Tottenham continued their impressive youth recruitment with the signing of 18-year-old Swedish midfielder Lucas Bergvall after the January transfer window closed. The self-proclaimed box-to-box player looked destined for a move to Barcelona, before a deadline-day swoop by Spurs saw the youngster put pen to paper with the North London club on the day of his 18th birthday ahead of making the move on 1 July.
Bergvall attracted interest from big clubs across Europe during the January transfer window and turned down quite a few offers, including from Eintracht Frankfurt and Inter Milan. Barcelona thought they had the deal almost wrapped up, but a late siege headed by Tottenham Technical Director Johan Lange and the promise of first team football that the Catalonians couldn’t match was enough for Tottenham to turn Bergvall’s head and convince him N17 was the best next step in his career.
Who is Lucas Bergvall?
The Bergvalls are a football-centric family. Lucas’ parents both played to a high-level in Sweden, while his brother Theo currently plays for Djurgården with Spurs’ new man. In his first interview as a Tottenham player, Bergvall reminisced on playing football in the backyard with his two brothers, stating that “football was everything” for the trio.
Born in Stockholm, Bergvall began his career in the Swedish capital with Brommapojkarna where he captained youth sides at various levels to trophies all around Europe. We spoke to Charlie Nildén, who played with Bergvall in the youth system, and he told us that the new Tottenham signing is “a brilliant player and he is not bad at a single thing.”
Nildén also complimented his former teammate’s mindset, detailing how Bergvall was the force who would take control when the team wasn’t performing, and drive them forward. Off the pitch, he was described as “an amazing person with a big heart – I love him! He was amazing to play with. He did whatever he wanted to the other teams in every single match. Everyone that played with Lucas knows that he is going to be a very good player.”
Bergvall made his professional debut in the second division in July 2022 aged just 16, before bagging his first goal a few months later against Östers IF. During his time at the club, in which he helped them to a league title and promotion to the Allsvenskan, Bergvall was courted by Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester United.
BP are quickly becoming known for the young players they are producing – Victor Gyokeres and Dejan Kulusevski both spent time at the club in the early stages of their careers. They have also sold to major European clubs in the last couple of years, with AC Milan and Bayer Leverkusen snapping up Fredrik Nissen and Jardell Kanga for their respective academy sides.
At the end of a very successful 2022 season, where Bergvall made 11 Superettan appearances aged just 16 and Brommapojkarna achieved promotion to the top division of Swedish football, Bergvall made the move to 12-time Swedish champions Djurgården.
Viktor Gyökeres since the start of November:
-Brace of assists vs. Estrela
-Goal vs. Benfica
-Goal vs. Dumiense
-Assist vs. Atalanta
-Brace vs. Gil Vicente
-Goal vs. Sturm Graz
-Goal and assist vs. Porto
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) January 4, 2024
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet awarded Bergvall their man of the match award after his debut in a 1-0 win against reigning champions BK Häcken and predicted that he would become “Djurgården’s biggest transfer ever.” The rumoured €10m fee Tottenham will pay for the player has not only become the club’s record transfer, but also the biggest transfer in Allsvenskan history.
Bergvall played 25 times in his debut season with Djurgården, making 11 starts. He scored twice in the league and picked up one assist – all these goal contributions came in the final 6 games of the season, including the opening goal in a 2-1 victory against his former club in October. Bergvall was substituted in against Halmstads BK on Matchday 25 with 20 mins to go in a 0-0 game – he scored the only goal in the 81st minute to secure the three points, then played every minute of the last 5 games of the season.
The 18-year-old has also featured prominently for Sweden’s national teams. He has represented the U15, U16, U17, U19 and U21 teams, and made his senior debut as a second-half substitute in January 2024 in a 2-1 friendly win over Estonia.
What can Tottenham fans expect from Lucas Bergvall?
Lucas Bergvall is a versatile midfielder with a creative spark and a keen eye for a pass. He is calculated in his pressing, movement off the ball and progressive passing. He is wise beyond his years in his positioning and press-resistant movement.
