence and as things stand it looks as though Daland will be a regular in the IK Start XI this season.
CB - Ole Martin Kolskogen (19, SK Brann)
Kolskogen's ascent to the Eliteserien over the last few seasons has been quick, if inevitable. Having debuted with Os TF as a 15 year old back in 2016, Kolskogen was quickly capped by the Norwegian U'16 side and has now gained caps all the way up to U'21 level.
Joining Asane from Os TF was a key move for Kolskogen and last season it was clear for all to see. Having been a bit part player in 2018, 2019 saw him become an integral part of the strong Asane defence which helped the club win promotion back to the OBOS Ligaen.
Now at Brann, one of Norway's elite clubs, Kolskogen has taken to the level like a duck to water and were it not for some minor fitness issues would surely have started every game this season. The games he has started in so far, he has looked excellent. Though Vegard Forren has his deficiencies, mostly off the pitch, Kolskogen will benefit massively from being paired with the veteran defender this season and hopefully continue to improve his already strong capabilities at CB.
CB - Odin Bjortuft (21, Odd)
Bjortuft is a player I have liked the look of for a while now, having first noticed him in pre-season for Odd back in 2018. A strong CB who is also capable of playing as a ball winning midfielder at the base of Odd's 4-3-3, Bjortuft's versatility has served him well so far in his short career with him being able to fill in various positions for Odd during their frequent injury crisis'.
Now, however, Bjortuft gets into the Odd XI on the back of his own ability. There is a case to be made that when Fredrik Semb Berge returns from injury he may well find himself relegated to the bench in favour of Bjortuft.
Bjortuft has already started, and finished, every Odd game this season & I fully expect his development to continue on the same upwards trajectory.
RWB - Marcus Holmgren Pedersen (19, Molde FK)
Born in the brilliantly named Hammerfest, which happens to be the Northernmost town in the world with over 10,000 inhabitants, the majority of Pedersen's career so far has been spent with Tromso whom he played with between 2016 & 2020.
Pedersen was always an exciting talent with Tromso, though former manager Simo Valakari seemingly had no idea what the players' best role was. This saw Pedersen play pretty much every position on the park from RB to CM to ATT. Pedersen's playing style looked confused due to this constant changing of roles at such a young age and he eventually dropped out of the squad completely towards the end of the 2019 season.
Molde saw something in the youngster though and brought him in as a versatile backup option ahead of the 2020 season. A serious injury to Kristoffer Haraldseid has seen Pedersen start every Molde league game this season so far as an attacking full back.
This is a role that I believe suits Pedersen down to a tee, utilizing his pace and crossing ability well. It's fair to say that Pedersen has been excellent for Molde so far this season and has already registered 1 assist in his first 3 games.
CM - Johan Hove (19, Stromsgodset)
It makes me feel extremely old knowing that Johan Hove is still just 19 years old, having watched him debut for Sogndal in the Eliteserien in 2016 aged just 15.
Hove's development since has been mixed to say the least, with the player struggling to nail down a place in the starting XI for either his former club Sogndal or current club Stromsgodset. His talent is undeniable but his form has often swung from the glorious to the absurd.
It's worth noting that Hove is still extremely young & the fact that he already has 50+ career league appearances in the OBOS Ligaen and the Eliteserien is a testament to his undoubted ability. 2020 has seen Hove look to finally nail down a spot in the Godset best XI and 2 lovely goals in 3 games will have done his chances no harm at all.
A tenacious midfielder with a wicked long range shot, I would love to see Hove continue to be a regular in Godset's midfield this season.
CM - Sondre Auklend (17, Viking)
Sondre Auklend has been heralded as one of Norway's best young talents for a few years now despite only turning 17 at the start of June.
Auklend is tiny. Put him in your pocket, tiny. But, this is not to his detriment whatsoever. Auklend's ability on the ball and low center of gravity allows him to drift past players effortlessly and pick out beautiful passes from his central midfield position.
Debuting aged 17 vs. Mjondalen is not easy, but Auklend made short work of his full debut vs. Vegard Hansen's physical Drammen side. It would have been a MOTM performance were it not for fellow midfielder Joe Bell also registering a great performance.
