Williot Swedberg: The Barcelona-linked Swedish wonderkid
On February 23, 2022, everything was ready for Williot Swedberg to join Lokomotiv Moscow.
Only minor details needed to be ironed out before the Russian club paid Hammarby just over €4m (£3.4m/$4.2m) for their teenage striker.
Then, early in the morning of February 24, Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian army to invade Ukraine, starting war on European soil.
Swedberg’s move was, naturally, cancelled.
“It has become impossible, both morally and from a safety point of view,” said Hammarby sporting director Jesper Jansson. “Also, we didn’t need to sell the player.”
“Lokomotiv seemed like a good project, but things went as they were,” Swedberg himself said after the failed move. “I couldn’t have imagined this would happen.
“Everyone wants to play abroad at some point, but it doesn’t matter when. Now it’s going to be fun to play for my club.”
In the obscurity of his miss, Swedberg was certainly enjoying himself in his native Sweden, with the 18-year-old the second top scorer in the opening weeks of the Allsvenskan season.
The attacking midfielder scored five goals in seven games to kick off the campaign, despite not starting the season as a starter, after being named on the bench for Hammarby’s opener against Helsingborg .
However, he was introduced as a late substitute and scored the winning goal in a 2–1 win, which earned him a singing interview in his post-match interview. Swedberg chose to hum the fans’ tribute to manager Marti Cifuentes, who commented: “It improves his chances of getting a place in the starting lineup!”
Whether it was his on-court display or his singing, Swedberg secured himself a starting spot in the weeks that followed.
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His brace against Sundsvall caught the eye in particular, as Swedberg set the pace of the game as he floated inside from his position on the left side, making midfield turns that Zinedine Zidane would have been proud of.
His superb strike from 25 yards with his supposedly weaker left foot was the icing on what was already quite a sensational cake.
He followed that up with another brace two weeks later against Sirius. This time both strikes came from close range, showing the youngster’s ability to be in the right place at the right time.
And while his exploits so far this season have grabbed the headlines, those who saw him make his first-team debut in 2021 aren’t too surprised at Swedberg’s development.
It took just two minutes for the youngster to make his mark in the Hammarby first-team in July, with his goal against Degefors leading to Swedberg’s father, Hans Eskilsson, crying tears of joy in the stands.
“When Williot scored, the world stopped moving,” Eskilsson said. “I don’t have the vocabulary to describe my feelings, which are stronger than when I was a player. It was just total euphoria.”
Eskilsson himself enjoyed a remarkable playing career, becoming a Hammarby legend during three different spells with the club where he excelled both as a defender and as a striker.
He was hailed more for his passion than his technical ability, however, and it’s possible that Swedberg inherited ball control from his mother.
Malin Swedberg was a magnificent midfielder during her playing days and featured in the first Women’s World Cup in 1991 as Sweden finished third, before being crowned Swedish Player of the Year five years later .
His vision and passing range were exceptional, and such genes could explain why his son was able to show glimpses of his potential greatness from the age of just four.
The Eskilsson-Swedberg family used to spend their summer holidays in Spain when Williot was young, and it gave him the chance to learn at the academy in Valencia.
“They see football differently in Spain, and that’s a big advantage,” Eskilsson said. “I think Williot has a lot of non-Swedish qualities in his game.”
It is certainly true. Swedberg is inventive and graceful, and is slender despite being just over six feet (185 cm) tall.
He will likely need to fill out physically to reach true elite level, but in the meantime he is able to outrun opponents thanks to his speed and ability to change direction, his two feet making him a nightmare for defenders in the opposition. treat.
Able to play as a box-to-box No.8, No.10 or from a wide position, Swedberg has even been tried out as a central striker at times, with his versatility another of his key attributes.
“Quality decision-making and understanding of the game usually comes with experience, but Williot is brilliant at a young age,” explained Hammarby head scout Mikael Hjelmberg.
“He is one of the greatest talents to emerge at this club. In my opinion, he is the best Swedish player born in 2004.”
A return to Spain could now be on the cards for Swedberg, if rumors of interest from Barcelona are to be believed.
The Blaugrana were first linked with the Swedish youth international in the summer of 2021, and reports they were scouting Swedberg have intensified again following his rapid start to the season, although there is a suggestion that Manchester United are also watching his development closely.
“I know I’m not yet at the required level for Barcelona, but I wouldn’t refuse if they wanted to sign me,” Swedberg said amid early reports of interest from Camp Nou, although at the moment he couldn’t be at a better club for his development.
Hammarby are currently top of the Allsvenskan table as they aim for only their second national title, while Swedberg playing regularly could still earn him an early entry into the Swedish national team.
The Scandinavian nation already boast an exciting group of young strikers which includes Dejan Kulusevski, Alexander Isak and Anthony Elanga, and Swedberg have the ability to thrive alongside them for at least the next decade.
It’s unclear if he would have had the same opportunities to impress in Russia that he is currently enjoying, but he is certainly making the most of it. A move to a bigger club than Lokomotiv Moscow now looks more than likely.
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