Norway’s Sørloth moves to Crystal Palace

Other soccer trades also bring three new Norwegian players to Major League Soccer

Alexander Sørloth

Photo: courtesy of Crystal Palace FC
Alexander Sørloth of Crystal Palace in England

Jo Christian Weldingh

Norwegian national soccer player Alexander Sørloth has been signed by Crystal Palace in the English Premier League from the Danish club FC Midtjylland for $23 million USD, making him the second most expensive Norwegian footballer ever, surpassed only by Tore Andre Flo’s transfer from Chelsea to Glasgow Rangers in 2000. The $23 million USD is also the biggest fee a Danish club has ever received for a player.

The 22-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the London-based club, and with an annual salary of almost $3 million USD, the Norwegian says he never has to worry about money again. “I feel very lucky; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says. Now, all I have to do is have fun playing soccer and keep my head in the game. I’m trying not to think about the money. If I do, it’s bound to influence my game.”

Even though he’s only 22 years old, Sørloth has experience with four different clubs in three different countries. He started out in Rosenborg but wasn’t able to play his way into the starting 11, getting in only six games in two years. Heading into the 2015 season, he was loaned out to Bodø Glimt so he would get more time on the pitch. His stay in Bodø was a success, as he scored 13 goals in 26 games and was able to lift his game up to a whole new level. After a season in Bodø, he was called back to Rosenborg and sold to Dutch club FC Groningen.

Sørloth was never able to reach his full potential in the Netherlands, scoring only five goals in 36 matches. He was sold to Denmark’s FC Midtjylland in the summer of 2017 after only one season in Groningen. In Denmark, he was exceptional all season, delivering outstanding performances in almost every match, scoring 10 goals in 19 matches. On the basis of his performance in the Danish league, he got his debut on the Norwegian national team last fall.

It was Sørloth’s consistently good form in Denmark and his debut on the national team that made Crystal Palace show an interest in the Norwegian youngster, and they acted fast. No one had even heard rumors about the transfer when Sørloth was announced as Crystal Palace’s new number nine, shortly before the closing of the Premier League transfer window.

In an interview with Norwegian newspaper VG, Sørloth said that just two years ago, when he was loaned out to Bodø Glimt, he was considering quitting soccer for good.

“I was in a dark place,” he said. “I had gotten the chance to show Rosenborg how good I was, but I failed. I moved to Bodø and lived in a sad, dark apartment, and I wasn’t even playing at first.”

After a conversation with his father, former Norwegian national team striker Gøran Sørloth, he decided to not give up, a decision that resulted in an extraordinary season in Bodø and the subsequent transfer to FC Groningen.

“It might sound a bit weird, but I don’t really feel 22 years old,” Sørloth said. “I have experienced a lot in my short career, playing for five different clubs, which is not normal for a 22-year-old, but for me it has been a positive thing, I think.”

Sørloth is excited to prove himself to his new teammates, coaches, and fans. “I’m going to show everyone that they brought me here for a reason,” he said. “I will do my absolute best in every training session and adapt to my new surroundings as quickly as I possibly can. I think the fact that I’m transferring to a better team with better teammates will lift my game to a new level.”

Crystal Palace was excited to have him, running a quiz on its website about the previous Scandinavians to play for the Eagles.

Jo Inge Berget

Photo: Katie Cahalin / New York City FC
Jo Inge Berget of New York City FC

Four Norwegians in MLS
Though the biggest transaction, Alexander Sørloth is not the only Norwegian to change clubs this transfer window. There’s an increasing Norwegian presence in the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS), and during this year’s transfer window three Norwegians were lured across the pond. Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Jo Inge Berget signed with Seattle Sounders and New York City FC, respectively, while Jørgen Skjelvik joined his fellow Norwegian Ola Kamara with Los Angeles Galaxy.

Midfielders Eikrem and Berget spent the past three seasons with Malmö in Sweden’s top division, winning several league titles. Both their careers were for a time dictated by the employment of coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær, being two of his most trusted players. In 2011, he brought them to Molde in Norwegian Eliteserieren, and then brought them with him to Cardiff in 2014, where he tried his luck as a Premier League manager. Neither Berge nor Eikrem were a big hit in the Premier League and were both sold to Malmö in 2015. They are both players with ambitions to play for the national team and have the potential to be valuable players for their respective teams.

Skjelvik has spent his past three seasons in Norway’s Rosenborg. The 26-year-old center back, known for his speed and agility, has been one of the key figures in Rosenborg’s two consecutive league championships and their qualification for the Europa League. His high level of performance with Rosenborg has been rewarded with several matches for the national team, and he is currently one of three or four contenders for the two center back positions when the European qualifying rounds start later this year.

After two successful seasons with the MSL Columbus Crew, striker Kamara was traded to LA Galaxy in January. Kamara thrived in Columbus and was their top goal scorer two years running. Last season, Kamara’s goal scoring ability was one of the main reasons Columbus went all the way to the semi-final in the playoff, where they were narrowly beaten by Toronto FC. Having already proven himself in the MLS, Kamara is sure to be a valuable player when LA Galaxy kicks off the season next month.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.