Heading into the 2021 summer transfer window Norwich City had one top priority: find a defensive midfielder to replace Oliver Skipp. After a long and arduous process, they have their man.
In Mathias Normann, brought in from Russian side FC Rostov for a loan fee that could turn into a club record permanent deal if Premier League survival is achieved, Stuart Webber has found a player not lacking in bite but also technically good enough to play for Daniel Farke.
City had originally hoped that Philip Billing would be that player, and after a drawn-out sage that truthfully never got that close to sealing a deal for the Bournemouth midfielder, Billing confirmed that he wanted to remain a Cherry out of choice.
This followed the Canaries’ pursuit of Kristoffer Ajer, a centre-back capable of playing in midfield. Webber was prepared to pay £10million; Celtic eventually sold him to Brentford for up to £18million.
City had been prepared to wait until the very last throws of the window to bring back Skipp but new Tottenham boss Nuno Espírito Santo put pay to any chance of a reunion when he started the 20-year-old against English Champions Manchester City.
With hope floundering, up came an odd yet exciting link with Real Betis and Portugal midfielder William Carvalho. Rarely is it that an experienced international with a major tournament on the CV is linked with a move to Carrow Road and for that reason, it always seemed unlikely, and it was.
But finally, after all the toing and froing and a lot of talk with few results, Norwich secured the final piece in their jigsaw, and what a crucial piece it is.
City’s midfield woes were painfully obvious in their opener at home to Liverpool, whose second goal exposed the gaping weakness in front of the back four.
Billy Gilmour’s lax tracking for that goal was the clearest indication yet of his status as a square peg in a round hole, and it’s hoped that Normann’s arrival will free up the Chelsea loanee to perform at his ball-playing best without the defensive duties he’s been burdened with so far.
Normann outlined his strengths in his first interview as a City player, saying: “I’m a defensive midfielder, I like to tackle, to win the ball and to use my body. I like to be on the ball and try to dictate the game.
“I know that Norwich play very good football and they like to keep the ball. They have a lot of energy. I spoke a little bit to the coach (Farke) and everything looks very good.”
Farke, open for weeks about his desire to recruit a defensive midfield and undoubtedly pleased with Normann’s arrival, said: “We’re really happy to bring Mathias in. We’ve worked on this piece of business for several weeks.
“Quite often, he plays the holding midfield position. But he’s very good with his passing choices and is a good technical player. We feel he’s the perfect addition to the squad and look forward to having him as part of the group.”
With just two days left to get their business done, the signing of Normann has assured the status of Norwich City’s summer 2021 transfer window as a good one. With one more addition, it could be a perfect one.