style=»font-weight: 400;»>What were you doing aged 16? Studying for exams? Out playing football in the local park? For Tobias Christensen of IK Start, his 16th year was somewhat different to everyone else’s as he appeared in front of almost 4,000 spectators to make his OBOS Ligaen debut against Fredrikstad.>

(Photo: Digitalsport)

Whilst the 16 year old’s debut was not notable performance wise, the fact the player was selected on the right hand side ahead of seasoned veterans such as Daniel Aase and Jens Kristian Skogmo speaks volumes about the amount of trust coach Steinar Pedersen has in the midfielder.

Christensen was solid on his debut. The right flank is not really a position the players’ build and skill set lends itself to but he held the position down well and looked good in possession before being taken off after 70 minutes. The performance was more a signal of what could come from the player, a composed attacking midfielder capable of filling in up front or out wide.

The 16 year old has currently appeared 8 times for Norway’s international U’16 side and 3 times for the U’17 team since February of this year. If he can get more game time under his belt with Start this year it would not surprise anyone to see him in the U’18 side before too long.

Christensen has long been a talent in both the Start academy and Norwegian youth internationals. He is a player very easy to spot when playing with his peers and has a mentality that sets him apart from his rivals. The passion he shows on the pitch is rare to see from a player so young.

If you look at Christensen on the pitch with fellow OBOS Ligaen footballers, he does not look out of place. He has more ‘punch’ than other players his age and his physicality means he is not totally bullied by veteran OBOS defenders.

Having spoken to a number of scouts and coaches who have worked with Christensen, it is quite easy to draw a comparison between Christensen and wonderkid Martin Ødegaard. Whilst Ødegaard has a humble and down to earth attitude both on and off the pitch Christensen tends to be a volatile and passionate character. It is this attitude that has given his game an extra edge already, setting him apart from players older and wiser than him.

Anders Lübeck has seen Christensen play numerous times both in person and via video recordings.

‘He wants the ball, he takes on players, he shouts at referees. I remember him getting nutmegged in a national team match and the first thing he did after was take the guy who ‘megged him out. Hard.

He has a great character and that’s something often takes time to build for a young player. Christensen already has it and has made it a strength in his play. That’s why he is special and has a good chance of making it in Norway and then abroad.’

Christensen in action for Norway G15 in 2015. (Digitalsport)

So what will Christensen’s goals be with Start this season? The sides’ heavily depleted attack could be a problem in Start’s quest for promotion but it will offer 16 year old Christensen more opportunities in the starting XI.

The player has already shown his capabilities playing either out wide or just off the striker as a classic Number 10. Whether Christensen has the temperament and experience to play a whole season aged just 16 is another matter entirely. Surely Steinar Pedersen won’t risk his sides’ promotion on Christensen’s development.

‘He will be given a lot of minutes this season. Especially now with Salvesen out…’ says Jesper Mathisen, who will have witnessed Christensen’s development first hand having been in and around the IK Start first team since 2004.

‘The big difference with Tobias compared to other young players in the last few years at Start is his mentality.

He is a bit like Mathias Rasmussen as a player (Now of FC Nordsjælland). He has great technique, a good left foot and he understands the game of football very well.

Christensen has no respect for his opponents and he always wants the ball. He is a player with great confidence and it seems like he has understood that he has to work very hard to take the next steps as a footballer.

The problem with young players coming into a senior squad is that they too often have too much respect. Tobias doesn’t care about who he meets on the pitch and that, together with his techique and left foot, are the things I like most about him as a player. He has the ‘X-Factor’ and he is not like everyone else. And to break through these days I think that can be a big advantage.’

Whilst the hype around Christensen on a national level may still be simmering, there is no doubt that a good season with Start in the OBOS Ligaen will catapult him to the forefront of the nation’s top U’18 domestic talents.

The OBOS Ligaen this season will be the perfect arena for Christensen to develop into a more well rounded footballer. Whilst he may be physical for his age, coming up against seasoned 1.Divisjon defenders will of course be a tougher task than facing off against players of his own age. There is no doubt Christensen has the skill and passion to impress this year but the worry is he may find himself out of his depth in the bigger games of the season.

This cannot be taken as a criticism as the same would apply to any footballer aged just 16 years old, as the step up to senior football is always a humongous one to take. The experts rate Christensen highly and from what I have personally seen in 2017, I too can see why the player is so highly rated in the Start setup.

16 years old… it’s very young, isn’t it? But watch out for Tobias Christensen this season, he could well turn in performances worthy of a player twice his age if potential is to be believed.

Ben Wells

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