18 | Midfielder | Rosenborg | Norwegian
When Rosenborg’s vice-captain and midfield maestro, Alexander Tettey was sold to Stade Rennais in July of last year, a quite ominous hole beside Anthony Annan was left in a side that is expected to win the Tippeligaen title every year; there aren’t copious amounts of players at the level of the Ghana-born Tettey for any team aiming for European football, not least for one in a league that gets fewer European places than Scotland (OK, low blow). The answer for Rosenborg (RBK) is so often to simply buy the best in the position in the league. Failing that, play a youngster and hope he comes up trumps.
In this case necessary, it was a youngster thrown in at the deep end. The youngster, though, was no less than the son of the club’s assistant manager, former feisty full back Trond Henriksen. But any doubts of whether Markus Henriksen got to fill the Tettey-shaped hole in the RBK side through heritage not merit have since been diminished – no, obliterated.
Henriksen didn’t get a start the year Tettey left, five minutes here and there for the player who might be good in a year or so was the plan. His first start came in the 0-0 against Vålerenga, who would prove to be RBK’s closest rival in 2010, late in March, whilst still 17-years old. Even through a time of managerial chance, he hasn’t looked back since.
The majority of the 2010 season was under Nils Arne Eggen after Erik Hamrén committed himself to the Sweden job full-time. Eggen, through his seven tenures at RBK as manager, has always played an attacking game. The 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2 hybrid we saw last year would be suicidal in other leagues, but with players like Anthony Annan behind the front five, there is room for the likes of Henriksen to flourish without worry.
Even early on, it was evident to see the understanding the youngster had of the game. An amalgamation of good positional sense, decision-making, vision and power make for an unsurprisingly huge talent. Lacking of a better description, it is as if he is one step ahead in a game of chess. It is sometimes as straightforward as a sideways pass exploiting space behind a midfielder now drawn out of position which would seem less than straightforward for a player a decade older. This so obvious talent was a highlight of an underwhelming European campaign for RBK, and just further evidence that even with pressure amounted upon him, Henriksen can give good reason for the praise he has received.
Despite boasting two league titles, three European goals and a Young Player of the Year award, the highlight of Henriksen’s short career so far is undoubtedly the 90 minutes he played in the friendly between Croatia and Norway. But despite the experimental away side taking an early lead, Croatia won 2-1. However many goals Norway lost by, though, the second youngest Norwegian debutant was never going to complain.
The quality and improvement already shown from the 6’1” midfielder has attracted talents scouts from all across Europe, and don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. Call me traditional, but two more years in Norway could prove the difference between a player prepared for the big time and a player stuck between reserve football and first team football. The world is Markus’ oyster – with training, experience, coaching, a strong mentality and a good transfer, we could soon be seeing a player bigger than John Arne Riise at a club near you.