If you want controversy, look no further than Brann Bergen striker Azar Karadas. The 19-year-old may be one of Norway’s most promising young players, but trouble never seems far away.

In November, he and team-mate Marcus Bakke spent a night in a policecell after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside a Bergen bar. Though the episode was excused by some as mere off-season high-jinks, the Brann management were less than impressed.

‘This is the sort of attention we simply do not need,’ fumed assistant coach Tor Thodesen, while a repentantKaradas was saying: ‘I am very sorry. It will never happen again, I promise that.’

Three months later, however, the youngster was at the centre of more unsavoury headlines, though this time he was more victim than guilty party. After being crudely chopped down by Lokomotiv Moscow defender Vadim Evgejev during a ‘friendly’ in Spain, Karadas rushed to confront his assailant. The Russian then punched him to the ground and kicked him while he was down.

Although both players were sent off, referee Rune Pedersen later admitted he had treated Karadas harshly and promised to send a damning report on Evgejev’s behaviour to FIFA, UEFA and the Russian federation.

But while Karadas may have been far more sinned againstthan sinning in the latter incident, such publicity is the last thing he needs, especially at a time when his career appears to be taking off.

Although he can play in central defence, it was as a dynamic target man that he really sprang into life in last season’s Norwegian championship. He mighthave scored only seven goals for Brann, the eventual runners-up, but he nonetheless supplied a significant dose of fibre to the side. Karadas’ 6ft 3in muscular presence caused mayhem in opposition penalty areas, and he proved a fine foil for his strike partner, Thorstein Helstad, the country’s top scorer last term.

With Karadas also showing up well for the Norwegian Under-21s, it was not surprising that foreign eyes began to be trained on the teenager. Although he had unsuccessful trials with Leeds and Liverpool last autumn, and rumours of a move to Dutch side Roda JC faded away, time is undoubtedly on his side.

Karadas, who has Turkish roots, has wisely said his best option is to stay at Brann for the next couple of years. But he has already been welcomed into the senior international fold, making his debut against South Korea in Hong Kong’s Carlsberg Cup tournament in January.

Indeed, Karadas’ physical attributes and heart make him look tailor-made for Norway’s no-frills approach to the international game.

Club Brann Bergen
Country Norway
Born August 9, 1981, in Bergen
Previous club Eid
International debut January 2001, v South Korea
International caps 1 (0 goals)