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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Erling Haaland: The baby-faced Terminator lighting it up for Dortmund

At 19-years-old, Erling Haaland has gone beyond any level of comprehension by scoring a goal every 22.5 minutes for Borussia Dortmund ever since moving from RB Salzburg in January.

Written by Debkalpa Banerjee | Updated: February 8, 2020 10:11:14 am
Erling Haaland has become the first player ever to score eight times in his first four appearances for a Bundesliga club. (Source: Twitter)

Erling Braut Haaland has been in the limelight since the start of the UEFA Champions League in September with his goal-scoring rampage for RB Salzburg. Ever since his £18 million move to Borussia Dortmund in January, he only seems to have gotten better in quite unpredictable terms —  with yet another goal on his DFB Pokal debut.

Although the Black and Yellow were ousted in a 3-2 defeat to Werder Bremen in the cup tie on Wednesday, the 19-year-old Norwegian scored 21 minutes after coming off the bench in the second half to replace Thorgan Hazard. With the goal, he became the first player ever to score eight times in his first four appearances for a Bundesliga club.

On his debut for Dortmund on January 18, Haaland scored three minutes into the match against Augsburg and then completed a memorable hattrick in a 5-3 win for the Bundesliga club. He followed it with a double against Koln after coming on as a substitute and bagged another brace in his full debut against Union Berlin.

In a mind-boggling run of form, Haaland is now averaging a goal every 22.5 minutes for Dortmund, and astonishingly, he is yet to complete a full 90 minutes for the club. The 19-year-old striker has a ratio of two goals per game, but has only played 180 minutes in a Dortmund jersey.

Given his exploits at his new club and his surge in Europe this season, Haaland has forced his way to become a household name, aided to a large extent by Manchester United’s lingering interest in him. But the goal-scoring madness has been on for four years now.

The tale of his connection with football started in Leeds back in July 2000 when Haaland was born to former Leeds United and Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland. Given his birthplace, he could have theoretically played for England, but it all changed when Alf-Inge moved back home after suffering a career-ending tackle from Roy Keane.

FROM LEEDS TO BRYNE TO MOLDE

Erling Haaland won the FIFA U20 World Cup Golden Boot in 2019. (Source: FIFA)

Like his father, Haaland started his career at Bryne FK in a small town on Norway’s southwest coast in 2015. Thanks to a growth spurt during his adolescence and the cultured sense of a refined poacher, he earned his first senior appearance in May 2016 from the bench against second-tier team Ranheim IL.

Soon after, Haaland received a step up. Bought by Molde FK in February 2017, he got his first break under a Norwegian legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was the club’s manager then. He went on to win the 2018 Eliteserien Breakthrough of the Year award, scoring 20 goals during his 18-month-stay at the club.

Looking back on his time at Molde, Haaland said, “Ole had a very big impact on my life and he taught me a lot. He’s one of the reasons I’m the player I am today. He’s a good person and a good coach.”

After learning from the current Manchester United manager, he soon set his sights on a bigger platform and that’s when RB Salzburg came calling for him.

AT RED BULL, HAALAND GOT HIS WINGS

After signing for Austria’s RB Salzburg in August 2018, Haaland came into his own and began making headlines in Europe by mid-2019. He received the FIFA U20 World Cup Golden Boot in the summer of 2019, where he set a record for scoring the most goals in a single U20 World Cup match.

At 18, Haaland scored a whopping nine goals — a hat-trick of hat-tricks — as Norway stormed to a 12-0 win against Honduras in the group stage. Norway didn’t make it to the knockout stage, but the striker still ended with five goals more than any other player in the tournament.

Under RB Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch, the 19-year-old became a lethal goalscorer, averaging 1.27 goals per game for the Austrian team in 2019/20 and ended with a staggering 28 goals in 22 games. He also provided eight assists across all competitions.

When a mightier challenge appeared in the form of UEFA Champions League, Haaland shone even there. Though many wrote off RB Salzburg after they were drawn in the same group as reigning champions Liverpool and Serie A’s Napoli, Haaland ensured his team was remembered with eight goals in the group stages.

Erling Haaland has scored eight UEFA Champions League goals this season. (Source: Twitter)

Haaland soon became hot property, especially after he became the first player ever to score six goals in his first three matches in the Champions League. The streak then extended to five consecutive matches, which hoisted him up to share the company of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Robert Lewandowski, and Alessandro Del Piero.

The 194 cm-tall striker also became the youngest player ever in Champions League history to score a hattrick on his debut against Genk in September. He’s now only the third teenager with the record after Raúl Gonzalez and Wayne Rooney.

When his new club Dortmund take on Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16, Haaland will be looking to maintain his average of scoring a European goal every 47 minutes, and possibly overtake Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, who leads with 10 goals so far.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND?

Borussia Dortmund will be hoping Haaland can complement the skillsets of Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard, and Julian Brandt behind him to end their title drought after nine years. With a goal ratio of two goals per game, he could theoretically break records set by all-time greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Sooner rather than later, Haaland’s goal ratio will surely drop but at the rate at which he is progressing, he might just better Paco Alcácer’s 2018/19 mark of being the most prolific goalscorer in Bundesliga. The Villarreal striker scored a goal every 67 minutes for Dortmund last season.

And when a player comes with the confidence of trying to emulate Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s fair to assume that there’s plenty in store yet. “For me, Zlatan is the biggest. He is from Scandinavia, so someone has to take over from him,” Haaland had said in an interview to Norwegian channel TV2.

With 44 goals contribution already this season, in the running for domestic and European titles in his breakthrough season and within striking distance of helping his nation qualify for UEFA Euro 2020 — Haaland has a lot to look forward to. And along with him, football fanatics have too.

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