Bergvall’s 2023 season took off when he was substituted on against Halmstads BK at the end of September. Djurgården were struggling for form having lost their previous two Allsvenskan games and they were finding it difficult to break down a resilient defence. Bergvall was lively but composed when he came on and offered a sense of calmness when in possession in the offensive areas that had seemed chaotic in the earlier stages of the encounter.
The moment of the game came when he started an attack that he would convert himself with less than ten minutes to go. He dropped deep to pick the ball up from centre-back Marcus Danielson, before swivelling to set Haris Radetinac away down the right flank. A couple of crosses came to nothing but Bergvall, who had caught up with the attack, recycled the ball out to the left and ghosted into the box before dutifully dispatching Samuel Dahl’s cross in off the far post.
An analytical rewatch of the move shows Bergvall forecasting the move before even dropping to pick up the ball; he was watching the space ahead of Radetinac before the attack unfolded. He was a step ahead of the more experienced players around him and was able to manipulate the game to take advantage of what he saw.
The 17-year-old who had played just over 500 minutes of the season up to this point subsequently picked up 48% of his Allsvenskan minutes for the season across this game and the remaining five. Before this run of minutes, Bergvall had started 6 games in succession midway through the season but did not complete any of those matches.
Djurgården won 55% of the games Bergvall started last season, compared to 47% when he did not start. More importantly though, they lost just 18% of the games he started as opposed to 42% when he did not start. The Swedish outfit also conceded marginally fewer goals when he started.
Bergvall primarily operated on the right of a midfield three in a 4-3-3 system, with an emphasis on attacking creativity and linking between the defenders and forwards. He is a nightmare for defenders to handle as he is always on the move, looking for pockets of space in the half-space of the offensive half, as shown by his season heat map courtesy of Sofascore.
Bergvall has an array of abilities that make him effective picking the ball up in these areas. He loves to link up with the right-winger who holds the width by hugging the touchline during possession-based build-up. Not only does this create the initial space for Bergvall to move into, but it also creates a gap by dragging the left-back away from his closest centre-back, which Bergvall loves to exploit. The similarities to the role Pape Matar Sarr has taken up at Spurs are clear to see and the patterns of play on show suggest the 18-year-old could link up well with his compatriot Dejan Kulusevski in Postecoglou’s system.
The youngster also loves to receive the ball on the turn and drive into the space ahead of him. His precocious awareness of his surroundings is undoubtedly one of his most impressive attributes and allows him to make his decisions before he ever receives the ball. He knows if he has the time and space to turn or if he is better served bouncing the ball to a forward-facing midfielder nearby to aid his team in passing between the lines and progressing up the pitch.
When being pressed in midfield, he utilises his nifty footwork to beat his man and open up the game. Djurgården Sports Coordinator Peter Kisfaludy recently shared an Instagram story showing Bergvall working on his close control and footwork to quickly change his direction and there’s no doubt that hard work is paying off on the pitch. He has an uncanny knack of drawing the press before a couple of quick touches take him away from his would-be tackler.
As noted above with his goal against Halmstads in September, he is comfortable dropping deep to pick up the ball too although he does not do it particularly often. He has exhibited an impressive range of passing from these areas with progressive switches to bypass the front line of the opposition.
The Brommapojkarna academy graduate described himself as a “box-to-box player who really likes to have the ball at [his] feet” in his first interview as a Tottenham player. He has the ability on the ball but what is he like out of possession? The truth is we have not yet seen enough of him in a defensive role, one where he might be tasked with breaking up opposition counter-attacks or commanding a defensive midfield unit on his own, which essentially highlights that he has a lot to learn in this area. Of course, that is through no fault of his own; it is just not something he has experienced in the professional game.
At times, he does appear relatively passive out of possession in midfield and reluctant to challenge for the ball in aerial duels. The Swedish top division can be a very physical environment so it’s understandable that a young player would take time to come to terms with the physical nature of the games.
He will, no doubt, continue to naturally develop in this area having just turned 18. He is already 6’1 (186cm) though – his early physical development has certainly played a part in allowing him to become such a mature footballer at a young age, but it could also suggest that something that may appear to be a weakness in his early career now could become quite a strength when he learns to use his sizeable frame more effectively.
When he has found the confidence to throw himself about, he’s shown tenacity and control in his tackling as well as an astute ability to cut out passing lanes and filter the opposition possession into congested areas with calculated pressing.
