'It's going to be fun' - Kristoffer Klaesson outlines his Leeds United plan after becoming latest Norwegian White
Kristoffer Klaesson continues Leeds United’s strong tradition when it comes to Norwegian players.
Erik Bakke, Alf-Inge Haaland and Gunnar Halle are the club’s three most famous Norwegian sons but there are others - Frank Strandli, Tore-Andre Flo, Tommy Knarvik.
Klaesson is proud to be the next - and knows all about United’s huge fan base in Scandinavia and Norway.
The 20-year-old ‘keeper also recognises that stepping out for Leeds in the Premier League is a world away from representing former club Valerenga in Norway’s top division.
But Klaesson hopes one day he will be the next to fly the Norwegian flag in first team games for Leeds with the help of United’s “brilliant” coaching staff and first choice keeper Illan Meslier.
Norway under-21s stopper Klaesson has become United’s sixth signing of the summer by joining the Whites on a four-year deal from Valerenga as a replacement for the outgoing Kiko Casilla.
Experienced triple Champions League winner Casilla has left for La Liga side Elche on a season-long loan and Leeds have looked to the different end of the age spectrum to provide new back up and competition to first choice stopper Meslier.
Meslier himself is still only 21 years old yet has a wealth of big-game experience compared to Klaesson who made 55 appearances for Valerenga in the Eliteserien plus one outing in a Europa Conference League qualifier.
That outing - in a 4-0 defeat at Belgian side Gent - proved Klaesson’s last game for Valerenga before the switch to Leeds.
In less than two weeks’ time, his new club will start their second season back in the Premier League with a clash against arch rivals Manchester United in a game set to be watched by 76,000 fans inside Old Trafford.
For Klaesson, it’s a different world, but one that some of his fellow countrymen have excelled in before and the ‘keeper is eyeing long term progression at Leeds under boss Marcelo Bielsa and goalkeeping coach Marcos Abad.
Reflecting on maintaining the strong tradition of Norwegian players at the club, Klaesson said: “I know a couple of them and Leeds has a huge fan base in Norway. It is fun for them and for me to finally be here. It’s a big step from Valerenga where I was before.
“But I feel like it is the right step and I can develop here and one day maybe play in the Premier League for Leeds.
“The coaching staff here are brilliant with the goalkeeping coach and Marcelo and everyone.
“I think I can develop a lot here over the years. Hopefully I will progress with Illan and Marcos (Abad) and the coaches here and hopefully I will play here one day.”
Despite his tender years, Klaesson only needs to look at Meslier for inspiration.
Now United’s undisputed no 1 ‘keeper, the Frenchman was just 19 years old when joining Championship side Leeds on a season-long loan from French Ligue 2 side Lorient in August 2019.
The ‘keeper arrived having made 28 appearances in French football’s second tier and had to wait four months until making his debut which arrived in the third round FA Cup clash at Arsenal of January 2019.
A league debut then finally presented itself the following month in the 4-0 victory at Huddersfield Town as Casilla began a seven-ban having been found guilty of racially abusing Charlton Athletic striker Jonathan Leko the previous September.
Meslier took his opportunity with both hands and went on to establish himself as United’s first choice keeper who then kept nine clean sheets upon the side’s Premier League return.
“Of course my aim is to push him as hard as I can and to make him play his best all the time,” said Klaesson, speaking to LUTV.
“For me it’s to develop and maybe one day get the chance to play.”
If and when that happens, the new recruit is already relishing the prospect of stepping out for the first time at a packed Elland Road.
Asked about Leeds United’s famous stadium - and how much he had seen of the Whites from Norway - Klaesson said: “I haven’t seen so much of it here at Elland Road.
"I have never been here before but I have heard that the atmosphere here is crazy when it’s full so I am really excited.”
Klaesson added: “I’ve watched a bit of them play. It’s fun football. They like to play and it’s going to be fun. It’s a different style of play but I am ready for it.”
A message from the Editor:
Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.
We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.
Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.
With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.
Click here to subscribe.
For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.
Thank you Laura Collins