Luis de la Fuente was still savoring the victory against Scotland in La Cartuja on Thursday night when he was asked about Norway, this Sunday’s rival (8:45 p.m., La1). The coach listed several of the threats that worried him: Haaland, Sorloth, Larsen and Odegaard. He did not mention, however, the latest great appearance, Brugge’s Antonio Nusa, an imaginative and lethal dribbler, an 18-year-old winger recently arrived in the senior team. And with a bang.
Just a month before, on September 12, a photograph taken in the Ullevaal stadium locker room after Norway’s tight victory against Georgia (2-1) had circulated on the networks. Haaland and Odegaard appear, and among them a third player whom he points out as Arsenal’s captain: that is Nusa. He had just put off a display of imbalance on his second day with the senior team. In eight minutes he had invented assists for the two colossi with whom he poses in the image.
It started with Haaland. Two defenders came to stifle him on the left, where Nusa performs with a changed leg. He waited, he moved away from them and from that half meter that he gained, he sent a delicate and precise ball with his left foot to the far post, where City’s nine headed. A little later, he received it in the same area. This time three defenders appeared. He went to look for them in the area, slipped between them and left the ball behind, where Odegaard arrived, who scored with a low shot. The movement ignited a murmur of admiration in the Ullevaal. Georgia coach Willy Sagnol later summed up what he had appreciated from the bench: “He has fantastic potential. Even a blind man can see it.”
Inspired by hours of fantasy videos of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Neymar, Nusa is as brilliant on the field as he is in his development. He had made his senior debut just five days before the Georgia game, in a friendly against Jordan. At 11 minutes he had already scored. No trace of vertigo, as his coach, Stale Solbakken, explained: “He is totally calm. “He is down to earth, and that personality is good for the world he is about to enter,” he said. “He knows he has a few steps left to become the superstar we talk about.”
Nusa’s emergence onto the international stage has occurred under the watch of many. In the summer, Chelsea offered Brugge 30 million euros for him, ten times more than the Belgian club had paid in 2021. At the time, the footballer was only 16 years old, but he had been playing for Stabaek’s first team for almost a season. Norwegian. Everything happened very quickly there too: he debuted at 15 and scored that day. As he did last season with 17 on his first night in the Champions League with Bruges in Porto: another goal.
The promise of his performance last season has exploded this season. The jump in Bruges is formidable. There is no footballer in Belgium who creates more danger than him. If last year he shot 2.1 times per game, this time he dares 4.4, more than double, according to fbref.com records. He also faces much more: he goes after defenders 10 times per game, while last season he counted 5.5 attempts. And with more success: he escapes 58% of the time, while last year he succeeded 53%.
People who have worked with him believe that everything has not been seen yet. Solbakken has referred several times to Nusa’s learning capacity, something that also caught the attention of the under-19 coach, the Portuguese Luis Pimienta, who has seen how the footballer continued to skip steps: “When people see Antonio play, they see his incredible speed, the technique, the finishing; but he does not see the invisible part, the preparations before the games for him to find himself in those situations. “He absorbs information at breakneck speed,” he says. “It’s fun to sit with him, have a coffee and talk about football, how he watched the game the night before. So the only thing I can do is listen to him: he understands the game.”
On Thursday, while Spain was playing against Scotland, Nusa Cyprus entered the field in the 63rd minute, with 0-1. His third game with the senior team. The coach dosed it to take care of some discomfort that he has been experiencing in recent days. Nine minutes later, he cut in on his left wing and when he found himself close to the baseline he put another floating cross to the far post with his left foot. And there Haaland appeared to head into the net. Like a month before in the astonished Ullevaal, where he returns this Sunday against Spain. Neither of them were in the first round match in Malaga in March: the City player had been injured and Nusa had not even arrived.
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