The 22-year-old is expected to be on the move from German outfit Hoffenheim this summer, thus completing a remarkable journey from Iceland to the top of English football
By David Lynch
Should Gylfi Sigurdsson complete his expected move to the Premier League in the coming days, it will mark the next stop in a career path that has been travelled at breakneck speed.
From his hometown club to the Championship, via an ill-fated move to Germany and a fruitful return to British shores, Sigurdsson has rarely failed to fulfil his billing as one of Europe’s top young talents.
However, to move with such alacrity takes more than ability; the deeper you look into the 22-year-old’s story, the clearer the narrative becomes. Sigurdsson isn’t just a player with two fine feet, an eye for a pass and a ruthless streak in front of goal – he is driven by an almost maniacal ambition to succeed.
“He played for a club called FH, one of the biggest clubs in the country, when he was a kid but at 14 he left for Breidablik because their pitches weren’t good enough," said Tomas Thordarson of Morgunbladit, a journalist who has followed the Iceland midfielder's ascent closely.
“They just had an artificial pitch that wasn’t heated so it was always snowed in and he didn’t feel he’d progress as a footballer there. He was always thinking like this. He always set his mind on being a professional footballer, from a very young age.
“He was built for football - he had extra training sessions with his brother. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke - he only wants to be the best football player that he can be.”
|GYLFI SIGURDSSON | Midfielder
That move was not be his last as a teenager. Soon Reading’s impressive scouting network came calling, and if Arsenal and Preston North End - with whom Sigurdsson had trials - weren’t willing to take a gamble, the Berkshire side were.
After two short loan spells in the lower leagues, his first-team breakthrough came under then-Royals manager Brendan Rodgers. And it did not take long for Sigurdsson to evidence his knack for scoring from midfield.
He notched an incredible 21 goals and nine assists in 44 appearances during his first full season at the club, ensuring his talents no longer remained a secret. When German outfit Hoffenheim offered £6.5 million surpassing Reading’s record for a transfer fee received, the Championship outfit had little choice but to buckle.
But, as Thordarson explained, following a fine start under famously progressive coach Ralf Rangnick, his eventual successor - after Marco Pezzaiuoli's disastrous stint as caretaker - had no time for Sigurdsson, or much success.
He explained: “There was no particular reason why he was dropped. The coach that took over - Holger Stanislawski - as was proven in the league - didn’t know what he was doing.
“Gylfi started not playing then he’d come into the team and start three games in a row then he was not even in the squad. There was no particular reason other than being slightly injured at the start and he didn’t seem to have trust from the coach. Gylfi wanted to get away straight off.”
That move was to prove but a small stumbling block for Sigurdsson and, upon realising that he had fallen out of favour during his second season, he immediately sought a loan move.
Rodgers, another remarkably ambitious man to whom Sigurdsson’s fate is seemingly tied, spotted the opportunity and immediately brought him in as part of his Swansea revolution. It is this sort of relationship that Thordarson revealed the Iceland international thrives on.
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He continued: “He will be a success anywhere he plays just as long as he has trust from the coach. He has endless ability to see the game and see the next pass before he even gets the ball, he’s not the fastest man on the pitch but he runs and runs.
“He runs over 10 kilometres a game and his ability to shoot and pass is second to none. It doesn’t matter where he plays, as long as he plays he’ll be a success.”
Seven goals and three assists in 18 Premier League games are testament to his success, and with more experience in the Premier League, this record will only become more impressive.
However, make no mistake, any club that wishes to sign him must match Sigurdsson’s appetite for success.
Having been heavily linked with a move to Anfield, Thordarson said: “Liverpool aren’t the biggest club in the world and hasn’t been for some time, even though it’s a big name. Of course if they aren’t playing in the Champions League when he has been there a couple of years and bigger clubs want him then he would want to speak to them."
Fail to match those ambitions, and his next team could become just another footnote in Sigurdsson's remarkable rise.
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