By Iver Kleiven
If Vegard Forren’s proposed transfer to Liverpool goes through, the Merseyside club will have made a solid – if unspectacular – signing to boost their ranks.
The five-time capped Norway international is, at 24, not a fresh-faced youngster to be developed in the reserves, but rather a ready-made deputy for Liverpool’s established first-choice defenders Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger. In fact, similarities are bound to be drawn between Forren and the latter.
They are both strong, left-footed centre-backs with solid technique and a more expansive passing range than most Premier League stoppers, and the two Scandinavians share a fondness for bombing forward with the ball at their feet.
However, Forren possesses a competitive nature and will not be content with merely being the Dane’s understudy. The powerful Norwegian possesses the combativeness and guile to be a success in England – the big question is how much playing time he will be afforded by Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool fans may be concerned that their club is set to spend €4.8 million on a 24-year old centre-half with limited continental and international experience, but there is every chance Forren could turn out to be quite the bargain. He might be a late bloomer, but during the the last two seasons he has been far and away the best central defender in the Norwegian Tippeliga.
Under former Manchester United player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s coaching he has developed into a solid performer on the domestic stage, playing in every single game of the 2012 Tippeliga as well as winning last year’s NISO Golden Ball, the Norwegian equivalent of the PFA Player of the year award.
His efforts with Molde in the Europa League, as well as his impressive performances during his first two competitive internationals in Norway’s World Cup Qualifiers in October, are further evidence that this is a player who will be relishing the opportunity to step up a level.
To summarise, Forren’s rise has been one of 2012’s major positives for Norwegian football.
For the first time since Brede Hangeland’s breakthrough there is a real feeling that Norway has finally produced another central defender who can make his mark in Europe, and the rave press reviews underline the fact that Forren most likely has outgrown the Norwegian top division.
Norway’s two biggest newspapers, VG and Aftenposten, along with broadcaster TV2 (who hold the TV rights to Tippeligaen) have all rated him as the top defender in the Tippeliga.
This, together with his breakthrough in the national team, gives the sense of a potential that is finally being fulfilled. It says something about Forren that, after five international appearances (all of them in 2012), he is already perceived as one of Norway’s most important players.
With Forren’s consistently excellent performances on the pitch in mind it was not surprising that suitors from bigger leagues started to make themselves known in late summer. He has had admirers in both Belgium and Germany as well as England, but ask Forren himself and there is no doubt which league he has his heart set on.
“To me, the Premier League is the best place to play football,” Forren told local paper Romsdals Budstikke. Everton and Fulham were thought to be the front-runners for Forren, especially after Toffees manager David Moyes scouted him at a recent Molde game. Now it seems that Anfield, not Goodison, will be Forren’s next home ground.
The impression remains that Forren has been fortunate in terms of his career trajectory. He will now move to a stronger league better equipped than he would have been had he moved abroad a few years ago. The Norwegian appears convinced that the last two seasons have made him a strong enough player to excel in the hustle-and-bustle of the English top-tier.
Should he leave Molde, it is also likely that he will take comfort in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s assertion that “Vegard Forren is good enough to play for Manchester United”.
Like his manager, Forren is a supporter of the Red Devils – but then again rumour has it Solskjaer supported Liverpool before he moved to United in 1996. Maybe this is Liverpool’s chance to get one back?