Antonio Nusa: The Norwegian Neymar set to cause chaos with Haaland & Co

Antonio Nusa NXGN GFXGOAL

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On June 27 2021, in the game against eventual champions Bodo/Glimt, the Stabaek left winger picked up the ball tight to the touchline. Two touches and a burst of acceleration took him into the box. Then; chaos. A drop of the shoulder moved the ball away from the opponent, and with minimal backlift he hit a dipping, curling strike right into the top corner.

That was Antonio Nusa’s third professional game.

Norwegian football is in good health. It has its goalscoring poster boy for the next 15 years in Erling Haaland. It has its playmaking midfielder too, in the shape of Martin Odegaard.

What is now missing from their attack of the future is that element of chaos; a player who can produce a game-changing moment of skill or dribble the length of the field to create a chance.

Nusa might be a year or two away from joining Haaland and Odegaard in the Norway national team, but given the way 17-year-old has begun his professional career, he is unlikely to be daunted by the prospect.

Already the second-youngest goalscorer in Norwegian top-flight history - behind only Odegaard - and the youngest scorer in Club Brugge history, Nusa’s is a name that could well come to be uttered alongside the greats of the game if he reaches his potential.

"I like to create chaos,” Nusa told Aftonposten in April 2021. “Neymar is my role model because he creates chaos on the pitch with his dribbling, just like me. He is one of the best in the world.”

"I can see similarities to Neymar in Nusa's movements and in the way he uses the ball,” the teenager’s former Stabaek team-mate, Mats Solheim, says.

“There is still a small gap between them, but he can get there.”

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That is a pretty big claim when talking about a player with just 17 senior appearances under his belt, but not unsurprising given Nusa’s heroics back in his homeland.

Having joined Stabaek at the age of 13 from lower-league side Langhus IL, Nusa worked his way into first-team contention in May 2021, less than a month after his 16th birthday.

After the goal against Bodo/Glimt, he backed that up by scoring twice against Viking in his first senior start the following week. His general preference is to play off the left and cut onto his right - both goals against Viking were with his weaker left.

“Antonio has some extreme skills with the ball that make him very exciting,” Gunnar Halle, the ex-Leeds United defender who now coaches Norway Under-16s, said of Nusa after calling him up for the first time.

“He can challenge, get past opponents and create imbalance, but what really sets him apart from others at that age is that he has finishing qualities as well.”

Despite a change of management at Stabaek following his early exploits, Nusa continued to perform well, impressing new coach Eirik Kjono, who in turn built his side’s attack around the youngster.

"Antonio is going to develop into a fantastic player,” Kjono said. “It is rare to see such a good dribbler in Norway.

“His speed, balance and technique is something else. It will be exciting to follow his career.”

Unfortunately for Stabaek supporters, they are now having to follow Nusa’s career from afar, after the decision was taken in August 2021 to sell the youngster to Club Brugge in a €3 million (£2.6m/$3.5m) deal.

It is a move that has paid dividends already for Nusa, though, who after spending the majority of the campaign playing for the youth team, Club NXT, marked just his second senior appearance in Belgium with a memorable goal.

It may have been a tap-in with the opposition goalkeeper nowhere to be seen, but Nusa’s strike in the closing seconds against Union Saint-Gilloise put the seal on a win that ultimately turned the title race in Brugge’s direction.

At 17 years and 21 days, he broke a record that was previously set by Dirk Hinderyckx in 1974 as the club’s youngest-ever scorer, before being handed his first start for the club on the final day of the season against traditional rivals Anderlecht.

Further opportunities should follow in 2021-22 for Nusa, with some believing that he made the right decision in waiting for his big move, rather than take the leap to an elite club as Odegaard did with Real Madrid in 2015.

“I heard that people talked about me and him, and it's fun, but I don't compare myself with others,” Nusa, who could also represent Nigeria rather than Norway, said about his potential future international team-mate.

“I don't think much about what others did when they were 16 years old. I just continue on my way, then we'll see how far it takes me."

Nusa’s way is taking him in a direction that could see him reach the very top. Norway and Haaland will certainly hope so.