Ilmari Niskanen is destined to take the Glen Kamara route to stardom after becoming the latest talent from Finland to arrive in the City of Discovery.
That is the view of former Dundee, Dundee United and Celtic midfielder Mark Fotheringham, who coached the flying Finn at Ingolstadt last season.
Fotheringham is adamant the signing of Niskanen, already capped six times for his country, is a stunning coup for the Tangerines — and reckons the German outfit are counting on a handsome sell-on when the player eventually moves on.
And Fozzy no doubt that will prove to be the case in the fullness of time, backing Niskanen to use his stint at Tannadice as a springboard, just like compatriot Kamara did across the road at Dens.
In the meantime, however, Fotheringham says the United faithful will have a new fans’ favourite.
“Ilmari will have seen what Glen Kamara has achieved, playing for Dundee for a season then going to Rangers and starring at Euro 2020 with Finland,” Fotheringham told Courier Sport.
“And that’s nothing that United or their fans should worry about.
“That’s what you want. If you are signing players for Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibs and they don’t have aspirations to go even higher, then why would you want them? You want boys with the eye of the tiger; with belief; big ambitions.
“It’s a really impressive bit of business and I think it’s a case of United only getting him because there will be a sell-on. Ingolstadt realise Scotland is a brilliant platform for going to Europe or England.
“Players from Denmark, Sweden, Finland are always sought after because they have a reputation for strong mentality and being good athletes. They are warriors who will go through brick walls for you — and Ilmari fits that bill.”
Forrest and Boyle
Niskanen was restricted to 22 appearances — the majority coming from the bench — during his one season with Der Schanzer, helping the club win promotion to the German second tier
However, as Fotheringham recently explained to United assistant manager Liam Fox, that was down to the form of Filip Bilbija and Merlin Rohl — “players who will soon go to the Bundesliga for €7 million, easy” — rather than Niskanen’s failings.
“I’d say he’s similar to a James Forrest,” continued Fotheringham, who left his role as Ingolstadt assistant head coach during the summer. “He wants to make the pitch big, stay on the wing and go one vs one with defenders.
“He’ll get crosses in and, if you play a 4-3-3, he can play left or right.
“Another comparison is Martin Boyle — players who are more comfortable facing people up rathe than playing with their back to goal or finding pockets of space.
“He’s brave, attacks the ball well at the front post and, if a defender twice his size is coming in to clear it, he’ll not think twice about getting stuck in. He’ll not be bothered by the physicality in Scotland one bit.
“Foxy [Liam Fox], who is a good pal of mine, asked me for a bit of advice and I told him that Ilmari is a terrific player.”
Learning the lingo
As well as his footballing talents, Fotheringham recalled how swiftly Niskanen picked up German despite not speaking a word of the language when he arrived — a clever, diligent young man.
And he is not someone who will be spooked by the pressure of playing for United and the hype surrounding his capture.
“Ilmari has already played against France at the Parc des Princes; against Gareth Bale,” continued Fotheringham.
“He played with pressure every time he stepped on the pitch with Ingolstadt, a huge team in 3. Liga that was expected to win promotion.
“He had pressure to fight for his place in the team because of the unbelievable standard of the two boys ahead of him [Bilbija and Rohl].
“We went to places like Dynamo Dresden, 1860 Munich, Kaiserslautern — these are huge football clubs — so don’t worry about that. None of it fazed him. He’ll handle the pressure and will rise to it.”
Fotheringham added: “I can’t speak highly enough of Ilmari.
“He sent me a big long message to thank me for the effort and time I spent with him while at Ingolstadt and I think that says a lot about the kind of person he is.”