Manchester City’s ‘little wizard’ is Norway’s next big thing

There will be a knowing smile from Mikal Aaserud as Oscar Bobb pushed Kevin De Bruyne’s exquisite pass past the outstretched leg of a desperate Kieran Trippier and then placed the ball into the back of Martin Dubravka’s net after a deft move from feet fooled the Newcastle goalkeeper.

For two happy years, Aaserud spent most weeks breathless over Manchester City’s winning goal at St James’ Park on Saturday night and the latest dazzling talent to emerge from Norway after Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard and his teammate Erling Haaland.

Bobb was just 11 when he joined Lyn’s under-14 team in his hometown of Oslo, which Aaserud helped coach, and moments into his first session it became clear why there was so much excitement around this diminutive boy. with a hypnotic left. foot. It wasn’t long before coaches coined him a nickname.

“We called him the Little Wizard because he was a wizard,” Aaserud tells Telegraph Sport. “It was a very talented team but he was the real standout player.

“I had heard rumors about Oscar before he came to us. She knew there was a stir around this young man, but it was impressive at times. Everything he did was incomparable to what others did. “We couldn’t believe it.”

Aaserud doesn’t go overboard when he describes Lyn’s team as particularly talented. Coming mainly from two Oslo schools, Ullevaal and Tasen, Bobb attended the latter, with which he enjoyed a close bond. Seven members of the team are now professionals, including winger Sondre Holmlund Orjasaeter, who has just joined Sarpsborg 08 in Norway’s top flight. But Bobb was and still is several steps above.

Even at such a young age, he was the talk of Norwegian youth circles and increasingly coveted by many of Europe’s big clubs.

“When we played the national tournaments in Norway, we discovered that people from other teams and their parents came to watch our team just for it,” explains Aaserud.

“As a coach, I was standing on the bench and I could hear people saying things like, ‘Wow, there’s Oscar Bobb, we have to stay here and watch this game.’ “It was a phenomenon.”

Aaserud recalls that his opponents made all sorts of unsavory efforts in an attempt to deny Bobb’s influence, but the young star routinely stood up to the bullies.

“In some games it seemed like they were just trying to ruin his game, but that didn’t affect him. He is a tough character,” Aaserud recalled. “It didn’t worry him, but the opponents tried everything: to mark him, to be physically hard on him to try to take him out of the game. He had very harsh treatment.

“We played in the league, often against players who were two years older than Oscar and had hit puberty much earlier, had beards, that sort of thing, and yet he was so small. But the unique thing about him is that he never stopped playing.

“They invited us to elite tournaments in Copenhagen, in Madrid and it was exactly the same there too. All the big clubs in Europe had him on their radar, that was true from the age of 11, 12.”

“He appreciates that Erling is there”

One of the interesting aspects of Bobb’s rise is that it has not been without its setbacks and complications. In October 2015, he moved to Portugal with his mother, Gunnes Turid, a professional theater and film actress from Norway, who had signed a contract with a dance and theater company in the city to work on several projects.

Three months later, Porto, whose interest in Bobb dated back to 2010, requested to sign the player when he was a minor, claiming that his mother had moved to Portugal for work reasons and not to advance her son’s playing career. Only subsequently will FIFA refuse to grant a transfer exemption. Attempts to join the Hernani Goncalves football school in Porto were also rejected by FIFA for the same reason and later by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on appeal.

This meant that Bobb spent almost two years unable to play in competitive matches, save for the occasional tournament appearance for Lyn, for whom he was still registered, before returning to Norway in late 2017 for Lyn’s Oslo rivals, Valerenga. Even at Valerenga, injuries limited his playing time before moving to City as a 16-year-old in July 2019.

Aaserud, who now works as a reporter for VG in Norway, believes the initial enthusiasm around Bobb, combined with the difficult time he had in Portugal, are two of the reasons why he has handled his sudden rise so well in recent years. five months. From his first senior call-up for Norway and his international debut, to scoring in both the Champions League and now the Premier League for City, he has taken it all in his stride.

“That’s what impressed me the most,” he says. “He’s not really affected by what’s going on. This buzzing around him, it’s been there a little bit before, if you know what I mean. “He is quite level-headed and has probably reflected emotionally on how things were before.”

Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates with his teammate Oscar Bobb after scoring the team's fifth goal and his hat-trick during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Fulham FC at the Etihad Stadium on September 2, 2023 in Manchester, England.Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates with his teammate Oscar Bobb after scoring the team's fifth goal and his hat-trick during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Fulham FC at the Etihad Stadium on September 2, 2023 in Manchester, England.

Erling Haaland and Bobb represent Norway internationally – Getty Images/Lewis Storey

Bobb’s parents separated when he was only seven years old. His father, Abdou, still lives in Norway and his mother remains in Portugal with her partner and Bobb’s half-sisters. His family is a huge part of his life, but having a compatriot like Haaland at City certainly helps Bobb’s development. “Erling is very kind to him and I think it gives him extra confidence that one of the biggest stars on the team is someone he can communicate with on a better level than some of the others,” Aaserud said.

“He really appreciates and values ​​Erling being there. I probably won’t terrorize him with questions, but I’ll probably use them and get support when he needs it and in terms of off-field options, I think Erling can be a big help as well.”

From Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the reigning Olympic 1,500m champion, and golfer Viktor Hovland to Haaland and Odegaard, Norway is becoming home to multiple sporting superstars. And if Bobb continues to make an impact like he did against Newcastle, the country may soon have another household name.

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