Markus Henriksen 21 Midfielder AZ Norway
2013 has been…
Stuck in neutral. By the time he arrived at Alkmaar from Rosenborg in late summer 2012, Markus Henriksen was already the stand out player from an exciting crop of young Norwegian talent. Whilst slightly older heads Håvard Nordtveit and Magnus Wolff Eikrem had a little more nous, and the younger Valon Berisha blessed with greater technical ability, Henriksen was perhaps the more complete all round player.
Primarily a defensively minded central midfielder, Henriksen at Rosenborg was as adept at linking play and scoring goals as he was diffusing opposition attacks. With a number of clubs watching on, Club Brugge made an acceptable offer for the teenager and the imminent transfer was widely reported in Scandinavian media. Relaying a fond farewell to his teammates at a pre-season training camp in Benidrom, Henriksen made for Belgium, but would reject the move after lengthy discussion.
Back in situ with his club for a new Tippeligaen campaign, Rosenborg didn’t lose a league game in which their teenage talisman played, but when AZ came calling in the summer, the midfielder departed.
Thrown straight into first team duties in the Eredivise, Henriksen understandably took time to adjust to his new surroundings. Nonetheless Gertjan Verbeek persevered with his new charge and things improved gradually. Not long after we published The 100 for 2013, we checked in on Henriksen and, following a patchy few months, noted a player that looked a lot more settled as AZ comfortably dispatched both Vitesse and VVV just after the winter break.
Any suggestion that these results would energise Verbeek’s team were short lived as the club would go on to win only four of their remaining fourteen Eredivise matches, ultimately finishing in mid table. However all of this is offset by AZ’s excellent run in the KNVB Bekker, in which the club would defeat PSV in the final to lift the trophy. With Henriksen performing well as the season closed, AZ qualified for the Europa League on the back of their trophy win. However the season had been far less than the sum of its parts suggested.
With Adam Maher providing the bullets for Jozy Altidore and Henriksen growing in stature by the week, Verbeek’s side should have finished higher but frequently looked disjointed. News that the club would lose their two key players (the aforementioned Altidore and Maher to PSV and Sunderland respectively) in the summer did not bode well, but a number of talented individuals remain.
So far this season AZ have been at their most infuriating in an Eredivise title race that no team seems particularly keen to win. Impressive victories over Ajax and PSV have kept the cheese farmers in the mix, but defeats to NAC Breda, Heerenveen and Groningen have demonstrated just how inconsistent the Alkmaar club can be.
A knock picked up in the victory against PSV dented Henriksen’s season but he returned to the starting line up this weekend, just in time for his team to hit the inconsistency button again and lose at NEC Nijmegen.
Henriksen’s primary task had been to get back into the starting lineup for AZ and that objective at least has been achieved; even if the defeat at NEC will have caused annoyance for the managerial team at the AFAS Stadion.
After Verbeek was, somewhat bizarrely, relieved of his duties in September, Dick Advocaat cut his recently declared retirement short to take over at an old haunt. The Eredivisie really looks up for grabs this year, and while the smart money will always be on the established names, Vitesse look in particularly good shape. None of this should discount AZ though; they have a reasonable group of players and a vastly experienced coach in Advocaat. USMNT striker Aron Jóhannsson has picked up exactly where Jozy Altidore left off at the top of the goalscoring charts and the midfield three of Viktor Elm, Maarten Martens and Henriksen should be strong enough to provide a platform for a much better 2014.
Recently demoted back to the under 21 squad, Henriksen remains an important player for the Norwegian national team and the step back looks more of a temporary correction rather than anything sinister. Indeed Egil Olsen has gone on record to suggest that Henriksen has all of the attributes to become captain of his country for years to come.
2013 has been a mixed bag. Nothing particularly mind blowing, but then nothing particularly bad. Henriksen is an intelligent modern midfielder, his attitude is excellent and he appears very keen to learn and succeed if even if things feel very 'meh' right now. He may never become a truly world class player, but the prospect of Dick Advocaat getting the best out of a player we enjoy watching remains an enticing proposition. The coming months in Alkmaar are going to be very interesting indeed.
"A controlling midfielder with not too much attacking intent, Henriksen was very much in favour under Verbeek, but Advocaat isn't a fan. Will be looking to move in January." - Michiel Jongsma, Benefoot
"In 2013, Markus Henriksen has won 60.5% of Eredivisie duels; a better success rate than any other midfielder (200+ duels)." - Opta
C- You seized the initiative at Rosenborg, do it again