Arsenal are keen to sign Genk midfielder Sander Berge this summer. talkSPORT assess the Norwegian wonderkid who could be making his mark in the Premier League very soon…
Full name: Sander Gard Bolin Berge
Date of birth: 14 February 1998 (age 19)
Place of birth: Bærum, Norway
Height: 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)
Team: K.R.C. Genk (14 apps / 0 goals)
National team: Norway (2 apps / 0 goals)
Who is he?
Sander Berge is a defensive midfielder who plays for Belgian club Genk and the Norway national team. After starting his career with Asker Fotball in the Norwegian second division, he joined Valerenga in the top flight. He quickly established himself as a first-team player, and in January 2017 Berge signed for Genk.
Replacing Wilfried Ndidi in the Genk team, following his move to Leicester, Berge rapidly made a name for himself as a key player, and has earned admiring glances from Everton and West Ham, as well as the Gunners.
What they say:
Genk head coach, Albert Stuivenberg: “At 18 he is already very mature. He is intelligent, reads the game well, and takes the initiative. He has the potential to become a future leader.”
Norway manager, Lars Lagerback, on transfer rumours involving Berge: “He is a very young player. He has a good role in his club, where he is on a pretty good level. So he must really think about it, I think. But of course it is up to him.”
A ball-winning defensive midfielder, Berge has a physical build but is able to win the ball with his skill and technique rather than by just overpowering players. While not the fastest, his positioning and reading of the game means he is rarely dribbled past.
While his main strength is breaking up play, Berge also aids his team in possession. Providing driving runs from deep, he has a solid range of passing and rarely looks troubled under pressure. He is skilful enough to dribble pass opponents without too much effort, though prefers to focus his game in the middle third of the pitch – rather than the final third. He would always look to play the simple pass and distribute to a teammate to try something special – though he cannot be criticised for this as he is a naturally defensive player.
Areas to improve:
The main criticism of Berge is the fact he has been playing in competitions generally regarded as having lesser quality than Europe’s top leagues. He was a star player in Norway and is building his reputation in Belgium, but there are doubts he could have the same impact should he move to England.
He is physically gifted, meaning it shouldn’t be too hard to step up to another league, and his technical skills are exceptional for a player of his age – though will likely be shown up alongside better quality players.
To develop into an all-round midfield player, Berge does need to work on the offensive aspect of his game. His lack of ability in front of goal – both creating chances for others and for himself – makes him rather one dimensional.