Erling Haaland has become the hotcake for big clubs in Europe. His talent and skill are exquisite. The boy from Norway is special and bears the quality to rule the roost in coming days in European and world football…..

 

It was a red-letter day for Norway when they beat Mexico, one of the tough contestants of Group E alongside Italy, in their first-ever appearance in FIFA World Cup 1994. The RFK Stadium at Washington had more Mexican supporters than Norway, but at the end of day, Norway’s team and their few supporters left the stadium surprised but delighted. Alf-Inge Haaland was one of the members of that Norway team on that eventful. Rekdl hogged the limelight, but it was hard to deny the grit and toughness Norway’s defence and holding midfielders exhibited on that day to hold-off Mexican attacking intent.

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Alf-Ingne Haaland would prove his worth until the last minute and he was effective against Italy as well. A yellow card in the 68th minute would leave Norway without his services in the all-important game against the Republic of Ireland. Norway would end up with a goalless draw and leave the tournament with their heads high.

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Alf Haland’s grit as a defensive midfielder and playmaking role from central midfield caught the attention of English Clubs. He would fly to England and contribute in clubs like Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Manchester City. He was effective, but his contributions are less remembered than his famous feud with Roy Keane in Premier League 2000-01.

Haaland, who was already suffering from an injury to his left knee, was on the receiving end of a horror challenge from Roy Keane. Haaland’s knee broke down and despite surgery, he would not be able to continue further. He would retire in 2003.

Roy Keane, later on, said, he still regrets what he did to Alf.

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While staying in England, Alf’s wife would give birth to a boy at Leeds on July 21, 2000. His parents would give him the name Erling Braut Haaland. Haaland grew up in Leeds and the local team Leeds United would become his favourite side. He was too young to understand football when his father’s career ended. He listened to stories about his father, watched him on action on videos and could realize, his father failed to live up to the expectations. Erling Haaland wanted to reach the top and fulfill the dream, which his father failed. Today, he is walking through the path, which would help him to reach his goals.

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Norway seems to be becoming a fertile land in producing quality footballers. Martin Odegaard is one of them, who is gradually becoming the hotcake in Europe. Obviously, Real Madrid never let their faith in him fade, but took the responsibility to nurture him properly and right now the results are showing. Meanwhile, the case of Erling Haaland is not like Odegaard. He did not take time to flourish, but rocked the stage since the day he donned the football shirt professionally>

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In 2015-16, Haaland joined the academy of his home town Bryne FK. He played for the reserve side Bryne FK 2 and impressed with 18 goals in 14 games. That performance triggered his debut for senior side in 2016 at the age of just 15. That debut was not satisfactory and while staying at Bryne, his trial at German Bundesliga club  TSG 1899 Hoffenheim was also not a chummy experience. The challenges were stiff, but Haaland’s dawn was just breaking.

The gifted talents don’t need to wait longer.

On 1 February 2017, Haaland was signed by Molde FK. He made his debut on 26 April 2017 in the Norwegian Cup match against Volda TI. Haaland scored his first goal for Molde in his debut in the 3–2 win against Volda. His league debut came on 4 June 2017. He came on as a substitute in the 71st minute against Sarpsborg 08. He received a yellow card after 65 seconds on the pitch. Haaland scored the winner in the 77th minute, a goal which was his first Eliteserien goal. Haaland scored his second league goal of the season on 17 September, where his club beat Viking by 3-2.

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In the following season, Haaland would score 4 goals against Brann within 21 minutes securing his team a 4-0away win over the unbeaten league leaders during that time. A Manchester United scout was present at the stadium, who was staggered to witness how a 17year old could smash a hat-trick in just 11 minutes and net home the fourth in the 17th minute. The manager of Moulde Fk was none other than  Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the boss of today’s Manchester United. He compared Haaland’s style to Romelu Lukaku and revealed that Moulde rejected all bids from different clubs. Manchester United would not give-up and till today they are stick to their plan of watching Haaland play at Old Trafford.

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Haaland would taste success in one of the biggest stages of Europe – UEFA Europa League – where he would score against KF Laci.

On August  19, 2018, the Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg would recruit Haaland, which left many famous clubs annoyed, but right now signing for Salzburg seems to be a great move. In Austria, Haaland would unleash his talent, which would overshadow many of the big guns in Europe. Again, Salzburg has been the club, which has helped many talents to evolve.

Take Naby Keita for example. He was the heart of Salzburg before moving to RB Leipzig and later on Jurgen Klopp would sign him. His progress at Anfield might not be eye-popping but one can’t deny his impact in the midfield whenever he has been given the opportunity. Keita hardly let the fans and critics down.

