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The rapid rise of Erling Haaland

At over 6ft 4″ (194cm) tall with a shock of blond hair, he’s not a player you can miss easily. And by the age of just 20, the rise of Erling Haaland has been so rapid that the milestones keep falling. He’s unmistakeable, and these days, unstoppable.

He’s already one of the most valuable players in world football, and unquestionably one of the best strikers around today. After more than a year in the colours of Borussia Dortmund, he already looks not just at home at this level, but ready for another step up.

In just 2 short years, Erling Haaland’s transfer value has skyrocketed (Source: transfermarkt.co.uk in March 2021))

A goal machine wherever he’s been

Since his senior breakthrough with Molde FK in 2018, he’s hit the ground running wherever he’s been. 20 goals in just 50 appearances for the Norwegian outfit, then 29 in just 27 games for Red Bull Salzburg made everyone sit up and pay attention.

Cries of “it’s just the Norwegian league” or “it’s just the Austrian league” came from some quarters – until Salzburg entered the Champions League. His 8 goals just in the group stages of the 2019/20 season silenced any remaining doubters. Haaland was the real deal.

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Even when Borussia Dortmund came knocking in the 2020 January transfer window, the step up in class meant nothing. Averaging around a goal per game has now become the new norm in the rapid rise of Erling Haaland. Even entering the German Bundesliga at the half-way point of the season wasn’t an issue, managing to score 13 goals in just 15 games.

Anyone doubting Haaland’s ability before surely isn’t now.

Leading the Dortmund line

Haaland’s numbers haven’t lowered since switching to Germany. In fact, he’s flying past goalscoring milestones with ease. And the secret? He’s adapted and changed his game brilliantly.

In Austria, he was a goalscoring machine, with a clinical single-mindedness to score goals. In Germany, this approach wasn’t going to work. The standard was higher, so the mindset needed to be more diverse, more collaborative.

He’s surrounded by attacking talent in this Dortmund set-up which thrives with him at the front of it. And the variety of his goals has got better – headers, volleys, tap-ins, one-on-ones.

His physicality has improved too, which for such a strong guy anyway has really transformed his game. He’s sometimes unplayable, too much of a physical handful for defenders to contain.

His control has improved massively, with his first touch not the best at first. And that really is down to Haaland’s determination to improve and be the best.

“I have five hat-trick balls in my bed and I sleep well with them. They are my girlfriends.”

Erling Haaland after scoring another hat-trick for Salzburg.

Haaland vs Mbappé is the rivalry of the coming years

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi entering the twilight years of their careers, Haaland seems likely to be challenging for Ballons D’Or for many years to come. You can tell he enjoys the tussle with the master number 9 Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga. I predict a similar battle for greatness on the world stage with Kylian Mbappé.

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Both players have reached 100 career goals in record time, and are the standout players of this new generation. You can see both of them dominating the biggest stage for many more years ahead.

Haaland’s work rate and confidence have an air of Ronaldo about them. He’s smashing records left, right and centre yet still wants more. Still has that hunger to improve.

Whether or not he can scale Ronaldo’s heights of greatness is up to Haaland himself, and how long he can maintain this trajectory he’s currently flying on.

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© Mike Barclay at The Football Diary 2020