HOLMBERT Fridjonsson could have joined several of his higher-profile compatriots in pursuing a career in Dutch football.
Instead, the Icelandic striker has chosen to ply his trade with Celtic, where he hopes he may yet be joined by some of his burgeoning national team’s leading lights.
Fridjonsson’s move from Fram Reykjavik to Celtic was confirmed yesterday morning, while his nation was still coming to terms with the disappointment of their remarkable but unsuccessful bid to reach the 2014 World Cup finals.
Iceland’s hopes of becoming the smallest country ever to qualify for the tournament were dashed at the final hurdle as they lost 2-0 to Croatia in the second leg of their play-off tie on Wednesday night.
Their emergence as serious contenders has been built on the development of players such as Kolbein Sigthorsson and Alfred Finnbogason, who have made successful moves to the top tier of Dutch football with Ajax and Heerenveen respectively.
Both of those strikers have been publicly coveted by Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who may yet revive his interest in one of them next year.
In the meantime, however, it is under-21 international Fridjonsson who is seeking to make an impact with the Scottish champions, having rejected a move to Dutch club Heracles in favour of the four-year contract with Celtic, which will formally commence on 1 January.
“After the Icelandic season ended last month, I went to Holland for a week’s trial at Heracles, then I went to Celtic for a week,” said Fridjonsson. “It was much better here at Celtic than it was at Heracles, the facilities and everything else. It is such a big club. When Celtic said they wanted to sign me, it was an easy decision for me.
“It’s been a good time for Icelandic football. The boys in the national team just now are amazing. The strikers [Sigthorsson and Finnbogason] are playing in Holland and scoring goals every time. It would be nice if they joined me at Celtic and gave me some Icelandic company!”
Fridjonsson believes that playing for a club with Celtic’s Champions League profile will accelerate his prospects of promotion to the Icelandic senior squad in time for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
“If you play in the first team for a big club like Celtic, then you will get close to your national team,” he added. “That is what I am hoping for.
“The other nations are going to take Iceland more seriously in the next competition now, after we came so close in the World Cup but, hopefully, we can keep it going.
“I know a few of the senior internationals well and I want to be as big as them. Football is improving all the time in Iceland, because the facilities are getting better so players can train every day inside, no matter the weather.”
At 6ft 3ins tall, Fridjonsson stood out in a Fram Reykjavik side who narrowly avoided relegation from the Icelandic top flight in the season just ended. His 10 goals were crucial to their survival, while another three in the Icelandic Cup – including one in the final – saw them lift that trophy for the first time in 24 years.
The 20-year-old has already set his sights on playing a part in Celtic’s defence of the Scottish Cup this season to secure a notable personal double.
“I wasn’t with a really good team in Iceland,” he said. “So it was good to win the cup. Celtic will win the cup here, I’m sure, so, hopefully, I can win two cups in one season.”
Fridjonsson is confident he has the attributes to be more successful at Celtic than the club’s last Icelandic recruits. Midfielder Teddy Bjarnason managed just once first-team appearance, while striker Kjartan Finnbogason made none during Gordon Strachan’s managerial tenure.
“I know Finnbogason, I have talked to him, but not so much the other guy,” said Fridjonsson. “They always talked well about this place. Hopefully, I will be able to make more of an impact than them.
“I am tall, I can link up the ball well, hold the ball well. I have good technique and a good left foot. I like being compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but not yet.
“I won’t compare myself to anyone. I will set some targets for my time at Celtic in the next few days but I won’t say what they are.”