Alexander Isak believes the best is yet to come from himself — and from Newcastle United.
Few expected the Magpies or the Sweden international to have such a positive campaign, with Isak nominated for the Premier League young player of the year award — eventually and predictably won by Erling Haaland — as well as netting 10 goals in an injury-punctuated debut season.
His goals and performances helped Newcastle finish in fourth spot, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in two decades.
It was a campaign laden with success, even though Eddie Howe’s side narrowly missed out on their first major silverware since 1969 by losing to Manchester United in the final of the Carabao Cup in February.
And it has led many to wonder whether Newcastle in 2022/23 were just a flash in the pan, whether positive progress can be replicated when battle commences on the 2023/24 season in mid-August.
Isak is in no doubt about what lies ahead, both for himself and the club as a whole.
“When I signed I didn’t think too much about the future. It was a good project and I knew the club’s goals. It (success) has come quick, though,” said the 23-year-old striker.
“They (the owners) said the ambition was to become a big club and to fight for something. I think yes, since I came I felt that. Already we have done some great things. What we aim for and what the club wants is great and we are on a good path.”
Newcastle are likely to be paired with at least one of the Champions League’s big boys when the draw for the competition takes place on August 31.
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan are the type of clubs Newcastle could face, bringing back memories on Champions League nights of years gone by, when the Magpies beat Barcelona, Juventus and others at St. James’ Park.
When asked whether Newcastle can compete, Isak was blunt with his answer: “Yes, of course we can.”
“It is a big club, but we can achieve more in terms of achievements and getting further in tables and tournaments, but Newcastle is a massive club and everyone knows that.”
Newcastle are on the verge of completing the near-record $87 million transfer of AC Milan’s Sandro Tonali, who has 15 senior Italian caps to his name. The fee would better the $80 million paid for Isak last summer.
It comes after the capture of Yankuba Minteh from Danish side OB. James Maddison and RB Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai are still on the summer radar.
Tonali would further strengthen Newcastle’s hand heading into the Champions League and another tough Premier League season.
For Isak, while he knows fans will be excited to see new players through the door, supporters are yet to see him at his very best.
He said: “I had a tough first half of the season then the second part went well. I am still young and have so much in my game to develop and this team will go forward, and it can only get better.”
Isak’s style, with his rangy frame, incredible turn of pace, good balance and tricky feet have drawn some Premier League watchers to compare him to Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry. It’s not a comparison Isak is comfortable with.
“I don’t want to talk too much about that,” he said when asked about Henry similarities. “If you can find some parts to compare to others I am happy with that. I loved watching him play with others and the type he was. I like some parts.”