It seems remarkable that only 12 months have passed since Haaland, shortly after moving from RB Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund for £17.8million, came on in the 56th minute against Augsburg, his new side 3-1 down, and three minutes later scored the first goal of a hat-trick that took only 20 minutes to complete.
Eight goals in his first four games and more staggering numbers have followed him as records have tumbled. He is at once a phenomenal goal-scorer and a scorer of phenomenal goals.
One particular statistic, posted on Opta Joe’s Instagram page on Monday, stands out amongst all of the tables and charts that position him amongst the world’s best. Still six months away from his 21st birthday, Haaland has scored 16 goals in the Champions League, placing him third in the table of most goals scored in the competition before the age of 22.
Furthermore, top scorers in Europe’s top five leagues since Haaland’s debut are Robert Lewandowski – 49 in 44 appearances – Cristiano Ronaldo – 40 in 42 – and then Haaland, 35 in 35. And Lewandowski was widely tipped to be awarded the Ballon d’Or were it not for its cancellation due to the pandemic.
As he chases down Mbappe’s Champions League record, the next 18 months will be pivotal in Haaland’s future and for a player with a series of connections to the UK – not least that he was born in Leeds, even though he is a Norway international – it would be a shame if the Premier League missed out on yet another global megastar.
Sometimes it feels as though our internal perception of the Premier League’s great appeal is not shared by the rest of the world. Why have Messi, Neymar or Mbappe not played in English football’s top flight, for example? Even Ronaldo played six years in England but never returned.
The two Manchester clubs are frequently mentioned in regard to Haaland’s future and reports have emerged that Chelsea will make attempts to sign him this summer and are willing to break their club transfer record to do so. In truth, any club worth their salt would surely consider themselves in the mix.
The problem is – so are Real Madrid, and can any Premier League club truly compete for prestige against the La Liga legends? Probably only if they work their links hard.
Haaland’s father played for Manchester City and no doubt people at Dortmund will not be short of praise for Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, should Haaland ask. To a lesser extent, he will know all about Frank Lampard, the Chelsea manager, as a player.
Then there is Solskjaer, with whom there is clearly a strong connection lasting years. Solskjaer handed the 16-year-old Haaland his debut at Norwegian side Molde.
Yet the start of his first full season – when he was still only 17, it should be stressed – proved frustrating. Haaland was used from the bench for a few games, scored on his first start, then again a few games later. Then he went on a five-game scoreless run when nothing would go his way and even kept missing everything in training.
It was approaching the end of June, in 2018, and Solskjaer was pinging crosses into his young striker: just the two of them, a goalkeeper and the goal. Haaland missed every chance. Afterwards, seeing how deflated the player looked, Solskjaer said, “I think you start this game [against Brann], so just be ready.”
He scored four goals in the first 21 minutes and has cited it as “a turning point” in his career.
Drawing on his vast experience as a Manchester United striker, Solskjaer taught Haaland about one-touch finishes and about favouring precision over power in certain situations, when previously Haaland had always tried to leather the ball at any sight of goal, as we have seen with those ferocious shots that look as though they would send the ball through the goalkeeper if he was unfortunate enough to get in the way. And Solskjaer also taught him about remaining calm but on his toes.
A particularly intriguing clause in Haaland’s contract means that at the end of next season (summer 2022) he can leave for £66.6million. That’s a snip, especially considering the CIES Football Observatory – a research organisation – ranked him second (behind Marcus Rashford) in their biannual transfer value list, using an algorithm to estimate his worth at a cool £135.5m.
This summer could spark a furious auction – no doubt orchestrated by his masterfully aggravating agent Mino Raiola – unless the financial impact of the pandemic prompts caution. It will say a lot about the Premier League if his next destination is not an English club.
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