Djurgården revert to a 4-5-1 shape out of possession with the two wingers dropping into midfield. It is mostly a structured block of five in midfield, but Bergvall has the freedom to chase the game when necessary. He is shrewd in his judgment of knowing when to follow the ball when it is played back to the opposition to defence; his tireless running rushes his opponents into quick decisions which has caused errors that allow his side to regain possession and control of the game. His pressing is so relentless at times that Djurgården end up in a 4-4-2 formation with Bergvall pressing in tandem with the lone striker.
Bergvall even played the last game of the season away to Kalmar as a centre-forward. He unsurprisingly displayed limitations in this unfamiliar role; his positioning in attacking transitional phases frequently left a lot to be desired with isolated wingers frustrated that they couldn’t bounce the ball off a central figure to progress up the pitch, or sometimes that there were no options in the box when they found space to cross. When he dropped deeper or out wide to get involved in the possession-based build up, the game sometimes bypassed him.
On the flip side, Bergvall showed high intelligence when pressing from the front as he filtered the opposition build-up play into congested central areas or out wide to trigger the press from his teammates. He also thrived in more structured build-up patterns of play, operating in the half-space on the right to act as a link between the defence and attack – the similarities to the role Ange Postecoglou has asked Pape Matar Sarr to play this season were evident.
From Randal Kolo Muani to Luka Jović, from Daichi Kamada to Evan Ndicka, Eintracht Frankfurt has proven a reliable spot for young prospects to refine their talents.
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) June 15, 2023
Despite his young age, Lucas Bergvall is a leader. He captained the youth sides at BP and can often be seen directing and instructing his teammates on the pitch. He has acknowledged that there are a lot of leaders at Tottenham, and that he is looking forward to joining them and helping the team.
Where does Lucas Bergvall fit into Tottenham’s team?
The easy answer to where Lucas Bergvall could fit into the Tottenham team is in the #8 role currently occupied by Pape Matar Sarr, mainly due to the similarities mentioned above. Bergvall likes to operate on the right of a midfield three and he can progress the ball with his passing and dribbling skills. He can link up well with a right-winger who enjoys playing on the touchline. It will be interesting to see how Bergvall could benefit from the extra body in midfield with Pedro Porro inverting, but also how he would deal with the challenge of having greater defensive responsibility with the space vacated by the right-back.
Bergvall could also play in the #10 role for Tottenham. The way the youngster linked up with Oskar Fallenius last season is not too dissimilar to how James Maddison has found a lot of his success for Spurs this season, that is exploiting the space between the full back and centre back when the winger stretches the defence. Bergvall also likes to loiter in the space between the defence and midfield when Djurgården are building on the opposite flank. He hangs back at the edge of the box for crosses, as shown with that phenomenal goal against Halmstads.
It is also worth noting that in his cameos in the earlier stages of the season, Bergvall operated more off the left. He has played on both sides of the midfield so offers versatility that could allow Tottenham to slightly shift their game plans in this way if necessary.
Bergvall also has an eye for an incisive pass. He showed remarkable awareness in an early moment of their game at home to Hammarby in late October. After finding space on the right side with a clever drop of the shoulder, he picked up possession on the corner of the 18-yard box with his back to goal.
He touched the ball out from under his feet away from goal and whipped an inviting ball back across his body towards the six-yard box. It was a moment of technical skill so unexpected that his flat-footed teammates in the danger area were left ruing the missed opportunity simply because they didn’t see it coming.
His final product is by no means the finished article, however. He has shown glimpses of raw talent, testing the Hammarby goalkeeper with a vicious left-footed volley for example, but he has work to do in this area. For a player of his age, this is far from a criticism and definitely something he will be working towards on a daily basis.
Superstar In the Making
Whatever role Bergvall is required to play in the side, Tottenham have signed a future superstar. He has stood out as a calming and controlling influence in a team full of players many years his senior and has developed a set of skills fit for a top-class midfielder. It’s another coup from Johan Lange and Tottenham’s new-look recruitment team.
By: Matt Hayes / @matthayesthfc
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Michael Campanella – Getty Images