The journeys of Dayot Upamecano, Konrad Laimer, Bernardo, Peter Gulacsi, Stefan Ilsanker, and Benno Schmitz have all been the same in the last couple of years.

The evolve of Haaland was not just a matter of time, but it happened as soon as he took the field.

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Haaland’s journey in Austria started off on January 1, 2019. Until today, the 19-year old would only strike gold. He mashed his first hat-trick in July this year in 7-1 victory over SC-ESV Parndorf in the Austrian Cup and in the following month, he smashed the second hat-trick and first in Austrian Bundesliga in a 5-2 win over Wolfsberger AC. His third came in September where Salzburg beat  TSV Hartberg by 7-2. 11 goals were bagged in just 7 games and Haaland was hungry for more.

In the UEFA Champions League 2019-20, Haaland made his debut against Genk and made it a memorable one by smashing another hat-trick.  He would then become only the second teenager in Champions League history to score in each of his first three appearances in the competition, after Karim Benzema, with 1 goal against Liverpool and 2 against Napoli.

Haaland also became the first player ever to score as many as six goals in his first 3 matches in the Champions League. Later on, he scored a goal against Napoli to be the first teenager to score in four consecutive matches, and fourth player to achieve that feat, following Zé Carlos, Alessandro Del Piero, and Diego Costa. On 27 November, he scored another goal against Genk, to reach five consecutive matches, and to join Alessandro Del Piero, Serhiy Rebrov, Neymar and Robert Lewandowski in doing so.

In the last group game against defending champions, Liverpool Haaland failed to score and the streak ended. To overcome the challenge of Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk was not a cakewalk at all on that night. Haaland’s showed his frustrations by throwing water bottles in anger in the sidelines, but that is how life is. There are no failures in life, but all are lessons. That night at Salzburg should be a big learning curve for Haaland.

Salzburg finished third behind Liverpool and Napoli, and thus dropped into the Europa League.

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Even at the international level, Haaland has made his mark. On 30 May 2019, He scored 9 goals in Norway U20’s 12–0 win against Honduras U20 at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup. This was Norway U20’s biggest ever victory. This also set a new U-20 World Cup record for most goals scored by a single player in a match, and also the biggest win by any team in the history of the tournament.  Norway did not advance further. But Haaland would end up winning the Golden Boot.

His impressive form at club and age level, earned him a call-up to the senior side this year in August. He made his debut against Malta on September 5, 2019, during Euro Qualifiers. It was nothing special, but better things would surely come.

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What makes Haaland such a dangerous customer?

Of course, he is a gifted talent, but talent is nothing if one does not work hard to transform it into deeds. Haaland worked hard to polish his talent to utilize the advantages he has. As for example, he is a tall and strong lad, which he exploits with full advantage. Due to his height and a strong body built, he can easily win the aerial battle and score and can overcome the physicality of markers.

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Haaland is a very good finisher. Whenever there is the slightest opportunity to score, he would make them look easy due to his finishing abilities. Then he gains full control over the ball and so far, he has proved to be a very good passer when at times, he leaves his position as a striker and link-up with his Minamonio.

His shots are powerful and his positional sense would remind many of Paolo Rossi in his playing days – the Jackal in the box. And with time and experience, Haaland, could be the best in business.

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Big clubs in Europe are after Haaland. Being one of his childhood mentors and early managers, Ole certainly has the right to take a lead role in signing Haaland to Manchester United, but the transfer market is not about motions only – here practical approaches demand more attention. Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, and even Barcelona and Liverpool have joined the race to sign this talent.

“One day, Erling wants to play in the Premier League. I don’t know when the timing will be ideal. We are ahead of our own career schedule, but it is a very tough league”, said Alf Haaland last month. Even Erling has the desire to play in the Premier League. Back in 2017, he expressed his desire to help Leeds United win the Premier League title one day.

In reality, the Bundesliga would be the ideal choice for Haaland to grow. Teams like RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund would give him more playing time and most importantly they lack a quality striker. Whereas in Manchester United or Liverpool, he might not get the desired playing time as both teams have the depth and quality in forward positions.

Haaland has already traveled to Germany last week to talk to both the clubs as revealed by Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund.

“I don’t comment on those speculations. He knows what he wants to do, and he knows what he’s going to do, so I don’t have to give any advice to any other team’s players,” Ole said when asked about Haaland’s move to Old Trafford and he was spot on.

At this point of time, Haaland should say YES to Bundesliga.

Let the talent mature more and let a father’s unfulfilled wish come true in the coming days.

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