Rovers have today announced the arrival of Leopold Wahlstedt, who joins the club from Norwegian Eliteserien side, Odds BK for a reported fee of around £850,000.
The shot-stopper, who was linked to Liverpool, Manchester United and Leeds United in early 2023, arrives at Ewood Park on a three-year-deal to replace Thomas Kaminski, who signed for Premier League newcomers, Luton Town last week.
Wahlstedt, who only turned 24 at the start of July, looked for all the world set to join 11-time Danish champions, Brøndby IF after Odds BK had accepted a deal within the region of £600,000, for the goalkeeper, yet a higher bid in the eleventh hour by Rovers saw the goalkeeper make a late change of heart that saw him head to Manchester Airport, rather than Copenhagen Airport, as he reportedly missed his flight to Denmark in a bid to push through the move to England.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Wahlstedt began his within the youth academies of Sweden, having two spells at AIK – either side of a stint at amateur side, Norrtulls SK – prior to two years at another amateur Swedish club, FC Djursholm. His time within the AIK academy saw him hit a tough learning curve, as he claimed one appearance for their Under-21s side, aged 16, but found out the rigours of playing in a higher age category as his side lost 7-2 to IFK Norrköping’s Under-21s.
After leaving AIK following his second stint, Wahlstedt would go onto play four games for Djursholm’s Under-19s in 2016-17, before 2017-18 saw him move to then-Allsvenskan side, Dalkurd FF where he became a sporadic member of the first-team squad, playing third fiddle to first-choice goalies, Abdulaziz Demircan and Sixten Mohlin, from whom he learnt a lot, gaining a lot of match day experiences as a substitute goalkeeper.
With the pathway to the first-team blocked and unhappy at being third-choice goalkeeper, despite being 19, Wahlstedt swapped the Premier Division of his homeland for the Norwegian Third Tier, as he linked up with recently-relegated Arendal for the 2018 season, where despite them finishing in mid-table, Wahlstedt played in 25 games in all competitions, keeping 8 clean-sheets as he began to stand-out in the third tier. Wahlstedt remained in Southern Norway for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, playing 19 games in all competitions, keeping another nine clean-sheets.
His string of fine performances for Arendal, including one in a 2-0 defeat to Odds BK in the Norwegian FA Cup, saw the Eliteserien side snap up the now-21-year-old in the hope of developing him into their starting goalkeeper for years to come. Whilst he had to contend against long-serving shot-stopper, Sondre Rossbach, Wahlstedt became the deputy goalkeeper for the top tier side, playing in all of their NM-Cup games in the 2021 campaign. Despite his exposure to matchday experiences being vital, the Swede also showed his class for Odds’ reserve team where he played most of his minutes during the first-half of the campaign, before being given the starting jersey in September – just past the halfway mark in the campaign. His first exposure to top-flight football came as a baptism of fire, as Odds – who finished the 2021 Eliteserien in 13th, narrowly avoiding the relegation playoffs in 14th – won just one of the first five games that Wahlstedt started in, before he earned his only clean-sheet of the season in his 5th game – a 0-0 draw vs Sanderfjord.
With development and impressive displays certainly catching the eyes of manager Jan Frode Nornes, despite the poor overall displays of the team, Wahldstedt remained in goal for the rest of the campaign and made the #1 shirt his own heading into 2022. With a new season on the horizon in April 2022, Odds BK saw a change in the dugout as Nornes was replaced by Pål Arne Johansen who persisted with Wahldstedt as his first-choice. This proved to be a solid decision, as the ‘keeper kept 7 clean sheets from all 30 Eliteserien games, as both he and the team improved, as he helped them to a 5th place finish – a stark contrast from the relegation fight of the previous campaign.
The current campaign, which began in April 2023, has seen Wahlstedt remain as Odds’ number #1 despite the European sharks circling the Norwegian Sea. Thus far, Odds BK have played 17 games, which has seen Wahlstedt start all, despite the transfer speculation. Whilst the 24-year-old’s future has been up in the air, he has kept his professionalism and managed to notch eight clean-sheets thus far, despite Odds sitting in 8th in the table.
From an international perspective, Wahlstedt has been around the Swedish setup, having played an under-18s game in 2017 which proved to be a 4-2 defeat to Norway, however his maiden bow for the senior side proved significantly more successful, as he kept a clean-sheet in a 2-0 friendly victory over Finland, in which he played all 90 minutes.
The brilliant team over at @NordicFotData have compiled some key stats comparing Wahlstedt to the rest of the shot-stoppers in the Eliteserien, showing that Rovers have not only acquired a goalkeeper that is capable of keeping the ball out of his net, but also one that is not shy of starting attacks from the back.
Välkommen, Leopold! 🇸🇪