The meteoric rise of teenage sensation Erling Haaland has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Few could have imagined the sort of impact he would make upon his arrival at Borussia Dortmund this January, less than six months after bursting onto the Champions League scene with RB Salzburg.
After developing fairly quietly in the lesser-watched leagues of Norway and Austria, Haaland set the Champions League alight when given his opportunity to perform on the biggest club stage – becoming the youngest ever player to score a first-half hat-trick in the competition.
From that moment, the world knew who Erling Haaland was. The 19-year-old continued his European goalscoring spree – becoming the first teenager to score in five consecutive Champions League matches, one of only five players of any age to do so. Suddenly, in the space of a month; Haaland was thrust into the limelight.
Haaland started his career at Bryne, in Norwegian football’s second tier, and was handed his first-team debut at the age of 15 after scoring 14 goals in 18 games for the reserves. Under the careful tutelage of father Alf-Inge Haaland, formerly of Leeds and Manchester City, Erling caught the eye of then-Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The young forward’s devotion to physical development had his Molde teammates label him “the man-child”, allegedly growing eight centimetres during his time at the club and adding serious muscle to his lanky frame. Solskjaer took the 6’4 Haaland under his wing and instilled in him a confidence in front of goal, developing from a 16-year-old raw talent into a goalscoring machine.
After winning the Eliteserien Breakthrough of the Year award in 2018 with 12 goals in 25 league appearances, Haaland made the move to Austria, joining the ambitious RB Salzburg – a club known for their impressive development of young players including Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Dayot Upamecano.
First-team opportunities were scarce in his first season at Salzburg, appearing a mere ten times in all competitions and scoring five goals – but got his first taste of the limelight at the Under-20s World Cup, hitting nine (9!) goals for Norway in one game against Honduras. After the departure of first-team striker Munas Dabbur to Sevilla that summer, Haaland was more frequently involved in the starting lineup, where he became Salzburg’s leading striker.
Haaland scored 28 goals in 22 appearances for Salzburg in the first half of the 2019/20 campaign, and it was only a matter of time before the transfer rumours emerged. Dortmund’s guarantee of first-team football and the allure of the Westfalenstadion was enough to stave off serious interest from a host of European clubs, and Haaland joined the Bundesliga outfit on 3 January.
Haaland was able to hone his trade in Austria, but it was unclear whether the transition to a higher quality of football Germany would be an easy one. Coming off the bench in his full Bundesliga debut, with Dortmund 3-2 down against Augsburg, the 19-year-old scored a 23-minute hat-trick to turn the match on its head. It ended 5-3. Any lingering doubts were gone.
In his first 56 minutes of German top-flight football, Haaland scored a whopping five goals – a new Bundesliga record, while a goal in a DFB-Pokal loss to Werder Bremen and a brace against PSG in the Champions League made Haaland the first ever Dortmund player to score on his debut in all three competitions. The goals against PSG brought his Champions League goal tally to ten in just seven games; making him the quickest player to reach double figures in Champions League history.
Haaland’s style of play is something of a throwback, the manner in which he drives to goal with such ruthlessness, the way he scores with so few touches of the ball. There is a simplicity to the way he operates, he utilises his freakish athleticism and explosive pace for one sole purpose – to score goals. Seldom do you see a striker of such height with pace to burn, such power – his second goal against PSG was struck with such ferocity, the net could have burst.
It has taken a global pandemic to stop Haaland in his tracks, to stop the 19-year-old from breaking records with reckless abandon. He’ll be back. And he’ll be hungry.