- Erling Braut Haaland is quickly becoming one of Europe’s hottest young talents having scored 27 goals in 18 games for RB Salzburg this season.
- The 19-year-old, who says he sleeps with his winning footballs and calls them his “girlfriends,” has attracted interested from Manchester United, Juventus, and Chelsea.
- He says the rumours are “boring as f—” however, and instead remains focused on improving his own game, which he bases around Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
- I have seen many good players, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the biggest one for me,” Haaland told TV2. “Someone has to take over from him.”
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They say actions speak louder than words. At least they do in the case of RB Salzburg striker Erling Braut Haaland.
“I feel very good,” was his understated response to being told he had just become the youngest ever scorer of a first half hat-trick in UEFA Champions League history back in September.
When asked about the secret to his success so far this season, he simply said: “To work hard.”
A man of few words, indeed.
Erling Håland is good at scoring goals, but interviews? Not really his thing. pic.twitter.com/w6HGDoONi7
— Ball Street (@BallStreet) September 18, 2019
As for his actions? In just 18 games for Salzburg this season, 19-year-old Haaland has scored 27 goals.
15 of those have come as five separate hat-tricks, the latest of which was scored on November 11 as Jesse Marsch’s side swept aside Wolfsberger to maintain its unbeaten start to the Austrian Bundesliga season.
“I sleep with the five balls for each hat-trick I have scored. I lie in bed and I feel good with them,” Haaland told Dagbladet after his latest trio of goals at the Lavanttal-Arena. “I look at them every day. They are my girlfriends.”
He scored his first just four minutes after kick off, when he neatly back-heeled Takumi Minamino’s low cross into the net from six-yards out. His second, 14 minutes from time, came from exactly the same position at the other end of the field, and his third was a simple tap-in from barely a meter out.
In fact, 26 of Haaland’s 27 domestic goals this season have come from inside the penalty box, and nine from within six-yards.
When he scored nine goals in a single game for Norway’s Under-20s against Honduras in May, every single one came from inside the penalty area.
But Haaland’s not just a fox in the box
While his movement in the 18-yard box is impeccable, and his finishing surgically clinical, the Norwegian teen has much more about his game than just being a poacher.
One of Haaland’s biggest attributes, quite literally, is his size. Nicknamed “man child” by his former teammates at Molde FK, he’s 6-foot-3 with an imposingly wide frame.
“He is stronger than he looks and he is a lot quicker than he looks – he is a beast,” former teammate Ruben Gabrielsen told Nettavisen of him. Another of his former teammates, Tord Salte, described him to Sky Sports as a “massive, massive monster.”
???? Erling Braut Haaland for Salzburg this season = ????????????
In Europe: ⚽️6⃣ ????3⃣
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) November 1, 2019
It makes him a handful for defenders to mark, but a powerful runner, too. Often the young striker finds himself coming deep to collect the ball, before turning, driving at defenders, and feeding his teammates in the space that subsequently opens up as those around try to stop him.
Liverpool FC midfielder Fabinho and Chelsea FC’s Kurt Zouma are just two of many that have felt the strength and speed of Haaland to full effect this term – the Norwegian muscling past both in games in the Champions League and pre-season respectively.
This big man is blessed with deft ball control. Not quite the nimble feet of Eden Hazard, nor the cushioned first touch of Andrea Pirlo, but the kind where he doesn’t always took totally in control, yet almost certainly is.
Haaland has been compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Comparisons between Ibrahimovic and Haaland are fair. Both are Scandinavian, tall, with an acute eye for goal.
The pair also share an unmissable air of confidence – Zlatan showing it by talking about himself in the third person and describing himself as “God”, while Haaland does so with his unnerving lack of words.
Haaland even admits that the enigmatic Swede was the player he looked up to most as a child growing up in Bryne.
“I had a lot of role models and I have seen many good players, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the biggest one for me -how he became so good, the [path] he took, the way he plays,” the 19-year-old said during an interview on TV2.
“Also, he is Scandinavian, so someone has to take over from him.”
Another of his footballing idols is his father, Alf-Inge Haaland, who played in England for Nottingham Forest, Leeds United, and Manchester City between 1993-2003, and now acts as his agent.
“The combination of what he offers is ideal,” Haaland said of his father in an interview on Salzburg’s website. “He covers all important areas and helps me in every situation.
“My father has experienced a lot himself and can therefore give me important tips that can make me better and improve me even more as a person.”
Haaland Sr. is unfortunately remembered best as the man who had his career ended by former Manchetser United and Ireland midfielder Roy Keane. Keane deliberately clattered Haaland during a game between United and City in April 2001, leaving him needing surgery on his left knee from which he never recovered.
The incident spawned from four years prior, where Haaland, who was with Leeds at the time, told Keane to “stop faking it” as he lay injured on the ground having ruptured his cruciate ligament. The Irishman took revenge at the next opportunity.
“I’d waited long enough,” Keane said in his 2011 autobiography. “I f—— hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c—.”
Now, in a strange twist of fate, Haaland Jr. appears destined to end up at the club where Keane made his name.
Haaland is a wanted man at Old Trafford
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Haaland well having been his coach for two seasons at Molde FK, and he now reportedly wants to coach him again.
According to The Athletic, the Norwegian boss recently sent his personal scout, Simon Wells, to watch Haaland in action for Salzburg.
However, United is not the only club interested in him, with The Guardian reporting that as many as 20 of Europe’s biggest clubs – including Juventus, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea – are keeping tabs on the 19-year-old striker.
His father says England is the most likely destination, telling TalkSPORT: “At one stage he would like to play in the Premier League, but when that will happen, I don’t know. It is a very tough league.
“Up to now he is ahead of the stage we thought he would be at. He is built for the Premier League, but whether that will happen now or at a later stage, we don’t know.”
As for Haaland himself, when asked about his future, the teen told VG in what is quickly becoming his trademark fashion: “It’s f—— boring.
“How boring? On a scale of 1 to 10? 9.9.”