This time last year, Isaac Kiese Thelin had not made his Under-21 debut and was preparing for the start of another Allsvenskan season with IFK Norrköping. Fast-forward to 2015, however, and he is a full Swedish international, and on Thursday the 22-year-old forward capped a memorable seven months by joining FC Girondins de Bordeaux from Malmö FF.
In the second part of our series on players to watch at the UEFA European U21 Championship in the Czech Republic this summer – Saido Berahino was profiled earlier this month – UEFA.com runs the rule over Sweden's four-goal joint-leading scorer in qualifying.
Clubs: Karlsunds IF, IFK Norrköping, Malmö FF, FC Girondins de Bordeaux
• Born in Orebro to a Swedish mother and a Congolese father, Kiese Thelin learnt his trade in the youth ranks at local club Karlslund, dreaming of emulating a Blågult striking legend. "I wanted to be like Henrik Larsson," he once told Sportbladet newspaper. "I would always copy his goal celebration, sticking out my tongue." Kiese Thelin sported Larsson-like dreadlocks between the ages of 11 and 18.
• His goalscoring prowess – he registered 18 times in 44 outings for lower-league Karlslund following his debut as a 17-year-old in 2009 – piqued the interest of Allsvenskan side Norrköping, who acquired his signature in 2011. He made his professional debut in April 2012 as an 89th-minute substitute against IFK Göteborg. Kiese Thelin would go on to make 11 league appearances, scoring twice, in his debut top-flight season.
• Having contributed four goals in 29 matches across all competitions for mid-table Norrköping in 2013, Kiese Thelin then failed to find the net in his first 14 games of the 2014 campaign. However, that did not deter Swedish champions Malmö from making a move for the forward in early June.
• On 5 June, the day after he penned a four-year contract with the Sky Blues, Kiese Thelin received his first U21 cap, opening the scoring in a 2-0 friendly win against Iceland. Two more goals followed on his competitive bow, a 3-0 qualifying defeat of Greece in early September, and better was to come five weeks later. With Sweden trailing France 2-0 after the first instalment of their U21 play-off tie, Kiese Thelin notched twice in an unlikely 4-1 second-leg success.
• Kiese Thelin was instrumental in Malmö both qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time – he claimed crucial goals against FK Ventspils and AC Sparta Praha with his only shots on target in the respective away legs – and retaining the Allsvenkan title.
• Kiese Thelin's swift ascension through the national-team ranks was complete when, on 15 November, he came off the bench during the closing stages of Sweden's 1-1 away draw with Montenegro in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.
• A starter of all six of Malmö's UEFA Champions League Group A fixtures, Kiese Thelin agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Bordeaux on 22 January 2015.
— FCGirondins Bordeaux (@girondins) January 22, 2015
"His strength, size, technique and feet ... he's the player that most resembles Zlatan [Ibrahimović] since Zlatan arrived on the scene."
His former strike partner at Malmö, Markus Rosenberg
"Some people frowned [when I selected him]. He wasn't that appreciated at Norrköping. His progress has been remarkable, especially with regard to his technique, which he has improved on his own in a short space of time. He is also the type of player that we don't have many of in Swedish football: a target man who can be reached with long balls."
Sweden U21 manager Håkan Ericson
"I know many who have said, 'I would have been there and done that if only I'd kept playing,' but you can't argue that. If you've given up, you've given up. It's part of the game to keep fighting through the bad times, it's part of the game to be patient."
C'est officiel!! Je suis un joueur du FC girondins de Bordeaux! Un GRAND merci pour l'accueil. Je suis… http://t.co/MDoiSeqfU5
— IsaacKieseThelin (@IKieseThelin) January 22, 2015
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