'He likes to tackle even if he has the ball' - Norway boss' verdict on Normann
- Credit: Tass/PA Images
Mathias Normann's statement that he loved to tackle was music to the ears of Norwich City supporters and one that has been backed up by his international manager.
The defensive midfielder signed for Norwich City last week on a season long loan from Russian Premier League side Rostov with an option to make that permanent next summer, depending on whether the Canaries can remain in the top-flight.
In his opening interview as a City player, the Norwegian told the club's website: “I’m a defensive midfielder, I like to tackle, to win the ball and to use my body. I like to be on the ball and try to dictate the game.'
Those were words that supporters were desperate to hear after both Oliver Skipp and Alex Tettey departed Carrow Road following their Championship triumph last season.
It has been a position that dominated much of the transfer discourse this summer, and Normann could be the man to ease the concerns many have in that area of the pitch.
The first sighting of their new signing arrived on the international stage as Normann flew to Norway immediately after completing his medical and tying up the loose ends of his move to England.
Against the Netherlands, he was a standout for Norway as they recorded a 1-1 draw in their World Cup qualifier. Normann was tasked with keeping ex-Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum quiet and beyond one lapse in concentration for the equaliser, the 25-year-old marshalled him successfully.
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There is a view in his home country that the bigger the reputation of his opponent, the more Normann rises to the challenge. That is a mentality that could serve Norwich well if he manages to repeat it consistently in the Premier League.
Normann has eight caps to his name but is seen as a key player for his country by manager Stale Solbakken, a man who worked alongside Stuart Webber during his tenure at Wolves.
Solbakken has praised Normann's performance against the Netherlands, which included a series of tough tackles before he was replaced on 68 minutes. The midfielder's love for winning the ball extends to when he is in possession, according to the Norway boss.
"We took him off since we thought he could stand between 60 and 70 minutes. He got a few slaps and was a bit in danger. Mathias has a habit where he likes to tackle even if he has the ball. In ice hockey, it was Peter Forsberg who invented it. He drove around the track and tackled people.
"I have seen Normann do the same. In Russia, he drove and invited people to tackle him, and then he crushes them"
Norwich's pursuit of Normann was extensive. They first made their interest known in April and persevered throughout the summer window.
Initially, Normann was unsure on the move but was sold the project and direction of the club during a lengthy phone call with Daniel Farke. That saw him make Rostov aware of his desire to pursue this particular challenge, although City still saw numerous offers rejected.
As promised by Webber, they remained patient and didn't move on to other targets.
There was a stage, as Normann himself explains, where any move to bring him to Carrow Road looked unlikely. Eventually, a deal was struck with the Russian side, who had turned down approaches from Leicester, Newcastle and Sevilla during the last two windows.
"I knew that Norwich were interested, but also learned that Rostov was a bit difficult. It actually looked very unlikely to happen. It was actually completely dead last week," Normann told Norwegian outlet TV2.
But City eventually got their man and flew him into England hours after their need for a defensive midfielder was exposed during a 2-1 defeat to Leicester despite a somewhat positive performance.
The hope now is that Normann doesn't feel the weight of expectation on his shoulders to shore up a defence that is in need of protection.
Rostov have received plenty of criticism from their own supporters for sanctioning the deal, especially considering it is initially a loan move away from the club. Normann is viewed by many as one of the best players in Russia.
Ultimately, it was his desire to move to Norwich and fulfil a dream of playing in the Premier League that convinced Rostov to sanction the deal, as head coach Yuri Semin explained to media earlier this week.
"The leaders of Rostov always respect the agreements with the players. Normann was no exception. Mathias received an offer and we decided to let him go," the Rostov boss told Sportbox.
"Normann dreamed of playing in England. I hope he succeeds. Shomurodov did it in Italy. And I believe Norman will succeed as well."
Before linking up with his new teammates ahead of next weekend's trip to Arsenal, Normann will be in Norway's squad for World Cup qualifiers against Latvia (Saturday, 5pm k/o) and Gibraltar (Tuesday, 7.45pm k/o).
NCFC Extra: Mathias Normann scout report