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Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 12: Jardell Kanga

Owning a large footprint on the European landscape has failed to give Sweden a platform for success at the highest international level. But the Nordic nation’s ability to develop young talent remains at a constant, with Jardell Kanga one of the brightest of a coming generation.

In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wunderkind; a youngster who has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age remains embedded in the minds of millions of fans around the world.

With this in mind, 101 Great Goals continues its weekly series surveying U21 players across the globe during the 2022-23 season. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.

Fact File & Data Picture

  • Name: Jardell Kanga
  • Age: 17
  • Position: Forward (versatile)
  • Place of Birth: Stockholm, Sweden
  • International eligibility: Sweden, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • National team caps: 12 (Sweden U17)
  • Current club: Bayer Leverkusen
  • Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): N/A
  • Potential suitor(s): N/A

Background & Overall Assessment

Sweden’s footprint on the European landscape in the footballing world has been far more notable than many give credit for. On the surface, the massive presence on and off the pitch that came with the immensely talented – and egoist extraordinaire – Zlatan Ibrahimović was a huge feather in the cap of the Nordic country in respect to his successfully carrying the nation’s standard at the highest level for over 20-years across the highest competitive level in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, England, and the United States.

But for the better part of the last one hundred years, Sweden has produced footballing talent that has been at the forefront of the beautiful game in Europe. With names like Rydell, Nordhall, Gren, Brolin, Andersson, Dahlin, Larsson, and everything in between, Sweden has – when it comes to attacking players in particular – not disappointed from a player development standpoint.

That trend looks set to continue in the current era, with names closer to home for Premier League fans in the vein of Alexander Isak, Dejan Kulusevski, and Anthony Elanga constituting part of the next generation of talent that also includes players the likes of Patrik Wålemark, Jens Cajuste, Jesper Karlsson, Mattias Svanberg, Emil Holm, Johan Bångsbo, and many others. Further still are those at an even younger level, with Stockholm-born Jardell Kanga chief among them.

A produced of the quiet youth production pipeline in the western end of Stockholm that is Allsvenskan club IF Brommapojkarna, BP is already directly responsible for developing the aforementioned Kulusevski, as well as Ludwig Augustinsson, John Guidetti, and Swedish footballing icon Anders Limpár, Kanga has already directly benefitted from coming through an academy set up that boasts considerable pedigree.

Having now been on the books at Leverkusen for a year since his arrival in January 2022, Kanga is currently on course to follow in the footsteps of Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz, Florian Wirtz, and Joshua Eze, as gifted young talents that have prominently risen through the Leverkusen ranks.

His recent four-goal performance during the U17 European Championship which saw him score four of Sweden’s five tournament goals – while becoming the U17′s record goalscorer – offered additional context to his rising star in Europe. Already with two goals and two assists for the club’s U19 outfit in the U19-Bundesliga West, Kanga has also featured in the UEFA Youth League as well as the DFB-Pokal der Junioren.

With records piling on his CV and already settling comfortably away from home while taking the next step of a young career, the versatile forward is in one of the best locations to fine-tune his craft before breaking into senior football in one of Europe’s top competitions.

Capable of playing as a second-striker, slightly deeper in the 10 role, or out on the right flank, Kanga boasts a fantastic blend of natural pace and technical quality to a high standard, while bringing goals to the fore to wrap the entire package into a profile of player that has seen rampant success from a youth development standpoint.

In that light, Kanga is similar to Elanga, and perhaps could end up drawing comparisons to former Leverkusen standout Leon Bailey, but Kanga would certainly benefit from Bayer’s increased ability to polish talent further than when Bailey arrived at the club from KRC Genk in 2017.

With Leverkusen selling young Danish talent Zidan Sertdemir back to FC Nordsjælland during the January window, and questions surrounding the long-term futures of Amine Adli and Chelsea loanee Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kanga may be in line to make the jump to senior football under Xabi Alonso in the very near future. He is, most certainly, one to watch.

Read below for more Ones to Watch

Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 11: Antonio Nusa
Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 10: Milos Kerkez
Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 9: Yassine Khalifi


Picture of Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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