The future looks bright for Sondre Auklend who now joins the 'Young Blonde Norwegian Wonderkid' club. At this rate I cannot see him hanging around in the Eliteserien for too long, especially if he continues to play as he did vs. Mjondalen. Rumours of a move to Wolves in the Premier League have already done the rounds and interest in the players' development since he made his Eliteserien debut has since soared.
I personally can forsee many clubs being put off of Auklend due to size. This shouldn't really be a factor, as his ability on the pitch could be described as generational in Norway, it will be interesting to see who eventually does take the 'gamble' on Auklend.
LWB - Lars Olden Larsen (21, Mjondalen)
Early disclaimer, Lars Olden Larsen is not really a left wing back nor has played there this season, though I would back him to be able to were he asked to!
Naturally a left winger, Olden Larsen has played in more of a hybrid role for Mjondalen so far this season which sees him drift between a central and wide role dependent on the match situation. (as detailed in the image to the left, Larsen's pitch map vs. Stabaek in gameweek 2)
It would be fair to suggest that signing Olden Larsen was a real coup for Mjondalen, who generally tend to recruit either from the Swedish leagues or lower Norwegian divisions. Olden Larsen was one of the players of the year in last years' OBOS Ligaen when playing for KFUM Oslo.
Something of a late developer compared to some other player on this list, but Olden Larsen looks right at home in the Eliteserien so far and will be fun to follow for the rest of 2020.
RW - Hugo Vetlesen (20, Stabaek)
Anyone who has followed me for a while now will know how highly I rate Hugo Vetlesen, who is still one of the premier young talents in Norway for me despite a tough couple of years.
Vetlesen struggled under former Stabaek manager Henning Berg and never really managed to nail down a spot in the sides' best XI, especially after the emergence of the similarly brilliant Emil Bohinen who essentially took Vetlesen's spot in CM.
Vetlesen has had to adapt in order to get more gametime and now tends to drift between roles in the middle and out wide on the right hand side for Stabaek. He has started all 3 games so far this season, something that he was never able to achieve previously, and has looked good in the process notching one goal so far.
77 Eliteserien matches as a 20 year old is already an incredible feat and Vetlesen's improvement in 2020 compared to his 2019 season is clear to see (see image below), but Vetlesen will now be hoping he is able to remain in the Stabaek XI for the remainder of the season and continue to impress. A move abroad to a 'bigger' league will surely be on the cards if this is the case.
ATT - Oliver Valaker Edvardsen (21, Stabaek)
Having excelled for Grorud in the 2.Divisjon in 2019 (10 goals in 17 games), Edvardsen made the leap to the Eliteserien with Stabaek during the second half of the year & immediately took to the level, scoring twice in eight games and generally looking a menace whenever he played.
A hard-working striker who is excellent in the press, Edvardsen is also able to play out wide and has done so on occasion for Stabaek both this season and last. 3 games into the 2020 season & Edvardsen has already racked up one goal and one assist so far.
Edvardsen may never be a player to score 20+ goals at this level but he is a great team player, brilliant in the press and able to easily drift inbetween the lines making him a tough player for defences to track. I hope that Edvardsen is able to start regularly for Stabaek this season as I really believe he will be a great player at this level.
LW - Jens Petter Hauge (20, Bodo/Glimt)
And finally, the coup de grace, the icing on the cake. Jens Petter Hauge has been excellent already in 2020 and though he seems set to leave the club for pastures new imminently it is worth including the player here as this remains his 'breakout season' of sorts.
Many have seemingly forgotten that Hauge could barely get in the Glimt XI last season. After a poor loan spell with AaFK in 2018, the 2019 season saw Hauge relegated to the Glimt bench at best and the player really struggled to gain any form of consistency.
However, the players' reputation grew at the end of the season when he took over the role of the departed Amor Layouni and subsequently impressed. Hauge's start to the 2020 season has solidified his standing as one of the hottest prospects currently playing in Norway.
Hauge does benefit from a Glimt set-up that tends to revolve around his play to an extent, as it did with Hakon Evjen last season, but 2 goals & 3 assists in just 3 league games this season is already incredibly impressive for a 20 year old.
Inevitably, Hauge will leave for a bigger club abroad in the coming months so it is worth savoring this form whilst we still can. I have been a fan of Hauge since his sensational season in the 2017 OBOS Ligaen and both hope and expect him to become a full Norwegian international in the future.