Meet the teenage rapping phenomenon Erling Braut Haaland, who hopes to set benchmarks again in 2020 for Borussia Dortmund.
|Name:||Erling Braut Haaland|
|Nickname:||Man-child, Big Earl, Zlatan Jr.|
|Born:||21 July 2000|
|Height:||1.94 m (6 ft 4 in)|
|Clubs:||Bryne, Molde FK, RB Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund|
|Titles:||2 (All Club)|
From Bryne to Borussia Dortmund in the space of three years, Erling Braut Haaland’s career is full of unexpected twists and turns. What happens in 2020 is one of the most eagerly awaited outcomes.
The man-child, rapper and goal machine is on everyone’s minds for all the right reasons. Not only is Haaland one of Europe’s biggest young stars, but he also has the hunger to become the world’s best.
Fellow Scandinavian footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the 19-year-old’s biggest idol. Some have already noted similarities between them based on their height, scoring ability and behaviour. It’s an understandable comparison, even if the big Swede insists there is only one Zlatan.
But the facts don’t lie as Haaland is good in the air, out-muscles his foes and is adept on the ball. Add that explosive pace to the mix, you have an all-round attacker that even Ibrahimovic would be proud of.
The Norwegian forward also takes a leaf out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s book in using a fish-based diet.
A difficult start
Erling Braut Haaland’s story began on the 21st of July 2000 in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He was the second of three children for Alf-Inge and Gry Marita.
His father, Alf-Inge, formerly played for Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Manchester City as a defender/midfielder. But a knee injury ended his career in 2003, which led the family to return to Norway.
Leeds United FC
Alf-Inge Haaland pic.twitter.com/MOWNUX7KvM
— Superb Footy Pics (@SuperbFootyPics) December 19, 2014
Moving to a western town called Bryne, though, didn’t deter a young Erling’s trajectory into football.
“Erling has always been talented,” said Alf-Inge. “You see lots of talented young players, but not all of them have the determination.
“I have always seen hunger in Erling. From a young age, 11 or 12, he would go out on his own to an indoor hall, practice his skills and play against older boys. He always had that inner will to make himself better.”
Haaland joined the Bryne FK academy and debuted for the first-team on May 2016 at only 15 years old. A run of 16 goalless games in the Norwegian second division, however, indicated a long hard road ahead. Nobody could have foreseen what was around the corner back then.
Not even a trial at German side Hoffenheim in 2016 could give Haaland’s career the boost it needed.
Solskjaer unleashes the beast
A 16-year-old Erling Braut Haaland left home for the first time in February 2017 to join Norwegian giants Molde FK. Coaching the team was none other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a renown goalscorer back in the day.
Working under the Manchester United legend unleased the goal demon inside Haaland. The transformation didn’t happen overnight, but Haaland soon began destroying Norway’s top defences by his second season. Solskjaer’s dedication to the art of scoring worked its magic.
“Ole had a very big impact on my life,” confirmed Erling.
“Ole taught me a lot. He was a great footballer, won the Champions League, so he was a big player. He’s one reason why I am here today. He is a good person and a good coach.”
From four goals in 20 games for his debut campaign, Haaland quadrupled his tally to 16 goals in 30 outings the following season. This unsurprisingly triggered the interest of top clubs. Especially when he scored four times inside 21 minutes against unbeaten leaders Brann in front of a Manchester United scout.
But if there is one thing that makes Haaland unique, it’s how he’s kept his feet firmly on the ground. Even interest from Juventus didn’t shake him. All that mattered was making the right choice for his development as a footballer.
The teenager, therefore, made an €8m transfer to RB Salzburg in January 2019. It’s not a move many would choose, but the Austrian champions’ track record of honing youngsters spoke for itself.
Champions League record-breaker
After making his low-key move to Salzburg, Erling Braut Haaland soon became the biggest young prospect in Europe.
The forward rose to stardom in May 2019 by scoring a record nine goals against Honduras in the U-20 World Cup. Despite not finding the target again, he comfortably won the Golden Boot award.
Haaland carried over this stunning form over to Salzburg for the 2019/20 campaign, with 16 goals in 14 league games. But his crowning achievement came in Europe’s biggest club competition, the Champions League itself.
On September 17, 2019, Erling became the first teenager since Wayne Rooney in 2004 to score a debut hat-trick. It inspired Salzburg to a 6-2 win over Belgian club Genk in Austria.
But the Norwegian wasn’t done there, as he then scored a record seven times in his first four games. He then matched a Cristiano Ronaldo, Serhiy Rebrov, Neymar and Robert Lewandowski feat by scoring in a fifth consecutive game.
Unsurprisingly, Haaland’s reputation soared and every big European club wanted him in January 2020.
Dortmund a good next step for Haaland
Strong speculation lurked all over the 19-year-old’s future in January 2020. A new year opened the winter transfer window, and several top sides started a bidding war. It was a foregone conclusion that Salzburg would lose their star player.
Heading the charge for Erling Braut Haaland was Juventus and Manchester United. Given Solskjaer’s past ties and the teenager’s English background, the latter were favourites.
But Haaland has always carefully monitored his career path, basing his choices on development and game time. Therefore, he spurned the advances of United and Juventus for a €20m transfer to Borussia Dortmund.
“I spoke to other clubs, big clubs, but no one gave me the feeling I had at Dortmund,” explained Erling.
“During my visit, I had several intense conversations with the club management team, in particular, Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke, sporting director Michael Zorc and coach Lucien Favre.
“They were all keen for me to join and from the very start. I knew I wanted to move here.”
A stunning debut hat-trick against FC Augsburg followed in a 34-minute cameo on January 18. He has since scored five more goals to revive Borussia Dortmund’s title challenge in the Bundesliga this season.
Now all eyes will be on Haaland entering the 2020 Champions League knockouts, as he bids to continue his prolific form. Should all go to plan, Dortmund could win the competition for the second time in history. It won’t be easy, but nothing is impossible in football.
While Norway can take pride in the rise of Haaland and fellow young star Martin Odegaard in the upcoming years.
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